Travel Inspiration and Role Models
As much as we might like to think we’re making our own way in life on our own, independent from our parents, there’s no denying the fact that every little piece that makes up who we are is owed to them. Although we may have squabbled with them and longed for independence throughout our teenage years, where we are now is largely down to the choices our parents made for us. For example, my parents were keen for me to go to a good university so made me work hard throughout school so that I’d achieve the grades I’d need to get into one. My parents and the rest of my family love to travel so they took me to various countries from as young as 9-months-old. On the other hand, I once met someone who hadn’t ever left Britain until he was 16-years-old as his mother was scared of both planes and ferries, so he’d only ever been on holiday in the UK. Likewise, there are other people who’ve never done something as basic as ride a horse, as their parents simply never took them…
I consider myself very lucky to have travelled where I have, and it’s certainly due to the influence of my family. On my Gap Year I practically retraced my aunt’s steps through South-East Asia 27 years beforehand and it was also her who encouraged me to do my two ski seasons. However, the best-travelled member of my family by far is, slightly unusually, my grandmother.
Considering the generation she comes from, and in an era when international travel wasn’t necessarily the norm as it is now, she has seen an amazing amount of the world in her lifetime. She has visited 23 countries and the only continent she hasn’t ticked off her list is in fact South America.
She’s also the main recipient of my postcards, as I’ve always been very very close to her. But more often than not she’s already been to the place I’m writing from and she reminds me to visit some hidden corner off-the-beaten-track. Even as her short-term memory may be fading with age, she remembers her trips abroad so vividly. She recently described to me in great detail what her honeymoon in 1950 was like. My granny and grandfather drove down to the south of France via a ferry, onto which the car had to be carefully placed using a crane, because you couldn’t drive onto ferries in those days. Because of the post-World War II rationing and whatnot they could only take a certain sum of money, which afforded them a hotel on the coast, with a romantic balcony overlooking the sea. Quite apart from Europe, she’s been as far afield as China and India, Australia and New Zealand, Kenya and Egypt, and of course to Canada and the USA.
She’s the first person to admit how lucky she’s been and she’s always encouraged me to go off exploring. One particular phone call to her from Italy on my Third Year Abroad, I was telling her about my visit to the Cinque Terre, to which she replied asking me whether I’d been down the Via d’Amore, a very scenic footpath along the coast that links two of the villages. I replied to her incredulously: “Is there anywhere in the world that you haven’t been?” To which she replied: “Oh darling, I haven’t been to half of the exotic places you’ve been, like China for example. Oh wait… yes I have been to China haven’t I.” That line has stuck with me ever since as proof of how well-travelled she is. She’s a fantastic role model for me.
Books, films, magazines, etc.
I’ve also taken great inspiration from foreign films and books, which do a great job of promoting and showcasing their country. I’ll write about the best books to read and the best films to watch for travel inspiration. I once made the mistake of asking for a subscription to Condé Nast Traveller for Christmas one year. For the entire next year I suffered from terrible wanderlust and as CN Traveller only ever features la crème de la crème of travel destinations, I also developed rather expensive taste. I’d probably recommend a magazine such as Wanderlust which focuses on slightly more affordable travel.
Anyone who’s backpacked for a decent amount of time will know of the trend of sewing flags onto your backpack to “showcase” (ahem, show-off) where they’ve been. It can almost turn into a sort of competition among backpackers and although I’ve never actually sewn anything onto my backpack, I do remember it spurring me on to travel more and more and more.
And I suppose a large amount of my inspiration comes from having studied languages and the cultures they originate from. And I can’t so easily pinpoint where I picked up my love of languages from, as none of my family actually speak the same languages as I do. My grandfather, whom I never met, did study languages at Cambridge so I suppose it must be in my blood.
In any case, travel has become a hugely important part of my life and I suppose it gives me some sort of personal purpose. True, I may be in England for the time being, but that’s not my long-term plan. And to remind myself of this, this globe charm is the newest addition to my Links of London bracelet.