I love travelling. I don’t travel well and get a lot of motion sickness, apart from when I’m in the driving seat, but nothing will ever really stop me from moving about and experiencing slices of this wonderful planet we inhabit. This weekend I’m heading off to The Netherlands to stay at my brother’s place in the south, near Vlissingen. He’s moved to a new flat in a nearby small town, so there’s plenty to explore and discover. I’ll also be starting to write my third novel, without the distractions of phone calls or housework, but will be spending a lot of time outdoors on his bike. It’s too hilly here for me to use a bike (I’m too decrepid) but out there it’s a dream of flatness and cycle lanes. Exhilirating.
What I love most about travelling is meeting so many people and hearing their stories. It’s not unusal to hear the life story of someone sitting next to me in the departure lounge or on the plane, and these stories I carefully store in my cheese-grater mind. A lot falls out, but the best bits stay to be recycled later as a character or an event in one of my novels/stories/poems. People-watching is great fun and as so many of flights get delayed, it’s interesting to see how different people cope with the situation. You get the ‘Do-you-know -who-I-am?’ self-important response, the satisfied-pessimistic ‘I-told-you-something-like -this-would-happen’, the blamer ‘This-is-your-fault – if-only-you’d-listened-to-me-we’d-be -on-the-earlier-flight’ and the one when travelling with children ‘Please-let-us-go-before-I -kill-them’ response. My own is a rather fatalistic ‘Ah well, as long as we get there safely’.
A good game to play at these times is to take one or two people and imagine what they’re doing there, who they’re meeting and where they’re going. I’ve been playing that game so long I can’t remember ever travelling and not playing it. Apart from being fun and passes the time, it also cranks up my imaginative powers. I always keep a small notebook handy and in this I jot down ideas, words or phrases that capture me. Very useful fodder for later thought, particularly with a memory like mine.
Last summer, when I drove across America along Route 66 with my friend, Pat, we had lots of fun playing the game. It was delightful to be able to bounce idiotic ideas off each other and reach scenarios that dissolved us into tears of laughter. Much better than tears of frustration.
Delays are part of the journey, although if my flight to Schipol is delayed I will miss the last train to Vlissingen and have to spend the night in the airport. You can’t bed down or sleep there, so I have to pretend I’m meeting someone off a flight until I can catch the first train out at 4am. No doubt there’ll be plenty spies, undercover police, debutantes, brain suregeons and international jewel thieves to keep me awake and amused.