The wander years
SO, herewith, notes to my younger travelling self. I was tuned into the always-amusing Richard Glover on 702 ABC last week and he asked listeners to provide gems of advice to give the 16-year-old versions of themselves.
“Always wear a bra,” is one that particularly resonated. It got me thinking about that silly Lenny Henry and how he once said he carried one of his then wife Dawn French’s bras with him to use as an emergency hammock in the jungle when he was filming a reality show.
Mother called bras “over the shoulder boulder holders”, but I digress. With the wisdom of hindsight, I really want to talk to Susan, then aged 18, on her first lone trip abroad and to point out what I now know about the perils and protocols of travel.
Susan, let your parents know where you are because if you don’t they will assume you are in danger or dead. This is just what parents do.
Today it is much worse, because they will be checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and texts and will go into a flat spin if you don’t post updates.
Back then, Susan, there was just snail-slow mail and, in India, cute ISD booths in which you had to buy a chit and book your call. Even so, there was not much point purchasing that postcard of the Taj Mahal and then forgetting to post it home or buying a chit and neglecting to return, three hours later, to make the appointed call.
Susan, that expression “cast-iron stomach” is a load of tosh, as you well discovered when you airily partook of a day-old buffet because you were in a relatively nice hotel and believed the three-star rating would protect you against salmonella.
When the tour guide tells you there will be better carpets (or shawls or silks) in the next village, it is never true. His cousin is the shopkeeper in the next village and you must buy what you want when you see it because you may never pass that way again.
Always insist, Susan, on a door with a lock so you don’t wake to a cast of villagers standing at the end of your bed observing the odd foreigner while she sleeps. And, young lady, Mother didn’t pack your racquet so you could have a hit of tally-ho tennis in the hill stations of India but to thump the mattress and scare the daylights out of the bed bugs.
You told her, Susan, that you were travelling light and needed just one pair of socks but weren’t you happy that she had sneaked in another set when you woke to discover you were sockless on a railway bench, still with shoes laced but feet and ankles bare?
That day of the great socks heist you did ring home, fearing told-you-so snorts of disapproval.
But Mother and Dad said, “Come back soon, we miss you.”
Pleased you were, too, that Mother had popped one of Dad’s big tear-soaking hankies in your pack.