Sunday, 22 September 2013

Now We Are 28: On Travelling

I've always enjoyed travelling, no matter whether I'm going somewhere for the first time or the hundredth, somehow the feeling of being somewhere different never fails to thrill me. I wouldn't describe myself as well travelled but it's always an epithet I've wanted to earn. My ultimate aspiration is to be an old woman with a house full of souvenirs from around the world and a head full of interesting stories. 

This week I went to a conference in Geneva and consequently have mostly been on aeroplanes, in queues and trying to recall enough A-level French to order dinner without making a complete fool of myself. I also got to see the Alps gleaming white in the sunshine, a view I've wanted to see in person since I was a little girl looking at the photograph on my Aunty Ann's wall. It was that snatched ten minutes of beautiful scenery as my plane was leaving Geneva that made four very long and tiring days completely worthwhile.

It's these snapshots of perfection that stand out in my memory when I think of my favourite travel experiences - a breathtaking Swiss mountain range, a sun dappled Grecian sea, a real life Viking long boat, a medieval cathedral soaring to the heavens. These are the times when I want to pack up my belongings and just start wandering, the way I do when I'm in a strange city with time to kill and no aim other than exploration. There's few things that compare to the wonder I feel when I'm somewhere new and every corner turned is an adventure, a completely new window on the world. 

You gain new perspective when you travel, about how much people are different and how much we are all exactly the same. It always amazes me how some stereotypes hold true - I have never seen so many watchmakers, chocolatiers and adverts for investment banks in all my life as I did during four days in Switzerland! The other thing that never fails to surprise me is how global a language English is, everywhere I've ever been people speak at least some English.  It seems unspeakably arrogant to travel to another country and expect them to speak your language rather than theirs and I always feel ashamed for my lack of facility with almost every language other than my own, particularly as the dominance of English is perhaps little more than an accident of history.

More than anything else going somewhere different reinforces my desire to travel more and to see as many new and exciting places as I can. Procrastination has always been a major talent of mine but as I get older I start to wonder what my excuse really is? Sitting at home looking at pictures on the internet or making imaginary travel plans seems trivial when I could be actually going and seeing the world. After all, to become well-travelled you actually have to go places...

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