Someone told me that the more of the world you see, the more you realise you haven’t seen. The love of travelling can throw you in to a race against time to get through an ever-growing wish-list of destinations.
Trying to tick things off with a full-time job is even harder – there are many places that you just can’t appreciate within a 10 day annual leave limit. Having the time of your life in Thailand and knowing you are so close to hopping over to Laos or Vietnam but realising it will cost you your job, is something of a dampener.
I used to dream of working and travelling around the world indefinitely but after backpacking for two years, I found many reasons why it just wasn’t feasible. There’s the career ladder I’d fallen off, the mortgage I’d be paying until I was 60, relationships that failed the distance test and the loneliness of being ten years older than the rest of the hostel dorm. All worries that creep up gradually and add their own weight to the backpack you carry, leaving you wondering if you’re on a road to nowhere.
I’ve been all over the other side of the world and yet there are so many sites in the UK that it’s never occurred to me to visit.
So, while I’m waiting for time to take the next big trip to Peru/Argentina/Cambodia, I intend to find out what this ‘staycation’ craze is all about. Not sure how this will pan out though, even the word annoys me!
That aside, I think there’s a lot to be said for looking at your own country through the eyes of a tourist. When I worked in Sydney, I’d often arrive at my desk with a gooey smile, gushing about how incredible the harbour looked as the morning light cast golden shadows over the curves of the Opera House.
The response of my Aussie desk-mate? “Oh yeah? Cool. Can’t say I really noticed, mate.”
It’s lunchtime and I’m in Starbucks. It’s your average British grey-sky day with the threat of rain hanging in the air and showing in the dissatisfied faces of people hunched over newspapers with frothy coffee on their lips and crumbs cascading down work suits.
A group of spanish teenagers stands out with their holiday-spirit laughter and carefree chat that’s fifteen decibels above everyone elses. We start talking about travel and I ask them where they really want to visit in Britain.
London, Canterbury, Cambridge, Norwich, Manchester, York, Dublin and Edinburgh (I thought it impertinent to point out that Dublin was not in Britain – plus, I think he’s right, it should definitely make the ‘local’ list)
They scrape up rucksacks, iPods and skateboards and make their way out of the cafe telling me they are on their way to see Norwich Cathedral before going for a curry…
My plan is to see a new city each month and to look at everything through the eyes of a tourist. To appreciate the architecture, the pretty lanes, the heritage buildings, the attractions and the local vibe like it’s a foreign land.
The problem, I foresee, is that there may be a distinct lack of blue sky in most of the photos and smiles will be muffled beneath scarves and coats. Nothing looks as good under a veil of rain and it’s way too cold to catch a sunrise. BUT, we’re British, we keep calm and carry on and I’m sure there’s something worth capturing in every city of our green and pleasant land.
So, my tourist eyes are engaged and I’m ready to be fully immersed in Britain. First step?
Norwich cathedral on the way home from work – and possibly an Indian take-away.