This is just the beginning...
Whilst I was out travelling in Sri Lanka, a year passed since the funeral of my dad on the 19th February 2019. It has been a year of tremendous upheaval for my family as a whole, and for myself on a personal level. Above all, however, it has been a new beginning.
My dad would always mysteriously describe himself as a spiritual man, and his death more or less coincided with the start of my own spiritual journey. The subsequent year has been underpinned by a search for the truth, a path which has inadvertently brought me closer to him than I had ever felt during his lifetime. Indeed, during my time in Sri Lanka I felt myself almost following in his footsteps, and with every passing day – with every social interaction and cliff-side pose – I could feel myself reflecting more and more of his character. Whereas before I would resist him, I now take comfort and confidence in the thought that he’s with me wherever I go.
My dad had high credentials in the field of travel, working for the English Tourist Board and teaching tourism at the University of Westminster amongst other roles. He also piqued my interest in the outside world, booking extravagant holidays throughout my childhood. As I start my own adventures, I thought I’d share 5 things he has taught me about exploring the globe:
1) Planning and organisation is everything:
The details of each and every holiday would be researched months in advance, guidebooks were responsible for half the available space on the bookshelf and nothing was left to chance. We became so accustomed to this level of preparation that we didn’t bother finding out about the holiday until days before leaving. The result was the production of complex intineraries imbued with dad’s passion for adventure, taking us off the beaten track and giving us an experience far beyond what any package holiday could provide. And if you put enough thought into your choice of destination, you’re more likely to stumble across some luck, like fortuitously landing on the beaches of Parnu, Estonia, just in time to see Clark lead the line for England at the 2015 European Championships of beach football.
2) Luxury isn’t everything:
Sure, staying in a 5-star hotel in Tenerife with outdoor showers and a private pool is unforgettable in itself, but these extravagancies must be earnt. Dad would book accommodation from across the monetary spectrum, which even included two consecutive nights in separate Formula 1 hotels in France (if you’ve never been, I can only describe them as an eye-opener). Cost-cutting and frugality were always high on the agenda where necessary, and he would make sure to use buses over taxis, and vouchers for restaurants or hotels, to teach us the value of saving money. This philosophy only made the arrival of luxury even more of a treat.
3) Immerse yourself in your surroundings:
It is all too easy to travel without leaving your comfort zone – without getting to know the heart of a place. Immersion in place involves a deep interest in its culture and history, and indeed by the time the plane landed dad had already accrued enough knowledge of our destination to be able to run his own walking tours. The distant and cut-off gaze afforded by google maps was also avoided at all costs, whereby years of travel had honed inside him an incredible navigational system. On the rare occasions he was in fact lost, there was no need to tell us! In this way we experienced the magic of succumbing to the rhythms and patterns of our surroundings.
4) Engage with locals and fellow travellers:
Dad’s passion for conversing with the locals was bordering upon relentless. Not a waitress in Hanko, Finland, nor a white-water rafting guide at the Bay of Fundy, Canada, would get away without a game of ‘20 questions’ on their background, their job, their summer plans and what they ate for breakfast. Wherever he went, his inquisitive charm would leave an impression on the local people, and the knowledge of the area we gained from these short but sweet interactions never failed to expand our sense of attachment and belonging.
5) Make the most of each and every moment:
Getting up at 6 in the morning was a holiday staple for dad, and by the time I had emerged from bed, the entire city had been explored from top to bottom and the day’s activities had been decided. His boundless energy was hard to keep up with, fuelled by a fascination for the unknown and a determination to, as was commented at his funeral, ‘live each day as if t’were the last’. If you want to prolong the joys of travel, don’t pass up the opportunity for a new experience, because, whether good or bad, memories are priceless.