Can you remember when you were first bitten by the travel bug? The roots of my yearning to travel, and to see exotic other places, were planted at a very young age by my Granny. She gave me a gorgeous old book, bound in red leather, embossed with gold, and with pages as thick as parchment. When I opened the covers, the musty scent of age wafted out like incense to tickle my nose. Inscribed in the front of the book, in delicate black ink, was her name and address, and the date she got the book, 1920. She was 13 when she was gifted the book, but she gave it to me when I was only 7.
I have very fond memories of sitting next to her on the old sofa in her house, while she read to me from the book, and then I would read to her. The rain might have been lashing against the windows, and we would be snug and warm cuddled up together, with a pot of tea on a tray, and slices of almond flavoured battenberg cake.
The book was a Childs Garden of Verse, by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I can still recite many of the poems in it by heart. One of my favourites was called travel, and I think my adult travels have been spurred by the colourful and exotic visions this poem provoked in my young mind. The travels in the poem were written about the far flung lands of the British Empire, and they planted wonderful images and longings, which have called to me ever since.
I had another, more modern version of the same book, given to me by my parents, complete with beautiful colour illustrations. I loved this book too, as the pictures fuelled my creative brain, and the images for Travel looked so far removed from the cloud shrouded skies of Scotland. It was like being transported to another place, filled with sunshine, warmth, colour and mystery…..and I’ve been chasing after these ever since. So when I wander in amazement through foreign cities and lands, it’s as if my feet have landed in a childhood dream, and I look with the curious eyes of a child, soaking in every last detail. Mindfulness and travel make easy companions, as do mindfulness and reading poems from old books. Both fuel the senses with plenty to keep me absorbed, but often lead me back into my childhood roots and dreams. So “Thank you” Granny for helping to plant such wonderful desires to travel and see the far corners of the earth.
I should like to rise and go
Where the golden apples grow;–
Where below another sky
Parrot islands anchored lie,
And, watched by cockatoos and goats,
Lonely Crusoes building boats;–
Where in sunshine reaching out
Eastern cities, miles about,
Are with mosque and minaret
Among sandy gardens set,
And the rich goods from near and far
Hang for sale in the bazaar;–
Where the Great Wall round China goes,
And on one side the desert blows,
And with the voice and bell and drum,
Cities on the other hum;–
Where are forests hot as fire,
Wide as England, tall as a spire,
Full of apes and cocoa-nuts
And the ***** hunters’ huts;–
Where the knotty crocodile
Lies and blinks in the Nile,
And the red flamingo flies
Hunting fish before his eyes;–
Where in jungles near and far,
Man-devouring tigers are,
Lying close and giving ear
Lest the hunt be drawing near,
Or a comer-by be seen
Swinging in the palanquin;–
Where among the desert sands
Some deserted city stands,
All its children, sweep and prince,
Grown to manhood ages since,
Not a foot in street or house,
Not a stir of child or mouse,
And when kindly falls the night,
In all the town no spark of light.
There I’ll come when I’m a man
With a camel caravan;
Light a fire in the gloom
Of some dusty dining-room;
See the pictures on the walls,
Heroes fights and festivals;
And in a corner find the toys
Of the old Egyptian boys.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Stevenson is really the culprit!!! 🙂
Oh yes….he has much to answer for 🙂
Lovely story and what nice memories you have of your granny. I too have the wanderlust starting from when we moved across country when I was 9 continuing with my world traveler uncle who I had a special relationship with. We were pen pals. Nice to meet another lover of travel 🙂 Nice poem too, I’ve never seen it. Cool!!
What a beautiful response to this challenge! How fortunate to have such memories and wonderful grandparents. Happy Travels!
I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I was very lucky to have two wonderful Grannies, (but unfortunately no Grandfathers) and each gave me different gifts. This Granny lived just round the corner, and I saw her almost every day. We were very close, and I have to thank her for lots more than I mention here 🙂
Reblogged this on Talker Huge.
Thank for the reblogg…how delightful 🙂
How fortunate for you that your granny stimulated such yearnings (and RL Stevenson too of course!). Such a gift!! From one who always yearns to see the exotic and the mundane of lands and peoples far and wide, I say thank you for this post. May we meet somewhere in a mindful moment of complete awe as we drink in with all of our senses….and to remember that the adventure and mystery always nestles awaiting our attention beckoning seductively in the present moment.
I love the way you’ve worded that last thought. To allow ourselves to be seduced by the adventures and mysteries of the present….now that is living deeply and richly indeed 🙂
This really is funny, because I was thinking of my grandmother too – and my mother – and old books. We had a children’s book of verses by a Swedish writer, Lennart Hellsing, who made funny rhymes and illustrations. About travelling and the world too. I still know some of them by heart…
Then I came across a not that old book, but with illustrations from all over the mystic realm of faraway countries with hidden treasures in the jungle. My most admired picture was one from Macchu Picchu in Peru. The second one was from Fishtail mountain in Pokhara, Nepal and the third one was from the pyramids of Egypt. I went to those places as soon as I had earned the money…and that was in the 1980’s.
So, books and grandmothers and – dreams…they do come true sometimes. Lovely written by you and I can feel the scent of that book opening up its secret world to you.
How funny that we were on the same wavelength, and that you had a similar childhood experience to set off on worldly travels. So far I’ve been to parrot isles…in the Caribbean and Cuba…..many Eastern cities with mosque and minaret …..Tunisia, Morocco, Dubai, Istanbul……Chinas Great Wall…..hot forests with apes and coconuts……Sri Lanka…… Jungles in Thailand…..and of course Egypt….so the only place in this poem I’ve yet to reach is Africa!! It was only when I dug out this book the other day that I realised this 🙂
My favourite travel book – Kidnapped!!!
Another RL Stevenson great! Seems he has a lot to answer for in terms of instigating wanderlust 🙂