Twenty and some years ago my youngest sister moved to Queensland, Australia, and a few years later my two other sisters had joined her. When my parents retired in the mid 1990's they joined them as well, leaving me 'all alone' up in the cold north. After a few visits I decided to spend some serious time with them, and I managed to take a year off from my teaching job. In August '06 I set out with a round-the -world ticket in my pocket. My plans had by then expanded to visiting people and places in the US, to return to Papua New Guinea for some more serious exploration, and make some other stopovers wherever my flights would take me. Maybe I would even make it over to New Zealand. I would have to make a few bucks on the way as well, so a lot was open for the turn of the winds and tides.
With a great base camp at my sisters' in Townsville things turned out to the best, and I managed to fulfill some plans and making up some new ones on the way. Most of the stories on this site are from this year. The plan is to add more from other times and places as well, when I find the time and inspiration.
Family and old friends
Visiting family and friends is the best of all reasons to travel. Family tends to grow more important when one gets older, which has turned out to be true for me too, and good friends are still good friends even after many years have passed. One can keep up with e-mails and the occasional phone call, but people will always be best live - in activity or just over a beer or a cup of coffee.
Meeting with new people and making new friends is always a travelling bonus, particularly when you're travelling alone, since sharing good times and experiences always makes sense.
To spend time with locals is most rewarding wherever you are and however alike or different one may be. I believe in being as much present as possible where I visit, and sharing time with they who know the place, the customs and whatever is in the air certainly brings you closer in touch with where you are.
In a world with many travellers it's natural to get drawn to other travellers. You do meet some of the stereotypes, of course - the self-obsessed sun worshipper, the hyper activities collector, etc - and sometimes you feel you're starting to fit one mold or the other yourself. I'm often surprised, though, by the interesting spectre of people you run into: the different backgrounds, the different dreams, the different personalities.
I have always had the urge to look past the horizon, have wondered where the ship or the plane is headed, what's behind the next mountain. When hearing about an exciting place, seeing a picture or something on the screen, I have always wanted to be there and experience it myself. Just having the dream is often fine in itself, but in periods of my life I have also had the opportunity to pursue some of my dreams and have them materialize.
Sharing a travelling experience is a good thing and it strengthens relations whether it's a lover, wife, kids or friends. I have travelled alone and in company with all the above and the rule is that all combinations have their attraction. I loved taking my daughters along when they were young. Their desires and needs directed much of the activity, of course, but then you experienced things in a different way than you would have otherwise. They're still great company.
One of my greatest travel memories is from when a whole gang of friends with kids and all, we were 24 all together, joined up in Provence for a week of sunshine, recreation and good food and wine.
In a world so full of natural wonders, how can you not go looking for it. I guess being a city person makes it even more important to breath the fresh air, to plunge into the sea, and to walk the forests and mountains. Beautiful scenery, whether a secluded rock formation or a mountain top panorama, always does something to you. Most exciting of all might be to experience wildlife at close range: a deer in the forest; a seal playing in the water or a thriving coral garden. You might call it God or just nature, but whatever it is, there is something about pristine places and natural wild life that touches something deep inside us. It's worth travelling for, and when you're travelling it's worth looking for.
Every place has it's history, and history is always one of the ingredients that define a place, whether a city or a mountain or a cave. Places where an historic event or period still feels very present have a special attraction, and I have a never-ending list of such places that I still would like to see, or revisit. The vast grandeur of a gothic cathedral; the atmosphere of an old but living Mediterranean village; the chamber of an Egyptian tomb; a track that has been walked for centuries - the time scape will always be present.
To experience and learn about other cultures has become increasingly important in a world that 'grows smaller', and it also teaches you lessons about yourself. Different people, different traditions, different skies - one looks differently at things when one has been exposed to the unfamiliar. When I look for new cultural experiences I am drawn to what I see as genuine. This doesn't necessarily mean something that has been meticulously preserved through centuries, no, that can sometimes become artificial. Change is part of life, culture and society everywhere, and to see how a place changes, and how people adapt to modern times, is to me an important part of the attraction. I try to be open to what I meet wherever i go, so I'm not disappointed if I don't see people wearing bowler hats in London City, or penis gourds in a PNG village.
Music, dance, sports or art often become the highlights of visits and travels. Sometimes you go looking for events, but I have also had some great cultural experiences just by chance:
In Bangkok I stumbled upon a dancing contest for kids in a big tent in the Sanam Luang park in the centre of town. It was right next to The Royal Palace and other tourist magnets, but here I seemed to be the only foreigner, and what a treat - one group after the other; the costumes; the parents backing up and videotaping; and great dancing. Definitely my favorite among many Bangkok highlights - living culture!
On the road
In later years visiting art galleries, museums and exhibitions has become a major interest of mine. I'm looking for paintings and sculpture mostly, and I have learned that seeing a piece of art in a book or on a poster will never even be close to seeing it in real life. The colours of a painting always impress when you've got it in front of you, and the size will often surprise you. A sculpture, of course, is three dimensional, and must be seen in three dimensions. I won't bore you with a long list of high lights here, but I have added an art link page to this site for those who are interested.
Then there is this magic of just being on the road. On your way from one place to another; the expectations of what awaits you; seeing a landscape roll by. Is it a sense of change, even development, or is it just restlessness? Arriving at a destination will hopefully be the highlight of a trip, but there is every reason to treasure to road experience as well. I love the feeling of having set out in my car on a summer's morning for this years vacation; I love the monotonous rumbling of a train, enjoying a book as fields and woods and cities pass by; I love the crowded benches on a 'Public Motor Vehicle' with my back pack between my knees. Did I mention the 20-hour-flights between Europe and Australia? No, I'll leave them for another time.
Different means of transportation brings on different experiences. Here I enjoy variety. To get to a place fast will sometimes make sense, but often the slower options open up for more interesting experiences and encounters. Going by ferry or ship is particularly enjoyable most times - they're relaxing, you can move around, you can feel and watch the sea, and all the time you're getting closer to your destination.