I’ve recently come across quite a few ‘Travel Bloggers’ – people who seem to be able to travel the world and blog about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a fair bit of traveling in my time.
My father is in the Merchant Navy. Thankfully, he worked for a company who saw benefit for their crew to be able to take their immediate family (Wives & children) with them on long voyages. Even more thankfully, this was back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s just before the world went H&S-Crazy. There are photos of us children sat on large pieces of machinery in the engine rooms of these large cargo vessels; sledging off the coast of Norway in winter, along the bow around giant anchors; and walking around huge open hatches waiting to be laden with coal or iron-ore or any other such material that the company shipped from place to place across the entire world.
Yes, the entire world. I had been round it a couple of times before I was 9. Again, back in the day before schools in the UK really cracked down on attendance and not allowing children to be taken out of school during term time. We still had to do school work, and get permission from the school, of course – my mother would be given permission and handed a block of workbooks for us to complete during our time away. We’d do 2 hours of lessons a day on the workbooks, and then I’d put together a project, each port we stopped at, I’d complete a 1-page presentation about that place/country; plus pages about the ship and being at sea; including things like a menu from the captain’s table, which depending on which port the casual galley crew had signed on from, contained all sorts of weird and wonderful international flavours.
(My mum is fond of a tale of one foregin cook who’d decided he was going to please the British crew by cooking good old British food. Using pictures he’d found in a book written in a language he didn’t read; he’d attemped to serve Boiled eggs and soldiers one morning. Meticulously laid out slices of toast and beautifully presented eggs in egg cups were served; and it looked very appetising. Until the diners cracked open the top of their eggs to find…they were uncooked! The poor man hadn’t realised he was supposed to actually boil the egg first…)
I return to school after a 4-6 month voyage and be hauled up in front of the assembly to show off my project and discuss my experiences. For a 7-8 year old who didn’t understand that not everyone got to do this stuff it was a bit overwhelming. But I suppose those were my first experiences of being shoved in front of an audience. No wonder I feel so comfortable on a stage!
Anyway, back to the traveling thing. So, I was doing that while I was young. Then my parents divorced and we
moved around still, but a little more locally to my home base of South Wales; as mum tried to settle, and had various beaus…the rest of my childhood and teen years is another story (a little foreign travel by way of a family package holiday to Corfu and a school exchange trip to Brittany – the region of france not an American teenager – and a sixth-form ‘Art’ trip to Paris…).
When I was 19 I branched out and signed up for Camp America and spent the summer in Camp Wyoming in Iowa. After the summer was over I spent 28 hours on a bus traveling to New York where I met up with the other ‘foreigner’ from Camp, Marek, from Poland, He’d left the day before me and flown to New York to meet up with his Dad, a contractor working in New York. I lost touch with Marek and have wondered for years if he ended up staying or ever made it back to Poland.
After a day exploring Manhattan with him, and a night sleeping rough outside JFK, I caught a flight to Vitoria via Sao Paulo in Brazil to visit Dad, who’d re-married and moved there some years earlier. I spent a week or so with them, meeting up with my brother who’d flown down from Heathrow. We left on the same day…he flew via Rio back to Heathrow directly (Meeting Pele the famous footballer at the airport..much to his delight as a massive football/Soccer fan). Because my Camp America ticket was return from JFK and couldn’t be rerouted, I flew from Vitoria via SP back up to JFK, arriving at something like 6am. Got pretty fleeced by customs on the way in…must’ve looked like a proper bedraggled backpacker with my huge …uh..backpack and flying in from South America. Did I look like I was that green to have been caught out as a mule? She made me unpack all my belongings that I’d been living off for the past 3 months in Iowa and then Vitoria. I felt guilty as I pulled out my travel socks and small woven friendship bracelets and other similar items I’d been gifted
by the children at camp; and my memory notebook in which all my fellow councellors had signed and written thank you messages. I was nearly in tears by the end of packing back up and she looked a little sheepish at having made me cry and yet not found anything. No apology however. In all the years of traveling to, from and through the USA since (there’ve been many occasions), I’ve come to learn her attitude was pretty much standard of Customs and Immigration staff at US airports – look at you with a guilty until proven innocent look; then offer a standard, trained “Have a nice day” ‘greeting’ while continuing to watch you suspiciously as you leave them, even after they’ve done everything short of taking DNA samples from you to prove you’re not a convicted serial killer.
My flight back to London wasn’t until the evening so I had a very long day lounging around the departure lounge at JFK. It was my 20th birthday.
I then worked in aviation for almost a decade…couldn’t keep away from planes. It was only supposed to be a part-time temporary Summer season job so I could pay bills until I could figure out how to get to Drama school. One thing led to another however and I stayed, eventually dispatching aircraft myself and training others. And fixing travel agent errors which really put me off having other people arrange my travel for me and enforcing my preference for more intrepid, DIY travel plans.
Then came A package holiday. In around 2003. To Nidri, on Lefkada, a lesser known Greek island; near Onassis’s private island (you know, the shipping magnate who married JFK’s widow, Jackie).
After I got married, my OH randomly got a call one night offering him a job in New Zealand. So…we went there. Mostly unplanned and quite intrepid (suddenly moving to a country you’ve never been to and don’t know too much about…hey, what could go wrong?!). And it was supposed to be permanent. We got a bit of exploring in during ‘normal life’ and settled in quite nicely. Until he got itchy feet again and decided to apply for a job in The Bahamas 5 years later. And was offered it. 2 years contract ‘with a view to extend after trial period’. All very well, and we did a 2-week road-trip across the USA (we had the dog with us – remember, NZ was supposed to be permanent, we got a dog, and had children… and to minimise her flying and connections, and to make the most of the travel experience, we decided to drive from LA to Houston and fly the shorter distance direct from Houston to Nassau)…
Unfortunately, during that first 2 years, there was a General Election and the opposition party was voted in. And the first thing they did was crack down on foreign nationals work visas “so there were more jobs for Bahamians”. Which is all fair enough, but the only reason hubby had been imported to work in the first place was because he was a specialist in something they needed a specialist for, and hadn’t been able to find someone for a couple of years.
The company were having trouble extending the work visa of the Canadian CEO; and they figured if they couldn’t manage to get a work visa for the CEO of the company, how would they manage it for a lowly engineer…and so they said they weren’t going to bother trying.
That was 3 years ago. To my knowledge, they still haven’t found someone to fill the vacant specialist role…And we’re back in Wales.
So what’s next? Nothing planned, at the moment. But when has any of this been actually planned? So…Who knows what’s around the corner.