Alan's Blog





“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old,
they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Gabriel García Márquez

The worst aspect of taking a holiday is having to return to work, school or college. This was certainly the case when JP and I travelled on our bicycle trip along the River Rhine for five weeks in the summer of last year. I had to get him back home so he could start his first year in high school. This was something we could have done without, as it meant we couldn't complete the whole journey on our bicycles as we had to take the train for part of the journey. I was taking JP to school a few days ago when he came out with something very perceptive. "Dad, you're different to other men." This worried me somewhat as I couldn't imagine what was coming next. He went on. "You don't accept that you're old. You fight it. Other men don't, they just accept it". What a marvellous son I have!

I've recently bought a number of books (eight in all), each of which describe 25 tours of up to three days duration, by car, in various parts of Europe. The countries covered include Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy (3 books) and Spain. One cannot but exclaim 'WOW' on leafing through the pages of these wonderfully illustrated volumes of delight. To undertake all of the tours in any particular book would probably take at least an unhurried three months or so to see all the places thoroughly. What a treat that would be. In addition the traveller could add their own routes and see even more wonderful places. These books were all published by the Automobile Association (AA) some years ago and are now out of print. However, I bought mine from several secondhand book sellers advertising on Amazon. They were all very inexpensive (most of them cost £0.01 + postage) and in very good condition so I'm delighted I bought them – and even more delighted with the contents. If you search under 'AA Best Drives' you'll find them easily. There are also a number of books in this series covering parts of the USA.

I've also collected 11 volumes from the 'Drive Around' series of books – also available second-hand. Another wonderfully illustrated set of books I have is a collection from the Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness Travel series. Even more countries are covered by this incredible range of books.

We were all sitting at the dining table a couple of days ago when I announced that “I was living my dream”.
Of course, I had to explain what I meant and so went on to say that I was trying to live my dream through the dozens of travel guides and books that are on the shelves next to me when I sit in my chair at the table. Of course, I'm not actually living my dream, but I dream my dream every day. My dream is just to hitch up our caravan and go – and not have a deadline to meet for our return. If I want to spend a year touring Italy, for example, driving through all the tours described in the three books listed above, I could do so. I often try to picture us dining al fresco in the Italian countryside instead of being huddled up in doors trying to keep warm and out of the misery that is the UK weather. Sadly, Grace doesn't want to share this dream as she doesn't like being away from home for more than a 'holiday' period. On the other hand, JP is only too keen to go and would be instantly ready if I just said the words “We're going now”.

Am I destined to live my dream only through my books? How sad that would be. Having given some thought to these differences, I've come to the conclusion that whilst JP and I have an innate sense of curiosity, this is something that Grace lacks completely. This surely must be a major factor in causing this difference between us. After all, what was it that made the early explorers of our world suffer all sorts of hardship in order to discover some new place or a new route – pioneering at its most extreme in many cases. It can only be that innate sense of curiosity that made them venture into the unknown. Without that sense, nothing (as in so many other fields of human endeavour too, apart from geographically) would have been discovered and progress in the development of mankind would have been extremely slow. I've noticed over many years that very few Filipinos travel outside their own area. Even those who have moved overseas to work travel very little outside the area of what is absolutely necessary for them to live and work. Unlike the British, they are not a nation of explorers. This is bourne out by the fact that geography is rarely taught in Filipino schools, unlike in the UK where everyone gets a reasonable education in this subject. When I worked as a Maritime Instructor in the Philippines I used to start the course by placing a map of the World on the board and asking some of my students to find various countries on the map. Very few even knew where their own country was located. None knew where England was located – many thinking it was part of the USA – and few could even find the USA on the map without spending some time looking for it. To me, this also highlights a lack of that innate curiousity that so many native British people are born with. It must be one of the factors that put the 'Great' in Great Britain.


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