Addicted To Travel

Observatory

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For a quarter of a century I went nowhere. I worked, ate, slept and saw millions of movies. The movie-viewing was part of my job and took up all my available free time. While others had gap years,  unpaid travel leave and sabbaticals I was in Curzons, Odeons and my own full-size office cinema. My parents didn’t go abroad until they were elderly. As a consequence, I came to travel later in life than today’s generation.

There are disadvantages to being a late starter and making up for lost time – not for me the cenote diving or hang gliding, no white-water rafting, nothing involving thousands of tall steps (knees) although I usually give most effortful trips my best shot. And you can’t find friends to travel with because they’re all in positions of responsibility ie. none has taken a real vacation in years.

But there are advantages too. Better places to stay and fewer cash worries (the husband was once reduced to selling his flip-flops for a bar of soap in an African market – I’m glad I missed that). I’ve been caving, canoeing and glacier-climbing, ploughing through claustrophobic pyramids and leech-filled jungles, but two great chunks are missing on my map; China and Latin America.

This trip to Cuba and Mexico has started paving the way for incursions into South America. The little Spanish I’ve picked up in Catalan-speaking Barcelona has proven useless (too accented) but the local people we’ve met have proven to be helpful, kindly and so gentle-natured that I wonder if they’re the ones who should be thinking about building a wall.

As in Cuba, Mexico’s natural resources are astounding, often taken for granted or squandered, with poverty and a sense of grand-scale corruption forever just out of sight or around the next corner. For the writer, though, it’s a wellspring of fresh influences and ideas.

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I had wanted to visit Tulum ever since reading ‘Trip To Tulum’ by Federico Fellini and Milo Manara, about a failed film script set in the Yucatan. I’d been to the western part of Mexico very briefly once before, but the East, with its biospheres and yoga hippies, is very different, having more in common with Goa than the traditional pueblos of the centre.

Obviously I’ve only scratched the tip of the country, but it’s enough to make me want to return. Living with someone on corporate vacation benefits means you’re only ever a holidaymaker, not a traveler – there’s no possibility of filling a backpack and taking three months off. But it’s enough to fill the mind and prepare you for the worst time of the year – Britain’s gruellingly dark winter months.

Heading for New York to meet my agent, where it’s shortly going to be snowy, then London for Christmas, and the commencement of a new book. With batteries recharged, the blank page can now be filled. In January I’ll be in Barcelona and then Ljubljana, and of course I’ll be blogging. Summer holiday ending, Christmas starts here.

16 comments on “Addicted To Travel”

  1. Brian Evans says:

    Good luck Chris.

    I’ve gone the other way. Foreign travel is behind me. I’ve done quite a bit-but not to many of the places you have your eye on. I now love our home too much and don’t like being away for more than 5 days as I get homesick. Also, I detest airports and the way we are treated so will never fly again. Apart from in the winter, I have little bucket trips around UK to see as many places as I can before I die. Sadly, it’s mainly on my own, though sometimes with a friend. My partner and I can’t go away together because of our lovely Burmese cat-Jasper-it’s just unthinkable to put him in a cattery. But no-he’s not a tie-we think the world of him.

    It’s the old story. When young and very keen to travel I didn’t have the money. Now I do, I just don’t want to.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll have a great time-you have such an open, active and inquisitive mind. I wonder if that has something to do with why you are such a good writer?

  2. Mary Schultz says:

    Did not take first trip to Europe from the States until 2000 at 50. Since then have been back 14 times. Currently in Nurnberg. Fell in love with Europe and have felt no need to go anywhere else. Now at 65+, my time (and stamina) is at a premium. Subways & train stations some days are just too daunting. Big cities in general do not tempt me as they used to. Hope to keep this up another few years, would still like to get to Spain & Switzerland.

  3. Ian Luck says:

    I’m simply not interested in seeing the world. I hate sunshine and hot weather (it actually makes me feel very, very, ill), and really don’t like beaches in summer – in winter, lashed by stormy weather, I find them awesome (literarally). My ‘Room 101’ would be a summer seaside holiday. Maybe when I have seen every corner of the UK, I might go elsewhere. But not anywhere with hordes of tourists – the stone rows of Carnac in Britanny; that’s my sort of place.

  4. Ian Luck says:

    Jean Paul Sartre famously wrote in his play, ‘Huit Clos’ (No Exit): “L’enfer c’est les autres!” (“Hell is other people!”), and I have to say that he was right. Especially if those ‘other people’ are tourists.

  5. Vivienne says:

    If you are going to explore South America, could I urge you to read Tschiffely’s Ride? I picked this book up at a charity shop. The author was Swiss and decided to ride from Argentina to New York on a couple of Argentinian ponies. I was enchanted. I had never really understood before the vastness of the Americas or the geography. Tschiffely owed his life to his ponies who managed to safely descend precipices and ford raging streams. The book was written in the 30s but the landscape can’t have changed. I’d definitely take it with me on a trip. You end up understanding horses a lot more too.

    Another really good book is The Mapmaker’s Wife, by Robert Whittaker, which tells of a French expedition to Mexico, I think, to verify an exact metre or something equally obscure. Utterly riveting.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Perhaps the Mapmaker’s Wife would interest my husband – sounds like his kind of thing. Two trips to Europe after age 65, still no real money, but cheap hotels are available. Iceland still has a human airport. Things were a little confusing for a while so we passengers took over guiding people to their proper area. It was actually fun.
    I’d like to make another trip and go to a few more out of the way places and of course ride the coal fired steam train out of Wernigerod (that spelling must be wrong, but it reads alright). Would like to see more of North Germany around Kiel even though all the interesting cities are elsewhere. No desire to see Paris. Love the German trains. Would like to visit Aachen again (Aix la Chapelle) and would like to learn some German before doing it.
    May not ever happen.

  7. chazza says:

    I don’t care anymore. It’s bad enough living in this one (UK)…

  8. Brooke says:

    Carry on, Mr. Fowler. You are a skilled travel writer, astute and sensitive observations with the eye for story behind the immediate image. Even if the travel is a walk around London.

    BTW, the drunken santas and elves you see in NYC are the recently unemployed lawyers, brokers, bankers, etc. who have been laid off so the senior partners can make their bonuses. Probably mixed in with writers, dancers, singers and other artists for whom NYC was to be the fulfillment of dreams.

    Safe travels.

  9. Brooke says:

    And a “Bah Humbug” to you too, Ian.

  10. Ian Luck says:

    Humbugs are lovely. In fact, I’m eating one now. ; )

  11. Helen Martin says:

    That is a stunning photograph, Chris. Just lovely. Is that a birdcage hanging over the path or a light ficture for night walks?
    We called tourists summer complaints when I was a teenager, but not to their faces. Tourists are annoying until you are away from home.

  12. Brian Evans says:

    In some southern English seaside resorts, tourists are called “grockles”

  13. Martin Tolley says:

    Bran, That (in Weymouth) was the polite version of the phrase! The full term involved at least three other descriptors of Anglo Saxon origin.

  14. Brian Evans says:

    Martin-yes, I know! I thought I’d clean it up a bit. Years ago, I lived in Hastings for 6 (Long!) years, and that was only one of the words.

    BTW, Hastings looks much better in “Foyle’s War” than it does in real life-and not a patch on Weymouth.

  15. Ian Luck says:

    Brian, in the West country, especially Devon and Cornwall, tourists are sometimes known as ‘Emmets’, an old dialect word meaning ‘Ants’.

  16. Diane Englot says:

    If I couldn’t travel, I would die. Simple as that.

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