I write quite a lot on my blog about Hubby's and my travel adventures. We love to travel. But appearances on Instagram to the contrary, travel isn't all beautiful sunsets and stunning vistas. Sometimes it's exhausting, stressful, disappointing, and even painful.
Sometimes you get to that beautiful beach, but the water is too cold to even paddle in the shallows.
|Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France 2015|
|Mount Kosciuszko, New South Wales, Australia. 2008|
|Mount Kosciuszko plays misty for us. Ha.|
But, you shrug and say, "We're in France, or Australia, or wherever. How bad can it be?" And you build a wind-break so you can still eat your picnic on the beach. Or, back at your cosy B&B after returning from that bone-chilling hike, you light a fire, and snuggle down with a glass of wine and your book. Because you don't expect every day to be perfect. And you know that the perfect moments are worth the hassle, the cold, the stress, and the occasional disappointment.
|Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado in Patagonia, 2017.|
The view from the top of Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado in Patagonia was worth the worrisome bites I suffered that day and which resulted in a trip to the hospital. And that two-day drive along the unpaved back roads in northern Argentina was worth every second of panic that Hubby and I felt on our last night when we were locked in the courtyard of our hotel in Salta at one o'clock in the morning, fearing we might have to navigate the brick wall with the iron spikes on top, or miss our flight to Peru. Ha. The story of that mishap alone was worth all the stress. You can read it here if you're interested.
But what I'm saying, I guess, is that travel is about much more than perfectly sunny days and five-star accommodation. And according to the experts, it's good for us in so many ways. Especially international travel, and particularly when travellers "engage with the local community." Besides the physical and psychological benefits, travel "pulls people out of their cultural bubbles," and as a result fosters a greater "trust and faith in humanity." There's a really interesting article in The Atlantic here, on how travel is, as we've long thought, well, broadening.
I've been thinking and reading about travel lately because I've also been reading Martha Gellhorn's memoir Travels with Myself and Another. The memoir is by her own description an account of her "best horror journeys." Gellhorn despite her many horrific travel experiences, never lost her love of travel.
I admit to first being interested in Gellhorn because she was Ernest Hemingway's third wife, the only one who would leave him instead of the other way round. But I've come to be fascinated by her in her own right. In fact I feel a bit sheepish that her marriage to Hemingway is what brought her to my notice, especially since she hated being known for her relationship to him, instead of for herself. As she famously said, "Why should I be a footnote to someone else's life?" Why, indeed?
|Gellhorn in Idaho, 1940|
I'm loving Gellhorn's frankness, and her ability to describe so evocatively the bone-shaking plane rides, disgusting smells, filthy hotel rooms, bed bugs, strange skin afflictions she acquires, and utterly unhelpful, even obdurate, guides. In some places I laughed out loud. Especially at her description of her interactions with Ernest Hemingway who, in one section, unwillingly accompanies her to China, is referred to throughout as UC for "Unwilling Companion," and when things go wrong reminds her "who wanted to see China?" I also love how she describes Hemingway as uncomplaining and even heroic, and herself as writing "yowling" letters home to her mother. For someone whose marriage to Hemingway would fall apart years before she wrote this book, she's very generous in her descriptions of him, a testament, I imagine, to her honesty.
|Gellhorn with Hemingway in China, 1941|
|Gellhorn's memoir and McLain's novel about Gellhorn and Hemingway|
|Wearing embarrassing headgear at Hubby's behest. Carrière Wellington, Arras, France, 2015.|
But, I also know that for the traveller themselves it's the disaster, or near-disaster, experiences, the exhausting, stressful, disappointing, or even painful days, which make the beautiful sunsets and stunning vistas even more sweet. The vicissitudes of travel don't put us off travel in the least.
In fact, this summer, I've learned that the vicissitudes of travel are nothing compared to the pain of being confined to barracks, with no prospect of travel at all.
But things are looking up. There's Italy in a few weeks. And in the meantime, there's Gellhorn's book to finish, and McLain's novel to read, and travel outfits to plan. Life is good, people.
Now, how about you my friends? Have you read Gellhorn's memoir? I know that some of you have much better travel horror stories than I do. Any that we haven't heard? Or any travel books you'd like to recommend for those of us who love them?