I’m like cool, I like writing, I have words, I’ve travelled. The rules say I only have 300 – 1000 words to blog about my own travel experience. Now if you know me, you’ll know that I can pour 300 words into a description of a lead pencil. But here goes.
The year was 2001. I met my future husband outside a Durban nightclub around 4am the day before New Year’s Eve. Don’t judge, he looked pretty in the breaking dawn. We fell in love and spent the next 9 months planning our escape from Africa. I turned 21 that September and the next month we hopped on a plane to London. If my daughter even THINKS of running off with a man who she has only known for 10 months, I will hunt.them.down. So not London exactly… Spalding… a little town in Lincolnshire, England. To work on a potato farm. That quickly turned into a nightmare – I don’t do manual labour. I remember standing in a red phone booth, calling friends who had already made it to the Big City Lights of London, begging for a hookup. My aunt in Bournemouth put us up for a few days, gave us some money and a few tins of rice pudding and sent us on our way. We house-shared with friends until we found jobs, got on our feet and really began to enjoy the city that never sleeps. I’ve been to New York, and that’s a story for another day, but for me, London is still the city that doesn’t slumber. Catching the 92 bus home from a boat party on the River Thames at 3am, standing in a snaking queue at the local kebab/sharwama joint to fill the gap, before minding the gap on the tube for the last stretch of the journey home. I assisted a health inspector for my 9 – 5 gig, and pretty much jolled from 5pm – 8h55am.
But the beauty of London, is that it is the gateway to Europe. Once we had done England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales… we ventured out. Paris is a stone’s throw away on the Eurostar. We visited often, and stayed with my friend Isabelle, a French national who I met while au pairing in the State a few years earlier. She humoured us and took us to the usual hotspots: yes, we kissed under the Eiffel Tower and took the obligatory photos at the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and down the Champs-Elysées, we even visited Euro Disney – which grown adults without kids torture themselves like this? But we saw the real Paris while eating pastries and people-watching on the steps leading up to the Sacré-Cœur, we partied in the hippy district of Montmartre and found ourselves eating in tiny undiscovered bistros. And we met Oscar, Isabelle’s French cat who had a penchant for English speaking men – completely freaked my Mister out.
We ate mussels in Brussels, strangely enough some of the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten was in Brussels. Weird because if someone says Brussels, I immediately think brussel sprouts, right? Right! We hopped over to Cologne for the day – because countries are just that close together. We found ourselves hitchhiking through Holland. The advertisement stated “rustic accommodation just outside Amsterdam.” Yes, that turned out to be a caravan in a caravan park full of strange looking people who clearly didn’t work for a living – and it was two long bus rides away from the city. Have you seen the height of my husband? He cannot fit into a caravan without doubling over. After one night of caravan living and communal ablutions, we hitchhiked our way to Amsterdam. Note to my younger self: you were stupid and willful, but it was good. On our travels to Switzerland, we quickly discovered how miniscule our rand was to the franc. But, my word, Zurich is beautiful. Perhaps it was the cable car we took from the highest point of the city, literally in the mountains, with a magnificent view of the city splayed out before you. Breathtaking. The highlight of Zurich, was our trip to a chocolate making museum type of place. I wish I could remember the name. But there was chocolate being made, chocolate on conveyor belts, chocolate fountains, chocolate displays up to the ceiling. It was the stuff that chocoholics’ dreams are made of. Even my husband with all his eye rolling and deep sighing at the suggested excursion, couldn’t deny the awesomeness that this chocolate-y place was.
But my bestest-best destination was Thailand. We backpacked our way from island to island, staying in low budget accommodation with long drop toilets. We were eaten alive by mosquitoes and I got my hair braided on the side of a dusty road by a strange looking woman. We got around on zippy motorbikes for which we didn’t have licenses to drive, and we lived on club sandwiches and fried rice for almost three weeks. Massages on the beach on demand. Bangkok was good for a day or two, but I couldn’t wait to leave – it’s scary and crazy and gets your adrenalin pumping. Shoppers paradise – but not always a winner – when you find yourself bartering with a woman who is half your size and insisting that the size 28 fake pair of Diesel jeans WILL fit over your size 36 hips.
Those two years spent globetrotting were some of the best times of my life. If you haven’t travelled, I urge you to do it. Go down the road, go to another city, go to another continent if you can. But allow yourself the opportunity to have your mind blown away by how things are on the other side. You won’t ever be the same.
Man, this has me gagging for a holiday. Sans kids. Just like ‘ol times.