How often I forget that although my heart is young, my body isn’t. My weak ankle turns, reminding me how once I hopped, skipped and jumped through Calgary, Jaipur and downtown Aswan. Today, high curbs are my Katmandu. Our planet is a cook book and years of sampling its secrets has taken a toll on my midriff.
I carry the physical traits of the Wilcox women, but my wanderlust comes from the men folk. Their foreign travels were done in the name of War. Great Granfer Baker fought in the Sudan. Great Granny had never heard of London let alone Africa.
Great Granfer’s son fought in Gallipoli, convalesced in Alexandria and on the island of Malta. His journal means more to me than gold when I used it as a guidebook holidaying in Valletta in my twenties where I literally followed his steps. The poppies waving in the breeze along my path were borne from the seeds of the poppies he passed.
My father fought in Burma, was a POW in Changhai. Tears caught my throat when many years later I stood where he almost died in Singapore.
He stood with the British Army in Israel when they were handed their Mandate in 1948. When I voiced an interest in visiting Israel in the seventies, my mother was totally against it. My father told me to go.
“The Jewish are the friendliest people I know,” he said as he gave me a handful of addresses, just in case!
He served in India for many years and loved the country with a passion. I asked him once “Why?” He had no words for me other than to say it was a country that buries itself deep in the soul. He died before I managed to visit, and I never had a chance to share my own infatuation with him.
Travel to me is as gin to an addict. In my twenties, thirties and forties, I trekked solo to thirty two countries. My thirst could not be quenched, but I am slowing down now. Age and money supersede my desire to travel.
In my head, I can still climb the Himalayas and backpack down any river in the world. At 54, though, my back aches from chopping wood for our wood burning stove. My spine shouts at me after a day planting potatoes and other veggies. We have money to pay the bills and put food on the table but not to travel.
“Where shall we go next?” I ask my partner Paul, who ponders awhile before replying “Tunis.” Out comes the photo album and a bottle of Don Mendo red. I look at the photo of myself and a camel at the edge of the Sahara and am reminded of my egg timer.
“We’ll go places again,” he says thoughtfully, unable to answer when I ask when.
You twenty-somethings of today stand at the edge of the world. You can visit Patagonia, a place we didn’t even know existed. You can canoe the Amazon. A teen in south London thirty years ago had as good a chance of going to the moon. And with a fistful of dollars, you can go anywhere, and when the pocket runs bare, you can tend bar or shear sheep to pay your way.
I don’t doubt that you have your challenges, but they are more easily faced when you are twenty or thirty than when you are fifty. I envy the young people of today.
I visited my mum in London recently. She still lives in the same house where she grew up. I took her out for walks in her wheelchair, and as we went along, she spotted things like blades of grass springing through the pavement, an early crocus, an unusual air conditioning box outside a building. She noticed a lady with a hem falling down.
She encouraged me to see simple, every day things differently. Thus, I saw the things that connect. I saw my own area with new eyes.
Travel isn’t just a fortnight kayaking down the Amazon. It can be a day right outside my door. At 54, I must leave my youth behind and adjust to the maturity of being a golden oldie. The adventures are there; they are just a little different.
My egg timer fills not with sandy particles but with the all the travel experiences that have enriched my life.
How do you define travel? Has this definition changed over the years? Share your answer with us in the comments below.