My first flight on an aeroplane was relatively late, at the age of 21, when my parents and I jetted to Singapore, a trip that my parents had talked about for many years but one that I never thought would actually happen! Well that trip did happen and I loved everything about it, the humid weather, the amazing Buddhist temples, the night safari and the areas of the city known as Little India and China Town. Within a week of returning home, I booked myself a round the world ticket and jetted off with my backpack and Lonely Planet guide in hand, in search of amazing places and experiences.
My route was a well-worn, first time backpacker route, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. I saw some amazing beaches, mountains, glaciers, sunsets and sunrises and have a fair few photo’s too…the old style, printed out and in an album!
But what really stands out, as I think back to my first backpacking trip and my first flight are the people. The people I travelled with, the people I met, the people who became friends and the people who I thought I would still be in touch with now but have lost touch with along the way. For me, it’s the people who make a good travelling experience an amazing one.
On our first trip to India, back in 2007, we met a young Indian woman working in the accommodation we were staying in. She was very meek and ever so polite, greeting us with a warm smile and a ‘hello’ whenever we saw her. She was learning English from a phrase book with the most useless phrases such as ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans’ and ‘A bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush’ and many of the phrases were grammatically incorrect! Over the course of a few days, we got to know her and she told us she had to leave her family to find work, as her son needed an operation on his leg, to enable him to walk. As she told us this story, tears filled her eyes and a wave of empathy came over me and I reached out and held her hand. Over the next couple of days we chatted and laughed and she drew intricate patterns with henna on my hand. I made a point of writing her address down and vowed to keep in touch, she didn’t have email but I said it didn’t matter and that I would write a letter or send a card. I never did write that letter or send a card but I haven’t forgotten Mumthas, I have often thought of her and whether she was able to earn enough money to pay for her son’s operation and wonder what she is doing now.
So for me, seeing places and things is amazing and a privilege but more than that, it’s the people I meet and share my journey with, which really makes travelling something very special indeed.