They say you are a direct reflection of the people you surround yourself with. I believe that. I would also go as far to say we are also a reflection of our surroundings. Not so much where we are right now – let me tell you, my living room doesn’t say much for me – but the places we visit and the cultures we have embraced. When I was growing up, I was fortunate to go abroad often. I met some amazing characters, I visited some beautiful places and I grew up believing that the world would be my oyster. When I became a mum myself, I vowed that my child would grow up in the same way. He will have the opportunity to leave his tiny little fingerprint on as many places as our bank account will allow, and they will each leave an even bigger one on him. With every place I visited I left with more than just a passport stamp, and I can’t help but wonder the things’ we would take away as a family if we were to return again.
I want to travel to Rhodes for the language. There’s a joke my dad told me when I was younger, and it’s always stuck with me. ‘What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. And, what do you call a person who speaks only one language? Scottish.’ Don’t get me wrong, that joke would quite rightly fall on deaf ears now, but it does still apply to our family. We only speak one language, and day-to-day we only hear one. I can only imagine the look of bewilderment on my face the first time I ever made a friend on holiday who could speak more than one. Odd for a second, maybe even cool. But then just like that, it was normal. Children are sponges. I want to travel where my son can soak everything up from the different people around him.
I want to travel to Brussels to feel at home away from home. It’s easy to draw comfort from being at home. Where home is predictable, travel can be the very opposite. I found myself in Brussels’ a few years ago. I had no expectations of the city, but from the minute I arrived it felt like a home away from home. I was content and carefree in my adventure but not for a second did I feel out of place. It’s rare, to find that place where you feel like you completely belong, but every so often we may just get lucky. I live for those holidays, and I want to find our home away from home as a family.
I want to travel to Cyprus to meet new people. When I was eight or so, I found a best friend in a holiday rep called Tiger. He was one of the most positive, kind and interesting individuals I’ve ever met (although my eight year old self may have been skewed by the fact he frequently gave us all free ice cream and could breathe fire). I went home with a postal address and the promise of a new pen pal, not that I ever did receive a reply to my glowing letter. Regardless, we are more open on holiday to meeting new friends and I can’t wait to watch Harrison find his own people.
I want to travel to Vienna, to embrace another culture. In Vienna, we joined the masses and decided to abandon the cars and trams in favor of the bicycle. If we were accustomed to bike riding, or had enough common sense, then just maybe we would have realised that we have to stop at red traffic lights (who knew?)… We may have missed it, but the Austrian police certainly did not. There’s a first for everything, and getting pulled over whilst on a bike is pretty high up there. There were two lessons to take home from Vienna, embrace other cultures, but be respectful.
I want to travel to Paris, to lose my way. They say the only way to truly discover a city is to get lost in it, and I did exactly that. I didn’t like Paris. I was nervous as a tourist, I clung to my bag and I couldn’t help but feel on edge amidst the hustle and bustle. After a few days in the city, I found myself lost in the side streets on my own, looking for birthday banners’ of all things. I wandered aimlessly through the Moulin Rouge and into streets I wasn’t looking for, but I found that those forty minutes spent completely off track were the best forty minutes I spent the entire trip. I found the real Paris. The side streets not overpowered by tourists and keyrings. We want to travel to somewhere we can get lost and find our way in.
But here’s thing the thing. We don’t need to go to Paris to find our way.
We can travel anywhere.
I can guarantee that we will not visit everywhere on this list within the next 365 days. We probably won’t visit everywhere on this list in the next five years. But that’s alright. I may have found a best friend in Cyprus, discovered my home away from home in Brussels and fell in love with the language in Rhodes, but Harrison probably won’t. In every country we visit we will all take away something different, and that right there is the very beauty of travel. I’ve vowed to show Harrison as much of the world as I can, and I can’t wait to see what he takes away from the places we visit.
This was written as my entry for the Mark Warner Ambassador Competition. You may remember I entered the same competition last year – I was just finding my feet in this crazy world that is blogging, I had a newborn baby, too much time on my hand and a twinkle in my eye after realising that my little online diary could lead to opportunities like an ambassadorship. This year, I had no plans to enter again, until I started writing a few hours before the deadline. Time may not have been on my side, but I had a ball digging through old family photos and having all of the feels…