For as long as I can remember, I’ve been travelling regularly. I took a job in the travel industry straight out of college so I could feed my obsession, racking up at least 6 or 7 trips each year (my record is 13!).
When I was 23 I left my very good and very stable job as a marketing executive at Virgin Holidays to travel the world. My mum warned me that the world financial situation was in the proverbial crapper, and it was utterly ridiculous of me to even consider leaving behind what I’d spent 4 years of my life building. She would much rather that I settle down and buy a house in little old Horsham.
But I soon came to realise that the small town life wasn’t for me. I was always looking for the next travel fix, sometimes booking up two or three trips ahead just so I didn’t suffer that dreaded ‘post-holiday blues’. I was developing a very unhealthy (and expensive) habit.
For some it’s drink and drugs. For me, it’s travel.
But there was something else attached to the buzz of travelling. Never mind the thrill of stepping off a plane and feeling a completely different climate to the one you felt as the plane doors closed. Never mind the moments of serendipity which cross past you almost every day whilst exploring somewhere new. No, this was something else entirely.
I am obsessed with passport stamps.
There, I said it. Sometimes I get visibly stressed out when I know I’m going to a new place in Europe, just because as a British citizen, I know I won’t get stamped. Oh, you want to go to Barcelona? Meh, OK I’ll do it but I’d rather go to Barbados. Paris? Are you sure you don’t fancy Portland instead?
Being a European citizen is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the ‘stampability’ (OK I made that word up but you get my jist). One the one hand, I won’t get a stamp, but on the other, it means my passport lasts a hell of a lot longer.
So it is with much sadness that this week, my passport had nearly reached its 10 year anniversary, and so it was time to trade her in for a new model. My most recent visit to Canada filled her up right to the brim, and so she is no longer any use to me. What a heartless world this is.
And so, to celebrate and to grieve the passing of a dear friend, I would like to share with you just a handful of our most treasured moments over the past nine years.
The date never lies… yes I really did visit the Windy City in December. ‘Why?’ I hear you cry! Well, if I’d have known how appallingly cold it was, I would have chosen a different location to surprise my mum for her significant birthday.
We packed lightly, for a weekend away in London perhaps. One coat, one pair of gloves, three pairs of socks, two pairs of jeans and a couple of fleecy jumpers. On our first morning in this delightful city we rode the elevator down to the lobby of our hotel, glancing at a thermostat which claimed to show the outside temperature as -27°C.
‘MINUS 27?? Can’t be true, it must be broken!’
A quick dart into the outside world proved instantly that no, it was not broken and we were really being battered by minus 27 degrees, plus wind chill.
Needless to say, we wore everything in our suitcases at once for the remainder of the trip and spent little to no time outside. Mum still loved it but a little googling by me before the trip would have picked this ungodly temperature. Ah well, you live and learn.
Guatemala, 27 July 2013
Check out this beauty of a stamp, isn’t she just lovely?
But yet again, the date lets me down. As I’m sure a lot of people know, travelling through Central America in July is a bit of a shitter, really. It rains a lot, cloud cover is low and heavy and it’s hotter than Satan’s arsehole.
However, this was of course the time of year which I decided to visit… of course it was.
Despite the rain and the humidity, Guatemala is still one of my favourite countries. Not sure how many I’m up to in my ‘favourite countries’ list (am I allowed more than 10 or is that a bit greedy?).
An absolute highlight for me was Lake Atitlán, nestled in active volcanos in the south west of the country. Not only was it so pretty I kept having to rub my eyes to believe it, but it’s packed with history too.
The descendants of the Mayans still live in villages and small communities surrounding the lake, and I could just spend days there gawking at the scenery and shouting at the mountains like a crazy. Yes I do this sometimes if I really love something. I just have a good old shout.
Argentina, 17 April 2010
Finally I get something right. April is an absolutely glorious time to visit Argentina. The sun is shining, the steaks are as tender as ever and the people are happy and chatty (apart from the time we got mugged but let’s not taint this post with those memories – this post is about celebrating)!
Buenos Aires in the sunshine is just spectacular. The colours running through the streets are so bright that even all these years later, they are still burned into my retina. The neighbourhood of San Telmo remains with me particularly vividly with its brightly painted houses and dancers littering the streets showing off their Argentinian Tango for all to enjoy.
God, I love the Tango. It’s just so fierce and sexy.
One other obvious yet unavoidable thing to note about Argentina is its plentiful stock of velvety red wines. They pair just perfectly with their juicy cut-them-with-a-spoon steaks to create a sensation in my mouth I’ve just never been able to recreate elsewhere. There is no point in me explaining it to you… You’ll just have to get to Argentina immediately and experience it for yourself.
So, dear passport, it is with great sadness that we part ways. We’ve had some good times together. Some laughs, some tears, some near-misses. You will always be special to me, but it’s time for a new slicker, younger (48 page) model, so move out the way you scruffy old bag so I can continue my stamping obsession with an oh-so-exciting clean slate!
God, I’m fickle.