How we love to travel...
In my youth, I raced around Europe with countless other students, passport, traveller's cheques and InterRail monthly pass tucked into trousers. In thirty days, I would travel from England to Norway, Sweden, all the way down to Greece, back home via Yugoslavia, Italy, and France. Phew, that's a lot of trains, all for $75 or so; $2.50 a day, and just imagine the savings in overnight accommodation if schedules were planned well!
My first trip with the love of my life was a doozy. A long-haul flight with the impeccable Singapore Airlines took us from London to, yes, Singapore, a good, safe landing pad for me, experiencing Asia for the first time. From here, we flew to Bali, staying for a month before travelling overland across Java for another month, ending with two weeks in Malaysia, including a heavenly few days on the island paradise of Tioman.
Now, finally, thirty five years later, we are back to a trip that is two months plus. Instead of a busy itinerary, we now choose to fly to Guatemala, spend a few days in Antigua, then settle into a home away from home right on the jewel that is Lake Atitlan, happily rooted for a full eight weeks. After trips to Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Greece that were usually two to three weeks, we have graduated to longer and more satisfying stays. Last year, our first in Guatemala, was six weeks. Once we moved from hotels to rented houses and rented cars to public buses and collective taxis, everything changed for the better. We shop at local markets for fresh, in-season food, we cook at home, we flit from town to town on day trips, we relax fully, and we save a lot of money on restaurants and accommodation. And I get to plant seeds, growing arugula, lettuce, spinach, mustards, and kale for super salads fresh from the garden.
I chuckle to myself when I see each new harried young traveller, glued to his device, not even taking in where he is in the here and now, too obsessed with his inner world and getting to the next brief stopover. Most stay for a day or two here at Lake Atitlan, which is without question one of the most beautiful places in the world. One needs at least a week to do it justice. Then it is on to continue the Central American tour... Tikal, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama.... Good for them. What a way to see exotic parts of the world most only dream of. Maybe I envy them their youthful energy as they race off climbing another volcano, diving to view pristine coral reefs, or riding Pacific surf. Instead, it's easy as she goes, all in good time, maybe mañana. Travel can be so life-affirming, given the opportunity it provides to take into our hearts vibrant cultures and exotic locales.