Why not being able to travel stings me so much By Wendy Squires
Travel is my reason for living. All I have ever wanted is to do, from the moment I could stand upright, is to explore this world.CREDIT:ISTOCK
Normally I would laugh, but lately I just can’t. I’m talking about the memes my friends are sending me, knowing that I am clawing at the walls in desperation to get out of the suffocating confines of my house. You have probably been sent the same. There’s the mock subway map with destinations changed to bed, toilet, fridge and letterbox. Or the fantasy holiday list: February 2020 – Europe. February 2021 – New Zealand. April 2021 – Tasmania. August 2021 – the Aldi six kilometres from home.
Those who know me really well are even meaner. Take, for instance, the video I received of a suitcase on a treadmill with the caption: “Thought you might be missing the carousel.” Or the picture of a toilet seat re-fashioned as an aeroplane window. Or the jibe from one friend that I should contort my body by bringing my knees to my chest, eat crap food and play a recording of a screeching child for 15 hours to get over my travel lust. As I said, I would laugh if these memes didn’t make me want to cry. Not just because I have friends with such twisted senses of humour, but because I am not someone who just enjoys travel – I am someone who needs to travel.
Yes, this might sound ridiculous and I might sound entitled. I will cop that. But travel is my reason for living – no exaggeration. I didn’t have kids or marry as others have, feeling that to be their destiny, sense of purpose and fulfilment. Nope, all I have ever wanted to do, from the moment I could stand upright, is to explore this world.
I could be found wandering through wild bamboo in the neighbour’s garden as a toddler, no doubt getting an early jungle fix. My favourite dress-up outfit was a pith helmet and billowing scarf. I would jump on any school bus at the gate after the last bell, figuring that wherever it took me would be a worthwhile adventure. And, as a working adult, the minute I had saved enough for an air ticket, I would buy one – potential mortgage and/or savings be damned.
You see, there isn’t anything this world offers that I don’t want to see or experience, no culture I don’t want to embrace, no cuisine I don’t want to savour. I have never regretted a trip – even to the dodgiest of destinations – ever. But I want more! I want to gorge myself on adventures and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Yes, I sound greedy – and I am.
Never has my world felt so small … I have paced like a rabid dog on a short leash. I feel so claustrophobic, trapped and suffocated I could scream, and quite often do.
And so, is it any wonder that after near-on two years of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, on my own, in Melbourne, I am feverish with wanderlust? Never has my world felt so small, a tiny five-kilometre pocket around the home I have paced like a rabid dog on a short leash. I feel so claustrophobic, trapped and suffocated I could scream, and quite often do.
My life is no longer measured in the adrenalin of exploring the new, but a stagnant rota of familiarity and inertia.
In 2020, I had a visa, ticket and packed suitcase ready to visit Sri Lanka. But cruelly, Melbourne closed down two days before I was due to leave. Now, if there is anything I love more than travelling, it is animals. And a highlight of that trip was to be a visit to a sanctuary where I would feed orphaned baby elephants. I know, feel free to sob on my behalf.
And while it stings that I missed out on such an experience, when I eventually stop feeling sorry for myself I’ll take stock and appreciate that I have so much to look forward to when this nightmare is over. Because we live in an incredible world, one that is not just waiting for visitors but will need us to help it survive and thrive.
I know I will get to snuggle those elephants because I am determined to do so. What’s more, I will relish the experience with a new depth of gratitude, courtesy of my freedoms being stymied. Because travel is a gift and this planet a treasure chest of wonders. And that knowledge is feeding my starved soul until I have my knees under my chin in cramped anticipation once more.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale October 10. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.