In my late teens and early twenties, I was really into indie music. I had some weird tastes, mostly fuelled by listening to Radio 1 late at night as well as other more esoteric music sources. I particularly liked a band called Gogol Bordello, described as a ‘Gypsy punk band from the Lower East Side of Manhattan’ on their Wikipedia page, and a song of theirs that often made me want to jump around the room was ‘Wanderlust King’, which was just joyous and riotous, really. Go ahead, find it on YouTube right now. I’ll wait.
What made me think of it, and prompted this post, was two things. Earlier tonight, I read a Tweet from someone I know. About two or three weeks ago, I had a conversation with another person I know. Like most things, these things are connected, in this case by the fact I saw this Tweet and had this conversation. The Tweet was all about how this person, who is very well-travelled and has been to Iran and Russia, amongst other places, wants to travel but has insufficient funds to do so. In short, they have itchy feet and that sucks. As for the conversation, I spend a lot of time travelling around Scotland and England on day trips and occasionally for longer. I was asked if I had thought about going further afield.
The answer is yes. The reasons why I don’t are many and manifold: money, lack of confidence and lack of time. I always say that I will do my global travelling in my thirties, which are still a few years away. That gives me time to save, to see where life takes me and to do some serious planning.
First on the list is Yosemite, in California. It’s a John Muir thing. I have written a little here about Muir already. He helped to found national parks and was a very vocal environmental campaigner, working particularly in the Yosemite Valley. My First Summer in the Sierra, published in 1911, tells the story of his first visit to the Valley, working as a shepherd, and it is a truly beautiful book. Muir worked in the Valley for a few years thereafter as a guide before setting up home in Martinez near San Francisco, where he and his family lived and he wrote books and articles, founding the Sierra Club in 1893. He came from Dunbar, like I did, and my first job was at his Birthplace, now a museum. I am well versed in Muir and going to Yosemite would be an incredible experience, to see this place I have long read about.
While in the United States, I would like to see San Francisco and New York, the former for its literary history and the latter because it’s there and at the heart of our cultural zeitgeist.
Beyond the English-speaking world, Paris is one place I would like to see, to go to the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre. I am not so bothered about the Eiffel Tower and all the really touristy stuff. Architecture and art. Amsterdam too, entirely for the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Maybe Vienna and Berlin too, more for the history. Berlin interests me for the East German side, the culture clash and reminders of what once was very recently.
In terms of really far away places, Canada is one place I would love to see, if only to see very wild places in the west and Nova Scotia to the east. I was having a conversation with a colleague recently (we’re both library geeks) and she was telling me about being in Halifax last year and going into the central library, which was recently built and looks absolutely glorious. (There will be lots of libraries seen wherever I go, guaranteed.)
Bhutan and Tibet particularly fascinate me. In an old-fashioned, slightly anthropological sense, I would like to see these places which are almost entirely removed from the Western reality so familiar to me. Bhutan has been on my radar since I was still at school and one of my teachers, Mr Lesso, was telling me how his son had visited. I read into the place a lot more and learned of how a lot of the native practices had been eroded very rapidly after some Western culture had crept in with increased tourism. So I might not go, in case I leave too much of a footprint. Then again, the world needs to know about the Proclaimers and Hibernian FC, if they don’t already.
As I’ve said, this will probably be for my thirties and possibly later, by the time I save up and feel ready to do it. I like a story I once heard about John Lennon. Apparently Yoko Ono sent him around the world to stop him being scared of it. That might be the way to go and it’s been a major aspect of my approach thus far. I am not a very ambitious person in terms of my professional life but my personal life, where I want to be, is another matter. Part of it is being Scottish – as a race, we tend to have scattered to the wind – and being surrounded by people who like to travel. A lot of people I know love to travel. Some can’t right now because of one reason or another. I, and indeed they, like nothing more than planning an adventure, even if right now it might not be possible. It will be, one day, though. In the meantime, there are always more local adventures, even just through the pages of a book or by a click into the Internet if you really must.