I guess I should start this blog by telling you a bit about me; by expressing what travel means to me and why I’m blogging about it. To express why I travel, I found myself reflecting back on my travels so far: to pinpoint what they have meant to me…
Starting at the beginning…
I grew up in rural Gloucestershire and I thought everyone else was travelling the world and doing glamorous, cosmopolitan things, while I was stuck in the boring British countryside. Of course, it wasn’t true, but I had a chip on my shoulder about the fact I hadn’t been abroad when all my friends had. Classic FOMO.
Finally, I made it overseas aged 14 on a school day trip to Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, which I was beyond excited about. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much to see or do in Boulogne, but that didn’t stop me from taking photos of everything, like a true tourist.
My next overseas trip was two heady weeks in Spain aged 16. I relished the semi-autonomy of travelling without my parents. My friend and I were staying with an adult friend and her daughter, but we had to arrange our own food. I remember the thrill of independence when we bought our own food at the local market (which also gave me my first taste of watermelon, that thirst-quenching, spirit-reviving nectar-fruit).
The backpacking years
My first travel game-changer was an epic trip backpacking in Europe with four friends in between A levels and university (five girls causing trouble in the late ’90s? We were quite comfortable with the Spice Girls analogies). I was the driving force in planning this trip. None of us had much money, so I chose buses rather than trains to get around, and I picked a route that would take in as many exciting destinations in as little time as possible. We covered seven countries (and seven currencies) in less than three weeks!
I’ll never forget arriving at the first stop, Paris. We took our backpacks out of the bus storage compartment and there we were: on the streets of the City of Light, with no place to stay but an exhilarating sense of expectation and adventure. And of course, Paris didn’t let us down. In fact, I loved every minute of that Europe trip, even sleeping on buses for three of the nights, and washing my clothes in hostel sinks.
After this trip, I did several low-budget backpacking adventures as a student, including Morocco, which was my first venture outside Europe. My friend and I literally spun a globe and my finger landed on Morocco, so that’s where we went! It seemed like such a mysterious, truly foreign place – and I loved discovering a country and a culture so different from what I knew.
Reflecting on these early adventures, I felt enriched by the experiences I’d had and the knowledge I’d gained. I felt more a part of the world, and more confident in it. The photos I took were like badges of honour, reminders of the journeys I’d made, the beauty I’d witnessed. I put them on the wall of every student room I stayed in throughout university.
That keen sense of FOMO I had when I was younger was gone, but the desire to travel hadn’t been satiated. It was more like the immediate craving had been abated, but the appetite was still there; I knew the hunger would return (and of course it did).
40 by 40 travel challenge
I carried on travelling as much as I could in my 20s and 30s – in Europe often, and also to more far-flung destinations, including New Zealand, Cuba, Peru (including the Inca trail) and Bolivia.
Then I set myself a travel challenge when I was 37 and realised that 40 wasn’t that far off. I was inspired by my husband’s Pushing 40 skateboarding challenge, and I decided on a travel goal for myself. At that time, I had visited 24 countries, which is a respectable amount, but I really wanted to see more of the world – and ’40 by 40′ had a nice ring to it.
The goal was to visit 16 more countries in 32 months, which required some planning, as I was working full-time. There were rules: I had to genuinely want to visit each country and I had to spend at least one night at each. In addition, I “had to” (haha) include five Bucket List destinations. These ended up being Santorini in the Cyclades, Namibia, Iceland, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
The Maldives was also the final country and the place I spent my 40th birthday (I know, it was a tough challenge, haha!).
As I counted down to my final destination, I wrote a post on Instagram each day, one for each of the countries I’d been to at that point. I’d written about travel before, but not for a while, and not in such a sustained way – and I loved the response it prompted in other people, who shared their own travel stories.
When the Covid19 lockdown hit in March 2020, I started Instagramming again. I was grounded in London, struggling with cabin fever and longing for freedom. I started sharing photos of some of the most beautiful and exciting places I’d been to and writing about the feeling of being there.
It was a coping device at first: reliving the exhilarating experiences of travel helped me avoid the feeling of containment. But I quickly found a lot of fellow travel lovers and I’ve really enjoyed sharing my experiences with them and also hearing about theirs. As my follower count grew, it seemed people liked what I was doing, so I thought I’d take it a step further and experiment with blogging.
So here we are!
If I have to distil it down, I travel because the world is still out there. There’s still so much of it I haven’t seen and experienced – and it calls to me!
And I write about travel for two reasons: firstly, I get a kick out of doing it, of giving expression to (and doing justice to) the experiences I’ve had. And secondly, I love the community of travel fans, adventurers, and wanderlusters that I’ve found through doing it so far.
How about you?
Why do you travel? Feel free to tell me in the comments!