I have a bone to pick with myself. Yes, that’s right – with myself. I would happily label myself as a ‘traveller’. Someone with a certain wanderlust to get out and cram as much of the world in as I can. I freely admit, I am actually that person who almost wishes that we weren’t a member of the European Union. Why? Stuff ease of travel across borders, I want a bigger passport stamp collection! (I can’t be all alone in feeling this way, right?)
When I was in my late teens, I spent a lot of time lamenting my lack of international travel. I grew up in a busy household. With parents who are both educators, travel was prohibitively expensive during the school breaks, and any time we did have was spent back and forth on the glorious M4 motorway to see my Dad’s family in south-west Wales. I moaned about spending another rainy week up to my knees in mud, while friends jetted off to sun themselves in Spain, or spent all their pocket money on souvenirs from Disney World.
What I didn’t do however, was take the time to step back and remember that I was still lucky. I speak in awe now to my grandparents of exploring the temples of Angkor, working my way down a vibrant New York sidewalk, and bartering hard in a Beijing market. They listen with wonderment, enthralled by my photos and they always make the same comment: ‘I wish I’d had the chance to see places like that when I was younger.’ Yet, when they reminisce of a mini-break to the Cotswolds or their honeymoon on the Sussex coast, they have that same glimmer in their eyes that I know I have myself, caused by the happy memories of getting outside of their everyday routine and the experiencing of something new that travel allows. All those formative weeks in the wild Welsh countryside gave me a childhood I wouldn’t swap for the world, even though its physical location is just hours down the road.
When I visited Cambodia last year, I found it genuinely saddening that the everyday people we met – hotel workers, taxi drivers, café staff – admitted that in all likelihood they will never leave Cambodia. Due to the prohibitive cost of a passport, let alone international travel, I first regretted that they will not experience the same intoxicating feeling of the unknown. When a simple everyday task like catching a bus or buying dinner turns into an adventure, I can’t help but feel a rush that I now know I want to keep repeating. But then I thought to myself, how different is that really to discovering a fantastic local brewery in Somerset, jumping on a tram in Blackpool or turning off the sat-nav and going rogue, just to see where you might end up? Something new is always around the corner.
In my humble opinion, I think this: getting our kicks from ‘travel’ might not be about visiting the most exotic location, staying in a luxury hotel or getting stuck in with the locals the other side of the world. While these things get my excitement buds tingling, we should also take a step back to appreciate what is right under our noses. I ashamedly admit that I have never been further north in the UK than Birmingham. Birmingham, I hear you cry, that’s the Midlands, not the north! (Lesson definitely learned, thanks everyone). The beauty of the Lake District is still mine to uncover, as is the history of Edinburgh amongst others. There are great chunks of my own culture I haven’t experienced, history I haven’t delved in to, cuisines I haven’t tried and people whose stories I haven’t heard.
I’m making it a mission of mine not only to continue to explore the wider world (you trying stopping me!) but also do all I can to experience the new and get that same buzz on home turf. A great travel experience could be 10,000 miles away or 100. We just need to open our eyes, embrace all opportunities and get stuck in! I’ll keep you posted on how I get on…