Or, why I’m doing this.
I have spoken before about why I’ve set off to South America, but people have pressed me further and so I’ve thought hard for some more answers.
I am a traveller. I have the bug. The itch.
Why? I think it’s greatly thanks to my mum. Virtually a single mother, she scrimped and saved all year when my brother and I were growing up, but we always, always had holidays and day trips. Weekends were spent in the museums of London, or on country excursions; summers were spent on the beach, swimming in the sea, climbing rocks or walking through the meadows of Essex and Suffolk. Our first holidays were in the UK; then as we grew older and mum felt braver, she got us abroad – to Austria, Switzerland, and Italy a few times.
Her providing me these diverse opportunities gave me the invaluable traveller’s skill of being able to adapt. I can talk with people from any background or viewpoint, I can sleep anywhere I need to – a bus floor, the deck of a boat, under a tree, with rats crawling nearby; I don’t care. I enjoy experiences, good and bad. In cities, I love the excitement and possibilities; in the countryside I love the peace and the beauty of nature.
My mum’s passion for seeing places and doing things became instilled in me. I remember poring over pictures in holiday brochures and maps of unknown lands with her, and feeling a sense of urgency to be out there in the world, and that time is precious.
There was another significant influence, again thanks to my mum. She took me several times to the sadly now defunct Commonwealth Institute in London’s Kensington. This massive auditorium-style 1960s building on the edge of Holland Park had fantastic displays and exhibitions on the countries of the British Commonwealth. I remember looking at food packaging from Cameroon, costumes of Rajasthan, taking a helicopter simulator over Kuala Lumpur; and thinking “I want to go and see this for myself, for real.” My mind was opened wide to the world.
So now, some 20 years later, and with many of the places I wanted to see seen – and many more to come – I can only say thank you mum, because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this in a mountain valley in Peru.