This year is going to be a long and difficult year of waiting - not so much with respect to waiting for my novel to become more widely read, but because I’m finally going to be doing something I have waited almost 54 years to do - and that is to go on a trip to Europe.
I have always wanted to travel to Europe. It has been a dream all my life. As a teenager, I went to the local library most nights after school and came home with my favourite fiction, such as Agatha Christie, but also always a travel book of some kind. I’d sit down with these books and plan my itineraries for future European holidays, hoping that I’d earn enough money to do them all.
Well, it seemed that wasn’t to be. My life went in a direction where money never featured. It had many ups and downs along the way - a lot of happiness, raising my three boys and a lot of sadness, for other reasons, but the sadness was never because of lack of money. Money has never been really important to me at all, and I had many years as a sole parent learning the best way to manage what I had while bringing up my family. I was quite proud of my frugality and was able to give my boys a happy life, without them even realising that we had very little money.
Due to someone’s generosity, in 1998 I was given an overseas trip. I went to Indonesia for a month to stay with friends, and had a wonderful time, although I realised it would be my last Asian trip, as I couldn’t deal with the humidity. However, it rekindled the European dream, even though my financial circumstances were still not conducive to having such a trip on the radar. So I continued to read articles, clip pictures from travel folders, watch travel shows and continued to armchair travel through my love of movies.
It was only in November last year, that my life finally turned a different corner financially - not in a big way, but still making the dream of a European trip finally possible. In February I finally bit the bullet and am doing a three-week itinerary in December this year, taking in just a little of the treasures of Europe I’d like to explore, but it’s finally happening.
I debated it for a long time, and thought maybe I should wait longer as there is so much I want to see, and three weeks won’t be nearly enough. I sometimes think that perhaps I should have waited another year when I would have more leave and more savings.
The thing is, we don’t know what life holds just around the corner. All sorts of things can change. So I’ve decided to seize the moment and am heading off in December to Paris, Brussels, Nice, Monte Carlo, Geneva, Salzburg, Vienna, Marburg and London.
However, while many have been excited with me and for me, I have also come across some who have said such things like, ‘Well, don’t boast about it. It’s mean. I can’t afford to go and never will.’ Others have said I need to be careful where I talk about it as it might upset people who can’t afford to go.
I really struggle with this. I am very sensitive to the plight of others. I take a lot of care not to talk all the time about the trip. I’m not a financially rich person - never have been and never will. I have spent most of my life in the same circumstances of these other people I might offend if I mention my holiday in their presence. I grew up in the same kind of low socio-economic areas. I know how it feels when you have a dream you can’t afford to fulfil. However, never during any of those years was I bitter because I couldn’t afford such a trip. Never did I begrudge hearing someone else excitedly plan their trip or talk about it when they got back, whether they were wealthy or not. I was always first in the queue for a photo night after the trip. I was particularly thrilled when I heard that some ‘battler’ had managed to save for their dream trip after a lot of hard work and sacrifice to do it.
So this attitude has puzzled me a little bit - the tendency to want to rain on someone else’s parade with mean-spiritedness. It’s caused me to not want to say anything now unless I’m asked. Recently I told someone about the trip for the first time, waiting for what I deemed was an appropriate time, and that person told me off for not saying anything earlier. I guess it is impossible to do the right thing by everybody, no matter how hard we try.
Anyway, I am going to enjoy my trip, and will talk about it now and then. I won’t be gloating or boasting, but I am excited, and I want to share my excitement with others.
I actually started this post with a completely different idea in mind, so I will leave that until the next post - favourite ways of recording holidays for posterity.