I was born and brought up on a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: Bermuda. As a child, my travelling was limited to the pages of National Geographic, which transported me from the corner of our sitting room to exotic, faraway places – and I accepted that they would very likely remain exotic, far away and beyond my dreams.
But the black and white photograph of the Houses of Parliament on the HP sauce bottle also beckoned to me. The term ‘bucket list’ had yet to be coined – but in all the best children’s stories you’re granted three wishes… So as well as the Houses of Parliament, perhaps I could also see snow: it looked pretty on Christmas cards and throwing snowballs, sledging and building snowmen had to be fun. And for my third wish, I’d visit a really, really foreign country, like France, where people didn’t speak English.
Time passed. On a typically overcast day many years later, I stood on the South Bank opposite the Houses of Parliament. They looked just as grey as on that bottle label all those years before but a thousand times more imposing.
Snow brought just as much fun as I’d hoped.
And in due course I made my way across the Channel to France. Chateaux, vineyards and fields of sunflowers enchanted me.
I’d tasted the honey.
A host of destinations and adventures tumbled onto my horizons. It was not enough to ride the Beeb’s magic carpet (even in the esteemed company of Sir David Attenborough). I wanted to be there myself: beside the Mara river as the surge of wildebeest took their chances with crocodiles, currents and carnivores on the far bank; I wanted to swim with penguins and sea lions in the Galapagos; I wanted to inhale the aromas and colours of India and the Far East, to see monks in their saffron robes collecting alms in the early mornings; I wanted to go to Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Costa Rica, Madagascar, the Harbin Ice Festival, the baroque churches of Eastern Europe, the Great Barrier Reef. I wanted to see the karst scenery of China, the Aurora Borealis, humpback whales bubble-netting and grizzly bears catching salmon.
I have been lucky enough to see and do some of those things; perhaps some I may never get to do. I now live in Hertfordshire with my (English) husband, Tony – and we’re working on that endless travel list together!