In 1927, at the age of 23, my grandmother boarded a boat to China following the man she loved to Shanghai.
Who inspires me to travel?
As a little girl, I used to love listening to Grannie tell me tales from her travels. Her fiancé had moved to Shanghai in 1925 to take up a teaching position. Two years later he sent for her to follow. I can’t imagine how my great grandparents must have felt about their daughter going off on such an adventure! The journey took weeks by boat rather than hours by plane as it would now and of course there were no mobiles, emails or skype to keep in touch with loved ones.
They married in Hong Kong and then lived in Shanghai, where my father was born, in Bubbling Well Road now called West Nanjing Road.
Grannie’s stories about her life in China transported me to a world of haggling in the markets, holidays in Japan, visits to India and sailing on the Queen Mary. I remember laughing and squirming when she told me about her cook who had one really long finger nail; she was always telling him off because he used it to stir and taste his cooking! Last weekend I spoke to my father about what he remembers about growing up in China. I’ll share it with you in another post. It really is quite a tale, Shanghai Part 1.
What inspires me to travel?
Souvenirs and old films
The painted plates, vases and intricately carved furniture showing scenes of the orient that filled my Grandmother’s house in England fascinated me; pretty scenes of cherry trees in blossom, willow trees hanging over little bridges with figures in strange costumes. These and watching old films like Casablanca made me wonder what it would be like to go to far away, romantic-sounding places like Timbuktu and Mandalay collecting exotic souvenirs as I went.
Where brings out my wanderlust?
Another person who was a big influence on me was Annie, one of the designers/photographers I worked with producing holiday brochures when I first started working in the travel industry. Every year we’d spend a few days together selecting images for the next season’s brochures. While there, Annie would also show me photographs of her big passion, India, telling me all about her travels. When she invited me on a trip to India I couldn’t resist. It is the most exciting country I have ever been to – the hustle and bustle of Jaipur, the calm serenity of the Kerala backwaters, luxury and poverty side by side, vivid colours and patterns everywhere. You can read about my tour of Kerala here.
Over the next few years, I found Annie an inspiration on many different levels and she encouraged me greatly with my own photography. I don’t think she has any idea just how much she influenced me, both professionally and personally. Thank you, Annie
The company I work for now specialises in West Africa (amongst other destinations). I had only ever been to North Africa before so it has been wonderful to get to know another part of this great continent, in particular, The Gambia. Even though each trip is relatively short I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been and it has given me the chance to get to know a place in more depth. I now have many friends there and I’ve got involved with two Gambian schools. Back home I’ve founded a choir singing songs from around the world including many from Africa. We raise money to help the schools and some members of the choir now wish to visit The Gambia. So later this year we will be off. Most of them have never been to Africa before so it will be quite an adventure for them. I plan to make it one they will never forget! You can read about my adventures in The Gambia here.
Another place I have returned to a number of times is the beautiful island of Corsica but I have yet to explore the interior. I’d love to take the train from Bastia to Ajaccio stopping off for a day or two here and there to enjoy the mountain villages and scenery. I’ve heard that the train ride itself is a real treat winding through the mountains, tunnels and gorges, at times hugging the cliff face, other times plunging into forests. At one point it traverses a valley via the enormous Vecchio viaduct, engineered by Gustave Eiffel. There is even a superb waterfall known as the bride’s veil which overhangs the railway before the train meanders through the lush green foothills to Ajaccio. You can read about my travels in Corsica here.
A few people have told me that my posts and photographs have inspired them to add Corsica to their ‘bucket list’ which is wonderful. I even heard today that my photos had inspired someone to buy a camera, which I was extremely pleased to hear!
When did I first travel?
My first journey abroad was at the age of ten when my sister (aged 12) and I caught the ferry to France where we’d be staying with a French family for the week. It was very exciting being allowed to travel by ourselves on the ferry – not quite a “Slow boat to China” but an adventure never-the-less. It was a wonderful experience, apart from what looked like raw mince that they tried to feed me; I was somewhat less adventurous than I am now when it came to food!
Which bloggers inspire me to travel?
I’ve been blogging through ‘Travel with Kat’ since September 2012 and I have really enjoyed receiving feedback from fellow bloggers and reading their inspiring posts too. Suzanne from ‘The Travel Bunny’ has certainly got me hankering to visit Vietnam.
Lucy’s blog ‘On the Luce’ is another one of the many blogs I really enjoy following and I’ll be looking to her for some inspiration on my forthcoming weekend in Paris.
Recently I was lucky enough to meet and interview travel writer Frances Linzee Gordon. Her tales of travelling solo across countries such as Morocco, Ethiopia and Yemen are fascinating. She believes that you should never refuse an invitation while travelling. She goes by her instincts and uses her three-second rule of maintaining eye contact with a stranger to see if she thinks they are trustworthy. She is certainly a very inspiring lady! I have done some travelling on my own before but Frances has certainly spurred me on to step that little bit further out of my comfort zone. Perhaps I should now make the journey to Shanghai myself and walk down the street that was once called Bubbling Well Road. I wonder what my grandmother would make of today’s Shanghai. I hope to visit China one day and have an oriental adventure of my own, walking in my grandmother’s footsteps!
What inspires you to travel?
Thanks to Northampton Musem for their permission to use the old photograph of Shanghai. You can see more of their historic images on Flickr.
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