When we are born our minds are a blank canvas. The more we experience, the more colour we add to that canvas. At the end of our days, we hopefully leave with a masterpiece of hues and values that have helped shape our character along the journey.
A solitary person may explore the earth and find countless treasures. Their life, to them, will be richer in respect of the experiences collected. On the other hand, those experiences are worth nothing if they cannot be passed on to others.
A great part of the enjoyment of travel, be it alone or with a companion, is in returning and sharing stories with others. Those stories serve to enlighten and inspire others, to educate and entertain them so that one day they too may do the same. On a dull day, remembering those experiences can lift spirits and fill the emotional darkness with light.
I was born into a nomadic lifestyle. My father, a Brightonian by birth, had fought during WW2 in North Africa (among other locations) and returned to work in Tripoli after the war ended. He was responsible for Public Works ie in the rebuilding of Libya’s infrastructure. It was there that he met my mother. She was Italian and her father had been in the Italian Diplomatic Service in Libya before the war. My mother had been living with her grandparents who had moved to Libya from Tunisia before the war and had returned there after the dust had settled. Her grandfather was in the construction business.
The first 2 to 3 years of my life were based in a villa set between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara desert before we moved, temporarily to Brighton and then to Baghdad where my brother was born during our stay there.
Once I hit schooling age we moved back to England. My father worked for a civil engineering company so we lived in several places around England. My earliest memories were, as a 6-year-old, exploring the farm where we lived. It was there that I developed my love of nature.
On completion of my secondary schooling, I had the choice of following in my father’s footsteps by studying for a degree in civil engineering or joining an international bank. I must admit a few things here: I had wanted to study architecture but girls distracted me from getting the grades I needed; I would have liked to have gone to art college but couldn’t see a future in art (though art was in my future); and one significant reason for selecting a career in the bank that I joined was purely to travel to the Middle East.
In a career of over 35 years I had lived in 10 or 12 countries, travelled to over 30 more (split 50/50 work and pleasure) and I have to say I never really tired of seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing new foods and drinks. Travelling itself is not often fun, being reliant on airlines and hotels and sometimes food that one would prefer not to eat, but being in a new location is.
In my new life I have continued to travel, perhaps not as far, but certainly as often. Sometimes I am asked which was my favourite place to visit. My answer is always qualified: for example, I may like Dubai as it was in 1975, but I do not like Dubai as it is today! When in another country or city one absorbs all aspects of the environment: sights, sounds, smells and tastes and it remains in and changes a person. But it is the environment of a particular time.
Paradise is where your eyes, heart and soul decide on where your body should stay, at least for a while.
Alan Skyrme is a Travel writer and food photographer based in Brazil.