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{19/05/2012}   The joy of planning travel, particularly with Captain Birdseye

     There is a slim chance my current research for a three-four week holiday over July/August will result in my staying at home, but for now I’m finding the “where shall I go” element incredibly exciting; free entertainment and geography lessons!

     My current favourite option is a four-week cargo ship voyage between Le Havre and Martinique and Guadeloupe.  I now know where those French West Indies islands are located (this harks back to an earlier post about travelling broadening your geography knowledge) and that it takes over a week to get there from Le Havre.  There is an outdoor swimming pool on the boat and you take meals at the captain’s table.  Tragically, I have an image in my head of Captain Birdseye and a crew whose characteristics date back at least one hundred years.  I also have a bizarre conviction that there will be pirates.  Whatever the reality, I imagine adventures and swashbuckling stories.  Delusional?!

I have also looked into Vietnam, Uruguay, long train journeys, visiting tigers in India (wrong season) and finding a remote beach on which to do nothing.  But I’ve realised that I don’t want to have lots to do, I want to read, write and lounge, all interspersed with adventures.  Hence my interest in the cargo ship option – only five to seven fellow fare paying passengers, a journey-long supply of fish fingers and Pirates, ahem, of the Caribbean (ie sexy ones, not real ones).  Thing is, it transpires there is a far greater risk of seasickness on non-passenger liners.  Thing is, yes, you’ve guessed it, I am prone to seasickness.  Minor detail …

Sorry, got a bit waylaid there with visions of Captain Birdseye and Captain Jack Sparrow.  I had thought that researching a holiday then not going on holiday would be quite upsetting, but so far I’ve spent a lot of time looking at maps and finding out all kinds of nuggets of information; this is what armchair travel should be about and it’s unexpectedly good fun.  Mind you, if it gets to July and I don’t have my epic journey booked, I will be somewhat morose.

While living in Japan, I needed to leave the country to get a visa.  I went into a travel agent and asked where I could go the next day.  It took a while for the travel agent to realise I was serious, that anywhere outside Japan would be good.  It was all very exciting, not knowing where I’d be going.  I left the travel agency with a return ticket to Indonesia.  I was there for a week and I had so, so many adventures and memorable experiences.  I love that you can go anywhere, you don’t even need to plan it like I’m doing now.

I am a little too fond of travel guides, particularly before I go somewhere, but with that Indonesia trip for example, I didn’t have the time or inclination to go and buy a guidebook.  I just went there.  I discovered some breathtakingly beautiful places: traditional, unspoilt villages, a volcano I drove down, some amazing temples, waterfalls, deserted beaches, dolphins, restaurants on beaches … they were all my discoveries.  If I’d read a guidebook I’d have gone in search of some of those things.  But isn’t the joy of travel in the sense of exploration and discovery?  It’s great feeling like you’ve discovered something amazing by stumbling across it rather than searching for it.  That’s kind of why I’d love to go on a ship or a train, I wouldn’t have a clue where I was most of the time, admittedly on the ship I’d merely be “at sea” for more than half the time, but how exciting must it be when you see land again after a week or so?  And for that land to be a beautiful lush island in the midst of the Caribbean, having set sail from the familiar thus unexciting English Channel.  I mean, seriously, how can the English Channel end up “becoming” the Caribbean?!

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