On the day I was born, I was given a teddy bear. Not the most masculine 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’. 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. I named my bear after my favourite character.
It was the start of a love affair with travel but more would come to cement that. 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 me and my siblings were born – my grandpa and granma Reid – they always featured highly too.
I can’t say I spent much time abroad as a child. This was before the days of discount family package deals, or 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 experienced it?
My first holiday abroad was as a young teenager to Malta. I remember we had to go all the way down from the Highlands of Scotland 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 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 an adult 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 and clubbing at night on Ios and Mykinos islands but it wasn’t quite scratching the itch I had deep within me. 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 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 throw 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 and I am grateful to say that in 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 has gone.
And oh yes, I still have the teddy. I hope he’ll be with me for much longer too, despite the cool points I lose from owning him.
Thanks for reading, Ian
(A backpacking & adventure travel blog with music, films & words)