Abu Dabi 12.05am
And so I begin with the end, scribbling my thoughts down in Abu Dabi’s airport waiting-lounge, glancing occasionally at the screen for my EY015 flight home to Manchester Airport, England. My two months of travelling in Nepal is sadly behind me but I hope to rekindle some memories here on these pages for you.
When I was asked one week ago if I was interested in writing a monthly travel article for the newly launched Verse Magazine, I blindly took the bull by its horns -what with being an English Literature Student as of September- thinking it would not only be an exciting means through which I could experiment with my expression but also something fun and because it all came into play relatively fortuitously. And now I’m sitting here chewing my biro, my mind journeying down memory lane and wondering whether any of what I’ve seen, smelt or heard can fascinate and inspire a readership. What is travel writing? What is it exactly to ‘travel’?
I sit here in this sterile and cold chair, surrounded by travellers poised over Internet pods, their sunken faces illuminated by the blue screen light. Everyone’s zoning in. Or zoning out. The cyber snare soon pulls me in and before I know it I find myself logging into Facebook telling the world ‘what’s on my mind?’ Tragic, isn’t it? We have become like spiders no longer searching the world web but spinning it. Mapping finely tuned mandalas of self representation. And there’s no denying I’m a guilty party, having bored my 597 facebook ‘friends’ silly with holier-than-thou gap-year soul-searching reflections. I remember, (now blushing at the thought), writing from Namche Bazaar on the road to Everest Base Camp, enlightening my cyber entourage with the following quote from Jon Krakauer’s novel ‘Into Thin Air’:
Men play at tragedy because they do not believe in the reality of the tragedy that is actually being staged in the civilised world.
A profound statement such as this, and there’s no doubt there, has to have my audience thinking that through my travels I’m finding myself right? That is the point isn’t it’¦the great affair of moving is to lose your luggage and retreat to the world within. None of us like to play the tourist with a Nikon camera hung over one shoulder, so we play at our own small tragedies instead, adding yet more and more adjectives to our tall tales of bare-footed wanderings (you’ve seen the hippies in Freak Street!). But I will say now that my tales are not so tall and I write merely as a tourist. Simply seeing.
Having finally boarded the plane I browse the flight entertainment, scrolling through the myriad movie junk until I happen upon Peter Weir’s new release ‘The Way Back’. Inspired by ‘The Long Walk’, a book by Slawomir Rawicz, a Polish POW in the Soviet Gulag, the film follows a band of soldiers as they escape the chains of communism through indomitable human will alone. Theirs is a harrowing story of man’s primal spirit to roam his world a freeman.132 minutes later and I’m exhausted, emotionally and physically, having crossed Siberian forests, Mongolian deserts and Himalayan Mountains. And they travelled by FOOT alone. Without being facetious, as theirs in an incomparable account, there were no tempos, Suzuki taxis or Sherpa mules to transport them to freedom. So I finally ask you, before you decide to start reading the world through my eyes each month, to take a moment to stop and see the world today for its accessibility and to relish the freedom of our feet.
But then the notion of the traveller’s freedom is of course relative to context and has changed over time. My Father, travelling in Nepal thirty years ago owned no mobile, no ipod, no laptop, just a few flimsy airmail letters for one rupee twenty five. Contacting the outside world meant a two to three hour wait at the Post Office calling Europe for the line to be relayed via Moscow and Stockholm. Today we take our world with us. Just perhaps we’re carrying too much baggage!