At the age of 13 years, I spent a fair amount of time as a ‘loner’. Damn straight I just said it. Loner. I guess I was too much of a know it all, mohio or fia poko for people and I was ever so kindly ditched. So I fell in love with books. In particular, I fell in love with the wonders of the ancient world. I couldn’t get enough of Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and Greece. My Koko (grandfather) gave me a book called ‘Lost Cities’ which I now refer to it as my bible. It might sound stupid and I mean no disrespect to religious peeps but I’m guessing people read passages from the bible in order to derive meaning, hope and/or guidance from them. Well, thats exactly what my book of Lost Cities did for me. Heinrich Schliemann had a dream to re-discover Troy and did. Hiram Brigham located Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Inca’s. This was despite everyone telling them they were mad, the cities were mythical or the journey impossible. I figured if they could achieve their dreams against the odds, why couldn’t I?
Three years later some friends and I decided to persuade our teacher into taking us on a classics trip to Italy and Greece. When I say persuade, I’m being nice. We knew she had two classes, a couple of us were in each class so we devised a plan which saw us each taking turns to harass her about it. It took three months. She still wouldn’t budge. We decided to pool together and bombard her at lunch time. We tried to be rational and reasonable with her. She advised that reason wouldn’t work. So then we pretended to cry about how much it would mean to us. Fed up with our constant harassment and whining, she proceeded to the principal’s office warning us not to get our hopes up. She came back. He said yes. And so it begun.
Thirteen months of part-time work, selling lollies, chocolates (caramello or dairymilk anyone?!) and cookies, picking up rubbish at the local markets, delivering rubbish bags, delivering telephone books, mufti days, sausage sizzles, battons ups, finding sponsors, making sandwhiches for school trips and countless other activites. You name the fundraising activity, we did it. Our departure date was September 16, 2001. Tuesday 11 September, 2001. We all know what happened that day, so I needn’t say more. Our parents and teachers called an emergency meeting to decide whether or not they should let us go on our journey. Lets be honest here, in the aftermath of September 11 we all wondered if WWIII was around the corner so it was a pretty scary thing for our parents to consider. But we all worked so damn hard. By hook or by crook I was getting on that bloody plane. And we did. I remember the scene at the departure lounge. The army was there and makeshift fences were put up to keep passengers separated from their families. To add some dramatic effect even my nail clippers were taken off me (coz i’m really gonna hurt someone with those! Needless to say I was humoured when provided with proper cutlery on the plane?!). Tears were flowing and one parent suggested they say goodbye as if it were the last time. No offense but I didnt shed one tear. I was rearing to get on that plane.
We had the most amazing three weeks. I can’t even explain it. Tired, hungry, jet lagged and lost in Rome on our first night – I found it exhilirating. I remember the beautiful fluffy croissants we had for breaky each morning and trying to be sophisticated by requesting a latte and being presented with a bowl of milk! The hot Italian firemen eating at the pizzeria across the road. Gelato’s in the sunset while watching ships sail to the Isle of Capri. Winding alley ways with shrines to the Virgin. Standing beneath the Parthenon. WOW! I don’t have time or space to recall every detail of our trip but one thing is for sure. We discovered the world, camaraderie and the meaning of “enjoy the fruits of your labour”.
My love for the world started with my love for classical history and it hasn’t really stopped since then. I’m slowly working my way through my Lost Cities. Pompeii, the Colosseum, the Parthenon, Mycenae, Macchu Pichu, the Amazon Basin. I’ve also added some cosmopolitan metropolis’ to the list: the Big Apple, Rio de Janeiro, London, Paris, Tokyo, LA, Toronto. And then there are those quaint, picturesque gems that you find hidden in the far corners of the world and which make you feel conflicted about whether or not to share them.
I love the wonder, the frustration, the happiness, the exploration and the discovery that reading and travelling allow me to experience. Even my experience with Bolivian Interpol is something I now laugh at 🙂 I don’t really know how else to describe the joy that I get out of travelling except to say that it must be like discovering the pot at the end of the rainbow.