Columbus understood it: the thrill of variety and adventure. The way your
heart thumps at a strange custom or a beautiful unfamiliar costume. We
understand it at Carnival time when we slip into many make-believe worlds.
To travel is to be alive.
you hear of the woman who screamed and shouted to be let off the plane
when it was on the verge of take off? She got her way. Some people sleep
right through it. Others drink right through it. Some talk right through
it. Others quiver with every tremor, hold hands with anyone, man, woman or
child, and weep if the weather gets bad.
the time you read this I will be in India. Just thinking about it makes my
pulse race: not only because I am a neurotic passenger who will make up
for a lifetime of neglecting religion by praying for 28 hours solid while
Iím in the air: Dear God, Iíll be good if we land safely. Dear God, I
will never ever worry about petty things like an extra pound on my waist
or a bad haircut. I will never ever scream or shout when I get angry if
the plane stops shaking. I will be as wise as a nun, as good as a saint,
eat carrots for breakfast and porridge for dinner if the weather improves.
If you let me live I will never use food to comfort myself: not
hamburgers, chocolate nor cheesecakes, not that bar of fruit Ďní nut
chocolate. I will be nice even to those who hate me. Please let me live.
If you let me live I will become like Mother Theresa and spend my
remaining days in good acts. I promise God I will not ever have any
selfish thoughts like wanting to be younger/thinner/cleverer/ happier/more
loved/less neurotic. I will not shop when I get depressed. I will not buy
another pair of shoes until this one is worn down to the soles of my feet.
I will visit the sick instead. I will be good. If only you let us land
far, fingers crossed, I have landed safely and headed straight for fatty
food followed by coffee and deliciously malicious gossip with a friend.
That is until the next flight, when I begin my religious confessionals
again. The plane journey apart, my pulse continues to race while I travel.
Travel is like a thriller book or movie. You never know whatís around
the bend. You always sit at the edge of your seat. Your nerve endings are
live electrical wires. Colours become more vivid. The reds are redder. All
the other colours are bluer, yellower, greener, brighter. Sound too. You
are more sensitive to that. A childís cry can sound like a siren, a
whisper, like a breath into a flute.
are like many movies taking place at the same time: sentimental, comic,
funny, happy little scenes everywhere. A neutral place for the people of
the world to meet without fighting over religion. I know many people who
are addicted to it (travel, not religion). People who work for six months
of the year so they can travel for the next six. My sister, with husband,
child, profession and another baby on the way, has one burning ambition in
life: travel. We dream together of the Great Wall of China which
runs for 6,000 kilometres, of the Sun Gate of Tiahuanaco in an old
ruined city in Bolivia, of Mount Kenya National Park near Nairobi, of the
Great Barrier Reefs of Australia, of Mount Fuji in Japan, of sailing on
the River Niger, of the Namib Desert in south-west Africa, of the Congo,
of the dark forests and huge silver stretches of marsh and water in
Siberia, Tibet, and Potala, home of Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai
Lama, of gold pagodas in Rangoon, of Istanbul, and Singapore and Rome.
world is so huge and, because of the invention of the aeroplane, so small,
so accessible. Itís a waste and a crime not to experience as much as you
can. But what Iíve found is that as fascinating as the Taj Mahal or the
mountains of the Lapis Lazuli in eastern Afghanistan are, the people of
the world, despite their varied customs and languages, are ultimately the
same. They all want love and security and happiness for their family and
full lives and American Nikes and burgers. Reassuring when youíre far
you read this I am in a plane, my hands are clammy and throat dry with
fear. I am upright, tense and wide-eyed with fear. I fear death but dear
God, why is it that even as I fear death I am the most alive than I ever
am suspended hundreds of miles in the air into the vast unknown than with
my feet on the ground in a familiar place?