The desire to see far off places began in my childhood when I wondered what places found in an atlas were really like. The lines on the map or exotic place names in other continents conjured up curiosity and mystery. Although I didn’t go abroad until I was 19, I have since travelled widely by a variety of modes, either independently or with my wife, ranging from a three month backpacking trip around Europe to the more traditional two week holiday break.
Central to my travelling has been the draw of places away from the beaten track and the hub-hub of common, everyday life. At an early age I map-read and navigated our route during family touring holidays in the UK, invariably trying to find the quieter back roads and avoiding the main routes. The narrower the lanes, the more satisfying it was, and to find a single track lane with grass growing down the middle became the holy grail of route finding.
An extension of this quest has been the allure of islands and understanding how they function and at times even survive as communities, whether that has been the Isles of Scilly, Channel Islands, Outer Hebrides, Faroe Islands, the Azores, the Ionian Islands or Stewart Island.
Wherever it’s been feasible, we have regularly tried to stay in smaller or slightly ‘away from it all’ accommodation, so that it never quite feels like mass tourism. We have tried to retain an independent spirit and 'do our own thing'. Mass resorts or luxury style hotels have never felt especially attractive. There have been times though when I have come to appreciate the comforts of good facilities, perhaps to escape from bad weather, sample good food, or to simply enjoy spending time relaxing on a beach and switch off from working life. Escaping our damp and unhealthy accommodation in Yangshao for the Sheraton Hotel in Guilin was an extreme case that sticks long in our memory of China!
No matter what the basis of travelling, it provides the opportunity to take oneself out of our familiar everyday environment and embrace a different emotional state, whether it be a rush of happiness for a few seconds, such as witnessing that fleeting wildlife moment, or to one of heightened contentment from being able to spend precious time in a particular location or being exposed to new cultures.
This section seeks to express and capture these uplifting moments, while at the same time providing some inspiration and practical suggestions for the reader.