When I was a little girl, I dreamed I would travel the world. It seemed so exciting and so glamorous and definitely so out of reach. I would listen happily to anyone who had a travel story to tell. It was something other people did, but not little Julie. I always planned to travel after I finished my teacher training, but then I met my beloved husband, settled down, got a mortgage and started a family. The dream faded as the reality of one small demanding baby, the death of my lovely mum and too little money took its toll.
Then one day, something happened. I clearly remember that day, the day when Garry told me we were heading off to Stockholm in Sweden for six months. Actually, I wasn’t ready to go and especially not to Sweden. Where exactly was Sweden? All I knew was that I painted Stockholm tar on my horses hooves and that my Ikea furniture come from somewhere called Sweden, or was it Switzerland?
We packed up our home and left Sydney. It was our first overseas trip. I vividly remember setting foot on English soil for the first time en route to Sweden. I could not believe it. My dream had come true. I was about to discover another land, another culture. I got a taste for travel, but still my wanderlust was not satisfied.
We now fast forward 20 years. At last, I had become a seasoned traveller. It was about this time that I began a tradition of picking up small stones from places that “spoke” to me. Usually, this was from a country or a city where I never expected to return. Over the years, my small collection of pebbles has increased at the same rate as my travels. Now the collection sits in a large dish in my home in Sydney. I can’t tell where all the stones have come from any more. There are just too many. I sometimes wonder at the mix of geology sitting in that dish. However, what I can do, is write about each of those places that meant enough to me that I leaned down and picked up a little piece of that foreign land and carried it back home with me.
So far, my stories have been written as the experience happened. Experiences in a foreign land, not a travel blog. One day, I may write about all the places I have visited. I will have to read all my old emails to remember just how I felt at that time.
I would never have believed that I would travel the world as much as I have done. It is indeed a privilege to be able to stay in one place long enough to scratch the surface and see behind the glitz and glamour of a 5 star hotel and the recommended tourist attractions for that place. Thank you Garry, for without your overseas work commitments and your willingness to have me accompany you, I never would have had all these experiences.
Sitting in a steamy bar in Taipei, a man asks me why I do what I do. I am soon to turn 60 years old, so shouldn’t I be staying put in the hotel enjoying the easy life? Why do I keep going out day after day, determined to experience all there is to offer. Why do I ignore the heat, ignore the loneliness and the stress of doing it mostly by myself, ignore the weird looks as I explore the back streets and the public transport system and always getting comments about my crazy hair and white skin. I had never really thought about this before. I just know what a privilege it is to be part of this great and wondrous world and that at last I can live my dream, secure in the knowledge that soon I will get back on a plane and return to the land I love the most, Australia.