On the day I was born, I was given a teddy bear. Not the most macho of starts to a story I’ve ever told but there we go. Now, it wasn’t until a few years later that this teddy got a name and it was ‘Tico’. Why? Let me tell you…
I’d rush home from school each day, do what ever homework I had to do and settle down in front of children’s TV and watch the incredible ‘Willy Fog – 80 Days Around The World’ cartoon. Watching this awe-inspiring cartoon, motivated me to name my bear, who been with me since birth, after my favourite character.
It was the start of a love affair with travel but more would come to cement that, later.
My mother was a ski instructor when she was young and as such, when ever I asked her to tell me a story as a child, they would invariably come from her time with the international characters at Scottish Norwegian Ski School, where she worked.
Then of course, there were the trips she took abroad with her parents before my siblings and I were born – my grandpa and granma Reid always featured highly, as they travelled around Europe, skiing and sunning themselves.
I can’t say I spent much time abroad as a child. This was before the days of discount family package deals, or around when they had just started perhaps. People still regularly had staycations, visited caravan parks, Butlins or went to visit relatives. Perhaps this just made the world all the more alluring for me, more mysterious from having not ventured far? Anyway, the costs of travel abroad were too high for my single parent mother to be able to take us away too often.
My first holiday abroad was when I was around 12 years old, to Malta. I remember we had to go all the way down from the Highlands of Scotland, where I was brouht up, to London, just to get the flight. We travelled down on the sleeper train and I was too excited to fully sleep. I remember waking up when everyone else was asleep, it could have been 3am or later. I crept out of my bottom bunk and over to the window, pulling back the curtain to see what was outside. I recall rows and rows of streetlights, more vast than I was used to seeing and wondered what megatropolis this was that I was passing through. We slowed slightly and crept through a station and I could see the name of the place on the passing sign and it read in huge letters “CREWE” and I though “wow, Crewe!” like it was some exotic, far away destination.
A few years later and as a young adult, with the funds from my first full-time job, I was heading off with friends abroad on holidays. Greece was a particularly good one with 6 or 7 good friends. Sun, sand and sea by day, absinthe shots on the terraces and clubbing at night. Island hopping around Ios and Mykinos was great but it wasn’t quite scratching the itch I had deep within me, for lengthy adventures.
Then the worst thing happened and my mother passed away unexpectedly. It was devastating. I never really did say goodbye properly and in my opinion, she died ten or more years younger than can be considered to be a good innings but life isn’t fair.
I knew when I received a modest inheritance that I wanted to do something memorable with it. I wanted to get away from my mundane life and wasn’t sure I’d made the best choices career-wise and then it struck me – I needed to go travelling with these funds and remember my mother in my own way.
It took me over a year from then to plan and raise the additional funds with which to do the trip. I learned a basic level of travellers Spanish, got myself kitted out with some gear, bought a round the world ticket and threw caution to the wind.
Travelling that year wasn’t the easiest year of my life I’d ever had. It probably wasn’t as much wall-to-wall fun as I thought it was going to be but I learned a lot – about myself and the world.
I am grateful to be able to say that during that twelve month period, I was able to say a proper goodbye to my mum and I thank her for still being able to keep on giving to me, ever after she had gone.
And oh yes, I still have the teddy – good old Tico. I hope he’ll be with me for much longer too, despite the cool points I lose from owning him.
Thanks for reading. Why do you travel? Ian