”Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” Michael Palin.
I am very lucky that at 23 I can say I have already visited 24 countries of the world. That seems quite a lot until you consider just how many more there are left to visit. No matter where I have visited, or what I have seen, I always find myself asking, where will I go next? I think, no matter if I had only visited the UK, or whether I had travelled the world, this question would always play on my mind, because Michael Palin is 100% right!
When I was younger, and less financially responsible for my travelling, I enjoyed visiting places but was much less concerned about seeing new places than I am now. These days, everywhere I go is marked by a pin in my bedroom map and a colour fill on my interactive one. It marks new experiences, cultures, and memories, all of which are priceless. (Well costly, but worth it!)
As I said, I have visited 24 countries: Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Kenya, Laos, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Kindgom, Vatican, and Vietnam. It’s quite a diverse list. It makes a reasonably ‘I’ve visited map’. When I look at it, however, I don’t see the blue of the countries I have been to, I see the vast white spaces of the places I am left to visit.
There are many places I would like to visit, but there are a few that are on my bucket list as definite places I need to get to, and many that appeal for no apparent reason other than ‘I need to go there’ which I think is perfectly valid. At the moment, I am travelling with Jade (who aside from her often poor, poor taste in music) is a fairly good travel buddy. I am going to get to cross quite a few places off my bucket list that I want to visit: New Zealand, Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, Asia, and the Grand Canyon jumping out as the big places, and of course there is Ha Long Bay and Angkor Wat that we have already visited.
I think my obsession with travelling and visiting new places has probably been there since birth. Before I wasa year old I had visited California, and before I can remember I had visited several countries. I have a love of maps that can only be attributed to my Mum’s side of the family. They feature everywhere in my life, from my bedroom walls, to my bucket list, to my degree choice. I guess if you love maps, you are always going to love travelling, no?
And so sitting here, less than a week to go before Christmas, at my kitchen table in Roi-Et Thailand, looking at the blue sky, I am thinking, where next? The obvious answers for me are South America, India, and Africa. I will have visited all of the five continents (technically) when I return from this trip, but feel like, for my bucket list purposes, that I should count South America as its own. Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, and the Rio Carnival are all on there, it is definitely the place I would now like to visit first when I get back. The Taj Mahal and the majesty of India have appealed for as long as South America, and the want to go back to Africa to visit is incredibly strong. One country barely counts!! And strangely, the last place is Ireland. One of the closest countries to the UK, yet a place I have never visited. That needs to change.
Recently, my Facebook was filled with articles about one man, Graham Hughes, who had travelled through all of the 193 UN recognised countries, as well as some partially and non-recognised states, to travel 201 countries, all without the use of plane travel. My fellow scouser travelled for nearly four years on an insane journey. As much as I have no desire to copy this feat, it is mightily impressive. It spurred my want to travel more and more when I get back. The problems: money, and time. Travelling costs a lot of money, and continuing in this vain takes time that I could otherwise invest in a career. I guess there are ways to get round that, such as teaching English in Thailand, but is that a viable option for a long time?
For any of you who haven’t travelled but want to, get out there and do it. There are many inventive and insane ways to travel the world on a shoestring budget, especially in the current technological climate. There is a wealth of opportunity to make enough money to do it as you go. See the places you want to see and visit the places you want to visit, it’s so worth it. For anyone who has little interest in travelling, I can only say I feel sorry for you. It is an enriching experience unrivalled by anything else you can do with your time, except maybe charity work. But hey, combine the two! As much as seeing the same places is comfortable and can produce some great experiences bred by the familiarity and security of a place, the sense of adventure and excitement gained by going to new places is such a rush.
I have been well and truly bitten, infected, taken over by the travel bug. As Palin said, there is no antidote, and I can say that I am the most happily infected person.