For as long as I can remember, I've had a list - a mile long - of places to see. Some of which are the standard destinations most people dream about, and others a little more exotic.
During my university years, I never doubted that I would head overseas as soon as possible, and a year after graduating, I had enough airfare saved up for a trip to the UK. It wasn't my original destination that I'd begun saving for, but J was keen to try and gain more experience in his chosen field. The UK had the best opportunities for him, so with working holiday visas under our belt, we said our goodbyes to Sydney on a wintery day - and a day later - stepped into a summer heat wave in London.
We had no idea how long we'd stay for. Maybe six months. Maybe a couple of years.
It ended up being nearly five years. In that time, J had managed to get work visa sponsorship, and we got hitched on a wet spring day in London. I worked - briefly - in catering at London Zoo, followed by a lengthy stint in a pub, before doing a little more study and finally moving into English language teaching.
In those five years, I managed to also visit more than twenty countries. Some were amazing, some were not so impressive. Many of these places I visited together with J, but quite a few I travelled around, solo. None were particularly exotic, but I always made sure to get off the beaten track when I could.
Package tours have never appealed to me, so the only time I ever used a travel agent was to purchase my very first flight to London. The rest of my travels were pretty much based on word of mouth and the contents from my beloved Lonely Planets and Rough Guides. While I haven't exactly been trekking through the Himalayas, I never needed anyone to hold my hand either.
I love travel. I love - literally - losing myself in another place. One of my fondest memories is of arriving in Venice, without a map, and deciding to wander around for a few hours before buying one. Hearing old church bells chime as I crossed small bridges, peeked around old cracked corners, gazed down dark green canals and inhaled the smells in the air. Not having a clue where I was. Hearing the hustle and bustle fade within just a few streets off the main tourist drags, and encountering nothing but the sound of trickling water from a fountain in a small, deserted piazza. Did I mention that I love Italy?
I may only have thirty-six hours in San Francisco coming up, but I cannot wait. I want to lose myself again.
For a long time, I wondered where I got my love of travel from. It certainly wasn't anything from my childhood. Then on a visit back to Australia, after I'd been overseas for three or four years, I learned that my grandmother had travelled extensively when she was younger.
I never knew her. Sadly, she died of breast cancer, many years before I was born, and I've only ever seen a handful of black and white photos of her. To learn that she had a love of travel was a wonderful thing to hear.
She worked her way as a nurse around the world, back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when single women rarely travelled. Australia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka... winding up in England for a while. I now have her stamped, card membership for Hostelling International in the UK - so different from my own plastic card membership.
This yellowing piece of card is precious to me. It's the physical link to a woman I never knew.
I wonder what conversations she and I would have, if she were still alive today. What stories would we exchange and share?
I wonder just how much of her is in me.
|Grand Canal, Venice - 2000|