Anyone who regularly reads my travelblogs, may have noticed that I haven’t written one for quite a while. My mother’s ill health led to the cancellation of travel plans over the summer, as her care needs increased and required more attention. Sadly, she passed away a few weeks ago which was a great shock to all the family.
After the initial grief and numbness, I began to think about her life and realised how much she’d inspired me to travel. When I’ve sought out new places to visit, whether a city in Australia or a small town in Germany, I’ve often found that my mum had been there first and had a story to tell of her experience.
When a young woman, she worked as a teacher on British military bases in Germany and Singapore. From the former, mum travelled across Western Europe (the Iron Curtain cut off the east at the time). She visited many countries including The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Her route home from Singapore went via Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Panama and the USA. I know I’ll have missed a few countries too!
This might seem unremarkable, but I think it is, as mum did all this travelling in the 1950s and 60s, without getting on a plane. She hitched lifts on cargo ships around east Asia, across the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. She travelled by train across Australia, after allowing herself one luxury cruise from Japan.
I grew up being told of the beautiful temples of Thailand, how cold Perth seemed after living in Singapore, the hundreds of miles of nothingness in the deserts of Australia and mum’s first experience of skiing in Austria – without lifts! She particularly enjoyed reflecting on a day at the races in a virtually skyscraperless Hong Kong, where she and her friends were supplied with betting funds by Chinese businessmen. She did turn down dinner at the Peninsula Hotel, but when I visited many years later, I walked through its grand lobby with marble columns and ornate decor, watching the immaculately dressed bell boys going about their chores and it occurred to me that this would be a wonderful place to eat dinner. Unfortunately, my budget didn’t run to it.
When I was a child, we didn’t travel outside Europe as given mum’s fear of flying, it wasn’t really practical to go further afield in school holidays. In retirement, mum developed a taste for cruising, which took her to Russia and other Eastern European countries, as well as Africa and more mainstream Mediterranean destinations. In recent years, her horizons have been confined to England and Wales, but she’d still enjoy staycations, just like her earlier travels around the globe.
My next trip away will be to Rome in January, where I’ll be sure to raise a glass to my travelling mum.