It may be hard for people who have grown up in the era of the budget airline to understand, but there was a time when holidays abroad were much less common than they are today.
However, my father worked for an airline, with the result that we were able to take cheap flights to seemingly exotic destinations at a time when few of my friends went further than Devon or the Norfolk Broads. It started with a trip to Cyprus in 1970, and we later went to Italy and Spain, to Montenegro when it was still part of Yugoslavia, and to Kenya. I also accompanied my father on business trips to the United States and to South Africa when apartheid still had more than a decade to run.
When I was old enough to travel independently I signed up for a college trip to the old Soviet Union, and, in the years that followed, having come into some reasonable sums of money by various (entirely legal) means, I bought a couple of InterRail passes and travelled all over continental Europe. In 1989, when a unique conjunction of circumstances meant that I had a surfeit of both time and money, I took myself off to America and travelled around until the money ran out.
In the years since, the responsibilities and pressures that come with a full-time job and a permanent place to live have reduced the amount of travelling that I’ve been able to do, although I went to Australia for the first time in 1994, returned to a very different South Africa in 1995 and made brief, nostalgic and very cold visits to Paris and New York City in 2007 and 2008. I have also made several trips to southern France, lunching by the harbour in Toulon in the late January warmth and watching the piercing winter sun set over Les Baux as the mistral blew in. Most of my recent travelling, though, has been within the British Isles. In recent years I’ve made two extended visits to the rural north-west of Scotland, and I enjoyed them as much as anything I’ve done since before the Berlin Wall came down.
As with most clichés there’s a lot of truth in the old saying that travel broadens the mind. The day it stops having that effect on me, my travelling days will be over.