It’s the time of year when nests tend to be emptied, so we have been reflecting on what inspired each of us to travel and why this stage of life can be the perfect moment to do it.
We have both always been curious about other countries and their cultures. And for us, it has been the perfect moment. So, we’re writing this from New Zealand’s largest city Auckland – part way through the biggest adventure of our lives … a 57-day, self-planned, round-the-world grand tour.
Nigel kicks off with his travel inspiration …
Sixteen is an impressionable age. But even so, it was easy to be seduced by the tales of travel that my first girlfriend’s father recounted. David had had a long career with Shell and his job had seen him visit many far flung places. I lapped it up and it really inspired me. So much so that at that point, I set myself the goal of visiting 50 countries by the time I’m 50.
Thinking back, by 16, I had visited USA, Canada, Switzerland, France, Italy, Iran, Netherlands and Norway. So only 8 down. I can’t imagine how I thought I’d get to 50, apart from the fact that time was on my side.
During my late teens and early twenties, I picked off more European countries, plus I ended up visiting the Mayan coast of Mexico. But as a young professional on relatively limited funds, really going after my goal was pretty tough. But, as life developed, my first wife was happy for us to choose destinations that I hadn’t already ticked off. 1996 was a bumper year. On a holiday we visited the Far East, taking in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Also at that time, I had a job that had me travelling a lot to the Caribbean, so I also added the Bahamas, Antigua, St Martin, Barbados, Curacao and Jamaica. Can’t imagine I’ll ever do 10 new countries in 12 months again, but then, who knows?
My daughters, Holly and Orla were born in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Holly counted up the other day and told me that she has been to 28 countries already – way ahead of my tally at her age.
Where am I against my goal? Some would argue that I should include the UK, but that has always felt a bit like cheating. So, I reckon I’m on 47 and there are just over a year to go until I’m 50. But our round the world trip will add 6, with Japan being my 50th. So next month, the goal is reached. The only problem is … now I’ve got to work out a new goal!
As for Jane …
Departure boards. Your appetite’s whetted, but some of the delights get whisked away if you wait too long. Thankfully….even when the most delicious options have disappeared…they’re replenished by another dozen destinations.
Whether it’s a train station terminus in New York, Paris or London…or a flight departures board at Heathrow, I’m hooked. And I’m pretty sure my late Dad’s to blame. As a small girl living in London, I’d watch him, as a royal bodyguard, pack and plan for trips to the palaces in Scotland. In the early days, they involved a sleeper north from London. A train…WITH A BED in it! You snuggled down and woke up over the border. My small mind boggled at the prospect.
As his career progressed…the spellbinding stories of his travel locations rolled in. A flight to a hot, stressful royal appointment in the Congo….a taste of the colour and madness of San Francisco… Sydney Harbour Bridge glinting in the sunshine….those crazy Mexican guitars. I hadn’t flown anywhere by this stage, and would have been thrilled enough with his discarded BOAC bag and eyeshade, but no matter how busy he’d been, there would be gifts: from cuddly koalas, to African straw dolls, to shiny market trinkets, beads…and one day…. grass skirts.
Nestling inside mine was a little Tongan doll; with a similar grass skirt and beads, and glossy black locks. Not just that…programmes and pictures from the royal occasion Dad had attended on the island; descriptions of hot white sands….and the heady harmonies the choirs had sung at the event. I wrote a school project on Tonga: a world away, but one I had to see for myself one day.
Fast forward half a lifetime and I have a few European and US trips under my belt. Dad died two years ago, but his own travel memories and mementoes are still with me. I think he’d be delighted to know that the small inheritance he left is helping fund a trip I never imagined I’d be able to make. Yes, the night sleeper to Scotland is still on the list, and will still excite me. But first, the world. And yes…of course Tonga’s on the itinerary …and of course I`m going to write about it.
So why now?
Both of us have a memory treasure trove of wonderful times spent abroad with our daughters. So what about now…and our future travels? As recent empty nesters (which we define as people in their late 40s, 50s and early 60s who no longer have the day to day responsibility of bringing up a family), we want to discover the world on our own terms. That means choosing locations that wouldn’t necessarily have worked with a family—for financial reasons, perhaps. Or we might pick destinations popular with backpackers; but stay in decent hotels. Gaining passport stamps, we’ve decided, is a key part of our new-found freedom.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. How did you feel when your children left home? Did you see it more as an end or a beginning? Was it time to attack the bucket list? Are you going through nest-emptying at the moment?