As I was writing the previous post, I was reminded of one of the main reasons we travel. It’s the people you meet along the way and the stories they tell you. These encounters are usually fleeting, often illuminating, and very rarely lead to the exchanging of contact details, thus consigning them to the hidden recesses of memory, to be recalled only occasionally and recounted as an entertaining anecdote during future travels.
One of these such meetings happened during the afternoon we spent at Tim and Kim Village in Ethiopia. There was only one paying guest in the resort at the time so, naturally, we got talking to him over a beer. We didn’t get his name, but it transpired he was from the UK but had been living in Japan for a number of years. In the March prior to our meeting, he had decided that the time was right to return home to the UK. He packed everything he owned and arranged to have it shipped back whilst he himself intended to cycle back from Tokyo to London! He wasn’t an experienced long-distance cyclist – this was just a whim! So, he had indeed set off on his bicycle and, in six months, he reached Istanbul. At this point, sensing that the temperature was dropping as winter in Western Europe approached, he decided that he couldn’t face a wet and cold UK. Instead, he abandoned his bike and booked the cheapest flight he could find to somewhere warmer. This is how he found himself in Cairo. From there, he decided to head south. When we met him, he had already travelled through Egypt, Sudan (which he reported was the friendliest country he’d ever been to), and northern Ethiopia. He intended to catch the ferry to Bahir Dar, but had arrived in Gorgora the day after the weekly ferry had sailed. So, he ended up spending six days at Tim and Kim Village. We all agreed that there are worse places to be holed up! As for his onward travel plans? To continue moving south – nothing more concrete than that. An inspirational story to send us on our way!
Another memorable meeting was back in 1997 on the day Princess Diana died. We were on holiday in northern Cyprus and, after breakfast on a Sunday morning, we decided to walk to the new harbour in Kyrenia. Sitting outside a café enjoying a coffee, we were suddenly aware of the TV which was on inside. We heard Tony Blair’s voice saying, “She was a wonderful and warm woman.” Intrigued as to who he was talking about, I went into the café. As soon as the locals, who were crowded around the small television set, realised I was British, they made room, found two chairs, called Mark in from outside, brought us drinks, and commiserated with us on the loss of our princess! It was all rather surreal.
A little while later, an English couple, who were obviously well known to everyone, came in to buy bread. They were soon given the news about Diana and introduced to us as fellow countrymen. Once we had spoken of our shock, the conversation went something like this:
Them: ‘Are you on holiday?’
Us: ‘Yes. You?’
Them: ‘Yes. How long are you here for?’
Us: ‘Three weeks. You?’
Them: ‘Fifteen years!’
It turned out that they were long term travellers who had sold up everything in the UK 15 years previously and bought a boat. They had been sailing it around the Med ever since and had only been back to the UK twice in all that time, the most recent occasion being only a few months before we met, when they had gone back for their daughter’s wedding and had been so traumatised by the cost of cigarettes and gin and tonic that they had vowed never to go again!
Now, at the time we met this inspiring couple, Mark and I were both working in conventional jobs, we had a mortgage, and were grateful to get away for our annual three-week holiday. The idea of travelling for 15 years, whilst incredibly appealing, seemed beyond our reach. Who knew that, within a few years, we’d be emulating these people and it is now approaching 12 years since we, too, sold up and started our permanent travelling lifestyle?
There have been countless stories through the years, but that seems like a good place to stop for now. Perhaps this is a subject I’ll revisit with a ‘People you meet, Part 2’ post!!