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Obsessive Compulsive Travel Disorder

I have been suffering from this rare, little know malady for some time now, and I am concerned with ensuring that my condition is kept at bay at all times. There is no cure for this ailment; the best you can hope for is the continual availability of medication. The single, most successful remedy for this affliction is to ensure that you have plenty of ongoing and recurring voyages. Therapy, in the form of foreign travel, has to be administered on a regular basis. If the interval between each dose is too prolonged or intermittent, a reasonable supplementary drug can be administered by way of travel reading, travel shows, travel planning, travel talks etc in order to ensure stabilisation of the illness at all times. I would consequently like to recommend to the medical profession that this drug be available on prescription from the health service.

With this in mind, I permanently stock up on antidotes – making sure I have at least one trip planned and booked at all times. In between being able to take my real medicine, I spend time on therapeutic activities such as VT.

I have currently stockpiled the following medicine for future use:

Devon in May
Algeria in May
Hertfordshire in June
France in June
Safari in Tanzania in July
Silk Road in Kyrgysztan and China in August
Latvia in September
India in November

Why do I travel?

I have many reasons for travelling, but the main culprit is an insatiable curiosity.

1. People.
I am curious about people, how they differ from me and what the similarities are. I am interested in their food, what they wear and how they live. I am fascinated by their history and inquisitive about their culture, religion and social activities.

2. Animals.
I love watching animals in their natural habitats, seeking them out in the wilderness and experiencing close encounters of the furry kind. Or scaly. Or leathery. Or whatever. The unpredictability and unreliability of the chase appeals to me and makes the reward all the sweeter.

3. History.
I have a wonderful series of 18 books called “What Life was Like” featuring various epochs in the world history. I imagine myself there. I visualize the people, the clothes, the fashions and the way of life. Meandering amongst ruins, envisaging how they lived, what they wore and their topics of conversations gives me immense pleasure. This sensation first hit me like a thunderbolt during a visit to Ephesus in my early travel days. Until then, historical ruins had been merely ‘dry’, text-book history in my mind’s eye. Then I saw the chariot marks in the cobbles, and a sudden realisation descended upon me: These are real marks made by real carriages carrying real people. It was as if a door had opened to an entirely new world for me. I was a born again ruminator.

4. Landscapes.
Verdant rolling hills dotted with spring flowers bouncing from the still drowsy winter soil; majestic mountains searing into the heavens amid gentle fluffy clouds tinged with a hint of pink from the emerging sun; mighty rivers crushing swirling torrents ever forward as the course of the waterway twists and turns amid trees and boulders; the austere and ascetic beauty of a winter panorama with trees laden heavily under yesterday’s snow and spoor in the snow from a small animal fearless enough to brave the subzero temperatures; dust hanging heavily from an orange desert sky, penetrated by the red ball of the weary sun taking its last look over the vast, African plains before descending behind dark and brooding silhouettes of acacia trees.

5. Cities, towns and villages.
Teeming metropolises, sleepy villages, romantic cities – all full of people going about their daily life - I love them all. Favourites include, but are not limited to, New York, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Bruges and Venice.

6. Architecture.
Through the ages, man has created some remarkable structures, many of them currently in various stages of preservation. When I was 12 years old, my father bought me the book ‘Around the World with Readers Digest’, and I marvelled at the destinations featured within its covers. Such well-known wonders as Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat remained a young, impressionable girl’s dream. I never did imagine that this desire to explore the world would one day become reality.

7. New experiences.
It never ceases to amaze me that, despite the extensive travels we have partaken in over the years, we still come across at least one hitherto un-encountered experience on almost every one of our trips.

Where do I travel?

What inspires me to select a particular destination?
I typically travel for a specific purpose to a particular location, be it West Africa to learn about voodoo, Indonesia to see the Komodo Dragons, Djibouti for the surreal rock formations at Lake Abbé, Tibet to view Potala Palace, Galapagos Islands to walk amongst iguanas and swim with the penguins, India to spot tigers, Libya to immerse myself in centuries of history……you get the picture!

How do I come to be aware of these attractions originally? VT of course! But naturally there are other sources of information: conversations with fellow travellers, books, TV programs and magazine articles to mention a few. Although I have for many years maintained a ’wish list’ of destinations I aspire to visit; this list does not diminish for each trip we take, it does in fact expand as I add previously unknown attractions to the register.

We are fast approaching the autumn of our lives, and we have no guarantees for the continual good health or financial stability we are currently enjoying. We therefore choose to select the more demanding and challenging destinations to visit ‘while we still can’. I favour remote and primitive over luxury and crowds. I also try to opt for countries that have recently emerged from oblivion as far as travellers go – to get there before the crowds do, or to visit before they disappear off the tourist map again for political, safety or other reasons.

How do I travel?

Idealistically, we travel on a tailor-made trip for the two of us, with accommodation, transport and a guide pre-arranged from the UK, sacrificing spontaneity for maximising time spend exploring the sites. In Utopia we would be able to combine the two of course. Realistically, for financial reasons, many of our trips are with taken with environmentally aware tour operators, specialising in small group adventure tours. I do not support one company over another by design, rather I decide on the tour content within a preferred destination. During our thirty years of marriage and travel, we have used over sixty different tour operators. Sometimes we buy a complete package from the UK, other times we will purchase a flight and book accommodation on the internet and car hire in the destination.

We like to vary the way we travel, and have previously engaged in walking holidays, multi-activity trips, cruises, skiing, fly-drive, a two-week journey entirely by train, a cycling holiday, rock-climbing trips, sailing, coach trips, safaris, road trips, city-breaks, camel trekking, canoeing, resort based holidays, camping, luxury time out and day trips.

What do I take?

I travel with my husband David and a backpack full of curiosity. I make a point of not judging other cultures by their actions (criminality aside), just because they are different to mine. I bring a pocket full of respect and value the diversity that is the world. I observe and absorb and accept that we are all different - even though I might not always understand or agree. I wonder at the traditions and way of life of other nations and I am captivated by the beauty of little things. A child's smile, a small flower bud, a colourful costume, a field full of crops, a bird in the trees, the trickling of a stream - isn't life amazing? I appreciate the opportunity travel has afforded me - to gain an insight into other people's lives, to embrace the world with an open mind and tolerance.

What does travel do for me?

Travel is a humbling experience. I consider myself extremely privileged to be able to indulge my obsession to the extent I do. I am fortunate that I can experience the way of life of other civilisations. I regard it as an honour to be invited to learn about their traditions and customs. Travel has a way of making me feel blessed – not just because I can see for myself all these far-flung stimulating destinations , but also because it makes me appreciate what I have back home. I am the luckiest girl alive.


If you don't have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?

When we retire, we dream of buying a Pinzgauer and travelling from North Cape in Norway to Cape Town in South Africa. This may very well remain just as a pipe dream, as there are currently many factors preventing us reaching our ambition:

Work. Although David managed to get his much longed-for redundancy, I am still working. David is spending a lot of his time caring for my parents.

My dad. I can not and will not travel for such an extended period of time while my dad is still alive. He is 85 years old at the moment, and not in good health.

Health. Nothing is guaranteed in this world, we may not be healthy enough to undertake such an adventurous journey by the time the journey can become reality.

Courage. Although it is fun to dream, would we actually have the courage to set out on such a daunting trip when it came to it? Who knows.

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

  • Intro Updated Apr 21, 2011
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Grete Howard
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