Flo Whitaker would make a rubbish travel correspondent. A friend even nicknamed her, ‘The Eternal Flame’, (Never Goes Out)…
’m no globetrotter. As a child, I loved receiving holiday postcards and learning about the big wide world, but had little desire to see it for myself. I was content to study an atlas and dreamily wonder about extraordinary-sounding places such as Timbuktu and Rajasthan. My brother’s copy of The Boy’s Book of Knowledge also contained maps, as well as fascinating facts about geology, oceans and the weather. (In contrast, the pathetically feeble The Girl’s Book of Knowledge explained how to make toast and crochet a doily.)
I vividly recall an African teacher on an exchange visit giving a slide-show at my primary school. Already mad about plants, I was transfixed by pictures of ‘upside-down’ baobab trees in Senegal – did these fantastic things really exist? Although part of me longed to see for myself, I reasoned that someone far more knowledgeable could make the arduous journey, then come back and tell everyone else about them.
But don’t assume I never go anywhere. This autumn, I’m venturing to the Far East, (okay, it’s Cambridgeshire, but that’s intrepid by my standards.) There’s so much to see in the UK – I’ll never live long enough to visit it all. Holiday nightmare stories of people stuck at airports for days leaves me thinking, “Why bother?” Yes, I’m extremely fortunate; having a home, a garden and employment I enjoy, so don’t seek escapism. Nor have I endured stressful lockdowns while attempting to home-school children. Some folk have far-flung families and the human desire to reunite is obvious, but we seem addicted to the notion that it’s our birthright to go wherever we like and casually fly around the world for next to nothing, without considering the anxiety we endure just to get there – let alone the environmental impact. This armchair traveller remains unconvinced.