It’s time to look back at the year and reflect on the things travel taught me…
1) That where you’re from matters more than I want to believe. 2012 was the first time I understood the concept of home.
2) That tequila can taste good. No, really.
3) That the world can still surprise me
Every now and then, I fear there won’t be any travel surprises left. 2012 laughed in my face when it got wind of that.
“What about Ghent in Belgium, pierogi in Poland and optimism in Britain?” she cried. (Or he. I’m not really sure about the gender of post-millennial years.) “The aerial views in the Maldives, the heights of the Atlas mountains or the quiet corner souks in Dubai?”
He/she went on. “Who cares if it’s not a surprise for everyone else in the world? It’s a surprise for you and that’s what counts. Your travel. Your life.”
4) That there really is room for everyone
For a long time I felt guilty about leaving medicine to write. Then someone pointed out that I’d free a hospital career slot for someone who really wanted it. And that the world benefits when people do the work they love to do.
I hesitated. Surely, everyone would go for the “fun” jobs and the serious work would never get done. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. People create passionate careers out of almost everything there is because what’s fun to one person is dull or draining to another.
Travel just keeps on teaching me that. Who knew you could have a career in, say, shark photography or making baubles for the pope? Or by taking your family kitchen and turning it into one of the best restaurants in the world? Or even, that many prefer to stay at home and to keep a “traditional” job. Or even more…that I can’t help but bring the serious into my current “fun” job anyway ;-)
5) That opinion is fickle
Awards are lovely. I’m thrilled by every single one I receive (with 2012 highlights including a mention in National Geographic Traveller and a prestigious Caribbean photojournalism award for this post.) Yet a visit to the Sydney Opera House revealed an interesting twist in the tale of recognition for your work. Today, the world sees those interlocking sails as one of the icons of global architecture, a triumph of science and inspiration that went on to define a whole country. But back in 1966, Sydney gave the architect the sack. So roll with the good and the bad, 2012 says, when it comes to what others say about your creative work. You never know what the verdict will be in the end…
6) That there are more than 50 shades of grey
The conflict between travel, political ideals and environmental concerns showed no sign of slowing down in 2012. And I’m still finding my balance between “ooh isn’t that beautiful” and “let’s talk about the serious stuff.”
7) That forest fires can be good
8) But that crocodiles are not
9) That there is more to see than can ever be seen…and yet…
10) That I need to slow down
11) That seeing a snowman cheers me up
12) That following convention works for the outside publishing world. But here in the lab I’m free to indulge myself ;-)
13) That Colombia is stunning
14) That Paris can be bleak
15) That GCSE German wasn’t a waste of time
16) That Mozart had a sister (and that inequality of any kind results in a loss to the world)
17) That the rain can be beautiful
18) That “Romeo and Juliet” is a farce
19) And that Daniel Craig is small
20) That I can watch the same “romcom” back to back on a plane when unable to sleep.
21) That people will turn up to hear me talk about philosophy
22) That Basel is gorgeous
23) That everything changes – including us – even parts we thought never would
2012 gave me my first ever wallop of seasickness as well as showing me who was boss in Mexico, where the crowds and clouds swarmed across the previously pristine ruins at Tulum. Who’s the boss? Time, that’s who. It alters us all and there’s no going back.
24) That a hot cheese fondue on a biting winter’s night can taste better than a luxurious three course meal
25) That Paris CDG airport is worse than I remember
26) And that Bruxelles Midi Station is even worse than that
27) That using an InterRail pass in Germany feels like freedom, in France like endless red tape
28) That persistence pays off
29) That I should listen to my instincts more
30) And say “yes” to insurance on hire cars
31) That Amsterdam has gleaming skyscrapers
32) And that B&Bs are just not for me
33) That love and happiness beat any form of travel
34) And that it always pays to dream – and then to go right ahead and to act on those dreams.