|Kitty curled up in front of a Boddhisitava in Phuket|
My father-in-law, for all his disciplined thriftiness, has always considered travel an investment and encouraged us to splurge. I fully agree. If I have one wish for humanity is that all of us may experience that heady mix of anticipation and nerves that engulfs one when one sets foot on foreign soil for the very first time – and never lose that sense. Many have voiced their deep knowing sighs that Thailand is so last week and that Cambodia is the new black and why did we even consider the Western Islands when the Eastern Islands are so much more worthy of being splashed in an edition of Wallpaper. (It would have to have been five years ago; today it’s probably a Vivienne Westwood-designed retreat on the Mountains of the Moon, or maybe it's Phuket in a bracingly ubercool act of subversion). Too bad. I will not be the last to ignore all this and gleefully follow all the other tourists to gawk at the awesome massiveness that is the Big Buddha.
|Images of the Buddha are everywhere.|
It was so funny that Chiv and I reversed roles abroad – I became a penny-pinching Russian grandmother acting as if there was a war on while my usually frugal wife thought nothing of ordering cocktails from the room service menu when they cost a tenth of a price in the nearby village’s beach bar. (Yet, at 4.3 baht to a rand, Thailand is one of those rare places where the humble springbok coin goes very, very far.) Finally, on Phi Phi, mesmerised by the melee of azure, white and green landscape of karst formations and palms and sand, I finally yielded and drowned any wars against cliché in a torrent (almost expensive) of resort-controlled massage oil and pina colada. At the risk of sounding like a blockbuster trailer voice-over, I had escaped from the prison of four years’ of toil and self-loathing and castigation and gave myself permission to be decadent.
|Approaching Phi Phi by ferry|
Those who have tried to make themselves feel superior by brandishing their precious visa-exempt nationalities in my face, have been the unfortunate (but, I daresay, well-deserved) target of a little-known side of me which bubbles up once a decade from depths I don’t know I have, but is summoned by such grave disturbances in the Force. It is a very cold, very calm and very crystalline wrath that, I am told, has wilted plastic flowers and commenced years of psychotherapy. I can’t control it, and I don’t like it. Even if the recipient is being a wanker.
So I hope I haven’t inadvertently irritated those of you who haven’t *yet* been blessed with the opportunity of travel. The very process of leaving one’s homeland sets off very slow and very deep waves of change in our souls, even when this is firstly obscured by gaudy pageants of sights and sounds or jaded over by hours in airport lounges and conference venues. All this will suddenly articulate itself in curious moments - a flavour that is suddenly noticed while chewing through a hasty meal; a lilt in the accent of a passer-by. Such has it been for me.
You don’t have to be Livingstone or Drake or Cook.
You don’t have to worry that it’s all been seen by others.
You don’t have to see everything.
You just have to go.