Just What is Thing Called Travel?

A rather vacuous question at first – or any other – sight. Yet at the moment I’m at the airport about to jet off to Florence (lucky me!); my niece will soon set off to trek though Cambodia, and my daughter is volunteering through her uni to work on an island in the Caribbean (with many a hint of a family cruise afterwards). All of us travelling, all for different reasons.

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Florence cast her spell over me when I was ten, a magic which continues to colour my life. Sometime in my early twenties I spent a fortnight sitting in the hill-town of Fiesole as I tried to come to terms with my life and to make peace with my own company. A few weeks after coming home I met my future husband.

We travelled a lot together, including Florence (he was good at finding fantastic, out-of-the-way restaurants). He died a few months ago, and now I return to Florence once more to seek some peace for my soul.

Sitting in the lounge waiting for my flight, I can’t help but eavesdrop (some people speak so loudly). All about work and companies and profits, office politics and have the January forecasts been superseded, and don’t be upset, no one blames you (for what? I missed that part). I’m glad I’ve never travelled for work. I still love being in airports, the thrill of a plane taking off as I leaf through the on-board magazine to find somewhere I haven’t thought of for my next trip. Not to mention that first glass of bubbles…

My niece came for a visit a few years ago when her life started unravelling, and is yet to go home. (A neighbour’s dog has done the same. It started with occasional visits, the rope tying him up dragging behind him. We never knew his name and so gave him a new one, and he seems more than content to sleep with the girls at night. His owners are more than happy for him to be with us). Growing up I loved Tove Janson and her Moomin books. I always wanted to be a Moominmamma, able to quickly make a thistle bed when someone stayed unexpectedly, and always with enough food to go around. Plus, while the younger moomins and their friends were off having adventures, I think Moominmamma was busy having her own. Moominpapa would never notice, too busy working on his memoirs.

I hope my house is a Moomin house. My niece seems to think so. And my addiction to travel has rubbed off on her. Shortly after I return she and her man are off for their trek through jungles and along rivers. A style of travel a little more strenuous than my own, yet she and I will both immerse ourselves in the world we visit, her by not staying still, me by sitting and watching. Perha[s with a glass of Chianti by my side.

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My daughter is off to some remote island because she is impassioned about the environment. She grows more fascinated with each term of study at uni. Should we meet up for a family cruise at the end of her time, for my daughters, a cruise is not the chance to drink and party to the wee house (though I’m guessing that might happen) but more a way of dealing what we have all been through these past months (and indeed years, from that day we heard my husband’s diagnosis). I’ll find a quiet balcony or sunny corner and sit and read, as they explore a floating city, from dodgem cars to water slides of ridiculous length, not to mention endless movies, sunbaking, and the an interrogation of room service. Everyone grieves in their own way, and to spend time together as we do so, to make new memories while recalling old ones, is a nice way to. move onto whatever stage of grieving comes next. It is a slow process.

The world when I return home is always a different place. Or else I fit differently into it. Out of joint, I believe Shakespeare said. I see things differently after I travel; the way I see the world reframed. Everyone else goes on with their lives, seeing the world in the same way, and it takes me a while to realise it is me that has changed. For everyone else, nothing has happened.

And so I read, and dream, and start planning the next trip.

Written by

At 10 I discovered travel, books and philosophy. Now I pass my days with a camera in one hand, a notebook in the other, looking for the perfect coffee.

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