I was seven the day our house became covered in sand. Gritty and ochre, it coated the white paintwork, the door knobs, the windows.
‘They had a big storm in the Sahara Desert,’ said Mum. ‘Just imagine, that sand’s blown all the way here from Africa!’ I crunched it between my fingernails and stared closely at it. Camels had plodded their big feet on that sand. Swarthy men in turbans had walked on it. Children my own age had played in it. I had a bit of Africa smeared over my fingers.
I decided I was going to travel all over the world when I grew up. I would see elephants, (proper elephants, not like the ones in the zoo), ride a camel, dive in tropical seas. My favourite pop-up picture book housed a bright jungle where loose-limbed monkeys swung across a thick canopy of trees and scarlet parrots swooped over the mysterious fruit vines tumbling onto the ground.
In preparation for my future travels I made blanket-and-stick tents in the back garden. Mum and Dad bought me a red wig-wam with yellow ribbons streaming out of the top.
‘You have to sit on the ground your legs crossed,’ Mum said , handing me a pile of cushions.
I practiced saying foreign place names: Constantinople, Palestine, Arabia, rolling them round my tongue like exotic sweets. I scoured atlases, plotting my voyages, along the patterns of yellow, green and white, marking out deserts, rain forests and mountain ranges.
And now? I now longer have the picture book or the wig-wam. I’ve done some exploration of Europe, USA, West Asia, Australia, East, Southern and North Africa. But it’s not enough! And with all the feverish ruminating that came with hitting 50, I vowed to get on with it, after all, the silver lining in the cloud slumped over the rainy northern mill town where I live is having 3 airports within an hour’s drive away.
I’m particularly drawn to desert landscapes (blame it on the Sahara sandstorm) although having visited the Daintree Rain Forest, deserts might now take second place to tropical zones. Ex-Communist countries make for fascinating exploration and I also have an uncontrollable weakness for Italy: sumptuous food, staggering architecture, disturbing truths and people for whom control of emotional expression is not a priority. Like an old flame, the one lover you can never quite leave behind, Italy always draws me back.
The most exciting travel writing is descriptive and creative. I can’t tell you the opening times of the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn or the times of the ferry to Sicily. I have an awful memory for facts and am bewildered by timetables. I want my travel writing to inspire, to make a place come alive, to make my reader feel as though they were actually there. I’m particularly keen to encourage solo travel because there are so many people, especially women, who really want to travel yet don’t because they have nobody to go with. If you come into that category, do it, I tell you, do it!
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Contact: stephaniebuickwriter [at] gmail dot com