Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road
Jack Kerouac – On the Road
It started early on, the appetite for travelling, for being on the road and discovering new places.
The earliest childhood memories I have are those of me sitting in the middle of the backseat looking out to the road ahead of us, singing along to my farther’s favourite songs, which he played over and over again from his little cassettes. (pre-iPod age!!)
Dancing Queen (ABBA) and By the Rivers of Babylon (Boney M) were prominent features during our yearly summer road trip taking us on a set itinerary through France, Italy and Spain : Paris – Nantes – Roanne (with a stopover at the magical Les Trois Gros) – Saint-Etienne – Lyon – Turin – Verona – Barcelona – Madrid. The final stop would always be a little holiday home in Campoamor, a then not well-known Spanish holiday resort on the Costa Blanca, where we would stay for 3 weeks.
We were on the road for almost 2 months.
My dad had the foresight of planning his European business trip during the school holiday so we could accompany him on his travels – cool dude right?! The many hours in the car driving or waiting outside boring office buildings whilst he was holding his client meetings did not deter from the excitement I felt when we finally arrived at the destination for the evening. My top priority would always be to check if there was a pool, and if so, to go for a swim! Even the occasional spells of car sickness couldn’t ruin things – which I am sure were probably caused by me wolfing down the croissants at the Paris Hilton (i.e. the hotel, not the celebrity girl!!) and indulging in too much chocolate milk at Villa Sassi, a magical retreat up in the hills of Turin.
The summer road trips eventually made way for shorter trips to more exotic destinations …nothing inspired my 15-year-old self more than standing in front of the Pyramids of Giza, smelling the rich spices at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, floating on the Dead Sea and standing by the wailing wall in Israel.
I am sure my mum silently curses having instilled the travel bug in to her 2 children: my brother and I, we both live for our travels. We are probably at our happiest when packing up and setting off to a new adventure. The sense of the unknown, different cultures, languages, food, the unpredictability of what might happen or who you might meet is our drug and possibly our mother’s biggest fear.
If dad were still around – he passed away 20 years ago – he would for sure encourage us to continue travelling, continue exploring…
During my mid twenties, I discovered the love for mountains and high altitude hiking, taking me to remote places on all continents, undoubtedly giving mum sleepless nights. Alleviating her worries in the days before mobile phones and wi-fi (yes I am that old!) wasn’t that straightforward. Postcards would not arrive until I was back home and international dialling was expensive or just not available. Also, I wanted to be carefree and not be held back by having to search for a phone…
So I struck a deal with her: on the day of arrival I would buy a phone card to make 1 international call home. Then I would set off on my travels …no news for 3 or 4 weeks… until touch-down back home to call her to confirm the eagle had landed safely.
Swapping my high heels for hiking boots still brings out the Indiana Jones in me…tapping into my inner teenage passion (or hidden ambition) for history, adventure and cowboy-like recklessness. And let’s admit it, the boots are definitely a far better option than squeezing myself into a Wonder Woman superhero costume – be it slightly lower in entertainment value!
Professor of Archeology, expert of the occult, and how does one say it..obtainer of rare antiquities.
Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark
My boots have not only taken me to some amazing places and up some fantastic mountains and volcanoes, they have also brought me rich and deep friendships. And I am blessed that about six years ago, on a trip to the Salt Planes of Bolivia and the Atacama Desert in Chile, I met a great group of fellow-adventurers. People from all walks of life. Put us next to each other and you might struggle to understand what binds us together and why we get on so well – but we do and we have been going on holiday together ever since.
It must be our mutual love for travel, hiking and adventure. But above all, it is our willingness to rough it, to pitch in, to keep laughing when it hurts and to be able to tell each other “to sit down, stop complaining, eat and keep going up that bloody mountain until we reach the f##ing top!!”.
As I am packing up my hiking boots once more, I am smiling and counting down the days until I see them again – this time we’re heading off to explore infamous yet exquisitely beautiful Colombia.
Hasta muy pronto, amigos!