I. Love. Travelling.
No surprises there – who doesn’t, eh? A boost of vitamin sea is usually just what the doctor ordered; a reminder of the rich tapestry of Mother Nature’s creative artwork that lies beyond the short-sighted humdrum of the nine-to-five. Travelling the world is one of the most enlightening and enriching lessons you can give yourself, more educational than any geography lecture or history class; providing a better understanding and appreciation for Planet Earth than any nature documentary. But if there’s one thing I love even more than stepping off a Boeing 747, savouring the moment my freshly-manicured trotters touch foreign tarmac, squinting in the sunlight before flipping down my shades to protect against a blazing sun that always seems that much brighter than back home – it’s the build-up to a trip. The vacation anticipation.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a last-minute bargain; snapping up a deal and heading off within days on an unplanned jolly is always a bonus – but you can’t beat the shivers of excitement that arise from carefully plotting a long-anticipated adventure. If I’m going to fork out the lion’s share of my salary on a trip then I want all the feels. I’ve paid through the nose for that excitement, so give it to me by the bucketload. I want to revel in glorious sun-drenched daydreams as I ride the 07.56 commuter train to Bromley surrounded by grey-faced grumbling gargoyles. I want to let my mind wander, conjuring up images of crystal-clear seascapes and swanky city-breaks as a glorious diversion from reading about the latest horrors in the newspapers.
Some people haphazardly pack their suitcase in a few minutes, slinging it all in willy-nilly an hour before they’re due to leave for the airport. Not me. I’ll have my case out of the loft and splayed open in the spare room at least a week before I fly. As a sunworshipper (with the telltale wrinkles and sunspots to prove it) my wardrobe consists of mostly summer garb. Oh I’m a fair-weather friend alright. Stick my face under a UV lamp and it’ll show more pigmentation patches than a Dalmatian, but boy do I have some nice summer dresses – and what’s a few freckles between friends, eh?
As I prepare for my next trip, I’ll lovingly take them out of the wardrobe, where they’ve no doubt been lurking in the darkness feeling neglected and unloved since my last trip due to our miserable British climate. I hold up the brightly-coloured wisps of skimpy fabric to my body as I turn this way and that in front of the mirror, allowing memories of tipsy moonlit walks on the beach and frenetic dancing at sunrise to come flooding back. If you look carefully you can see a scuff on my favourite sandals from scaling that cliff face in Thailand…or the catch in that top from getting caught on a branch in the Costa Rican rainforest. I won’t part with them, despite their imperfections, as my beloved memories are woven tightly into the fabric.
Those clothes make me happy; to me they symbolise freedom, fun, and adventures past and future. Away from the monotony of the daily grind, we’re free to indulge all our senses: tasting new foods; inhaling the aroma of exotic spices; experiencing unusual wildlife, cultures and architecture for the first time. Everything seems so fresh, it’s like being reborn; brain buzzing with electrical impulses as neurons are fired up to process all this new information.
It’s when I’m travelling that I truly feel most alive, so anything that prolongs a trip is fine by me – be it planning, blogging or photography. Having forked out thousands on a six-month round-the-world trip in 2008, it was that sense of wanting to capture the memories that inspired me to start blogging in the first place. If ever something jogs my memory about a particular country, I can go to my blog and every detail is right there; I relive the moments in my head all over again.
As well as the wistful romanticising, I also love the practical pre-holiday prep: buying the travel guide from Amazon; plotting my route around a country. Routine trips to Superdrug suddenly become exciting when I’m in the market for mini travel toiletries. I know they’re not economical, but they’re just so goddamn cute! I add my next destination to my weather app so that I can flip between it’s blue skies and London’s bland ones on chilly grey days and remind myself why I go to work at all. I’ve even downloaded a countdown app so I can happily tick off the days from booking until trip time, excitement building as triple digits quickly become single ones and it’s time to check in online.
As each final item goes into the suitcase so does another sprinkle of fairy dust, until it’s time to zip up my luggage and head off on another memory-filled voyage into the unknown…
Next stop? Cuba, baby!