Once (upon a time), I had ambitions to be a travel writer.
I’m sure you know the type;
Just twenty minutes after the wedding vows have been exchanged, the long-suffering partner agrees to the explorer high-tailing it out of the conjugal nest for a couple of years, so that they can retrace the steps of some medieval alchemist-poet-knight who drove three thousand goats across six mountain ranges, converted four heathen princes to the True Faith, and conquered Alsace and Mordor on the way.
Unfortunately, I quickly decided that I was unlikely to ever have the experience to write a travel book. I have never met the Dalai Lama, interviewed an Imam in a mosque in the mountains of Persia, or chatted intimately to local leaders in remote places. I have met very few people in the aid sector, people who have done particularly brave or daring things, or celebrities.
Indeed, I’m not even a celebrity myself, which seems to be a good travel opening nowadays. I’ve never had the resources to spend years at a time living with villagers in remote Angolan jungle clearings, and I’ve not been able as yet to persuade any large companies to sponsor my meanderings.
And this is a great shame, because travelling and getting paid for it is an attractive proposition. I rather got the appetite for it in the years that I worked abroad. Oh sure, most of my time was spent working, but I did get to travel around and see much that I would never had had the chance to see otherwise. In the 1980’s, Oman was pretty well closed to western visitors, other than those like myself who worked there. It was my first real taste of a society that was very different to my own, in a climate also far removed from anything I had experienced before. I loved it, and I got paid well for it.
It did, unfortunately, instil a slight expectation that I could continue to experience this as long as I wished, and like all good things, it came to an end.
Now, when I do travel, I keep a journal. On the other hand, so do most other travellers. And it only takes a quick glance through mine to see that there is not the basis of a best-selling travel book there. It does sometimes seem that to read most published accounts of journeys, unless they were accomplished with the maximum amount of discomfort then they don’t count. Certainly, I’ve had a few uncomfortable long distance bus rides, been too cold or too hot at times, and passed the odd night in some pretty crap hotel rooms, but I don’t think that’s enough to fill a best seller.
On the other hand, I’ve never set off with just a passport and a change of underwear to travel single-handedly across the amazon jungle, or attempted to unicycle around the Mongolian plateau juggling a bowling ball, an egg and a carving knife, so maybe it is my attitude that is at fault.
But I have a plan!
I shall daringly attempt a five mile walk through the English countryside, non-stop and all by myself! No support team, no camera crew, no convenient lift for when the going just gets too hard to bear. There will be nothing other than my own courage and steely determination to get me through the ordeal, except for the prospect of a cold beer at the end of the trail, possibly a pub sandwich and a short ride home on the bus.
I’ve got waterproofs (just in case), a bottle of water, a map, a few snacks, my notebook and camera (for interviewing any gnarled old villagers that I might happen across) and a mobile phone just in case I find myself in any situation that I cannot talk or buy my way out of.
And so, having persuaded my beloved to give me leave of absence for the time it takes me to complete the expedition, I’m off into the comparative unknown.
If this is my last blog post, you’ll know it all went horribly wrong.