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Running through the Acronym (5) Travel

January 14, 2010

We carry the gifts of our parents throughout our lives. The good points and bad, the appreciated and the resisited, the conscious and the almost invisible. Our genes affect who we are, how we act, and the way we face the world, but our parents made thousands of more simple choices to guide our choices and shape our development.  So, if we decide to do a quick audit and list out what we most memorably and positively received from our parents, it can be an interesting insight.

I realise as I reach the last letter of my blog acronym that all these topics have been to some extent passed on to me by my mother’s interests, her example or her guidance. So there’s no surprise that it is quite easy for me to associate my love of travel with the way my mother brought me up and her own personal history. I could, of course, go back further, and refer to my grandfather’s emigration from Ireland to Brooklyn to Edinburgh, but that was not travel. Emigration is for survival, travel is for education, in its widest sense.

My mother herself was brought up to appreciate travel. Her own mother, of a Liverpool Irish family had tried her luck in New York as a nanny, but had returned, unable to cope with the weather. As a schoolchild, my mother gained  a Dutch penpal whose family she remained in contact with throughout her life. My grandfather sent her on holiday in the Thirties, when she was barely out of her teens, and gave her instructions to visit the farmhouse in Belgium where he had been billetted as a gunner during the battle of Paschendaele in the Great War. As a young woman she frequently travelled to Ireland, but it was when she was widowed when I was only 5 that travel became a staple to her life. Seeking to minimise the difficulties of single parenthood, she took a job where she would be available to take me on holidays each Summer. From the age of 6 in 1958, I travelled Europe with her.

Of course, to me it was just ‘the holidays’, but these were times before package holidays and travel was relatively rare for ordinary folks. By the time I was 14, I had been to Holland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Ireland. It was a mixed blessing: in some ways I was too young to appreciate the wonders of Florence, Madrid or Innsbruck; but, on the other hand, travel had become a way of life which I took as ‘normal’.

Since those days, the USA, Malaysia, and Vietnam have been added to my experiences, and I have learned that travel gives you not only wonderful experiences and precious memories but, most important of all, a perspective on your own country, your own views and your accepted way of life.

In addition, where you travel and what you get from it, is linked to your other interests and extends your choices: an interest in American politics and the Kennnedys led me to discover Cape Cod, my family history takes me repeatedly and joyously to Ireland, my partner’s family to the Far East – and these places in turn lead to new discoveries in literature, music, cultures and history.

I’ll look to blog on each of the letters of my acronym F E A S T – but, inevitably, they’ll all be linked. I hope they’ll be easy to read, relevant in some way, and worth their while. I hope someone will read them!

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