Breathtaking Travel

Breathtaking Travel

I expect that if you were to ask anyone who knows me what I am most passionate about in life, even those who know me only moderately well would mention travel somewhere near the top of the list. The letter to God that I wrote as a young boy (below) marked the beginning of a life-long passion for foreign travel and modern languages.

Dear God I wish we could go round the world. Are men .. dun dun dun.. love from Simon Bostic are men

I think I wrote that note after my first trip abroad. We were a working-class family living in a tiny cottage in rural Hertfordshire and had suffered a series of highly-publicised family tragedies. My brother Andrew died, my life had been saved under extraordinary circumstances, and somewhere in the dark midst of all that, my father, Roger – normally a rock of silent support for my Mother – was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent radiotherapy and massive surgery to remove the affected lobe of his lung. Up to now my Dad had worked as a painter and decorator, and latterly as a factory foreman but his health now forced him to take even lower paid jobs. My Mum had a job before my brother Andrew and I were born but  couldn’t work afterwards because she needed to look after me in the years following my transplant.

We had no money and holidays were limited to hunkering down behind a wind breaker on a blustery day every Summer on the beach at Walton-on-the-Naize! Mercifully then, a generous donor (a Maltese businessman I think – I wish I could remember) stepped in and offered to pay for us to go on holiday. So, off we went to Malta.

My first experience of foreign travel.

Here on this little rocky ex-British crown colony just off the coast of North Africa, as if by magic, the dreariness and drudgery of life and the emotional heaviness that had engulfed us seemed to lift as we stepped out of the plane onto the metal stairs. I remember the warm air which rushed against my face and the sense of relief it seemed to bring in its caressing embrace – like being wrapped in a warm towel. I remember so clearly the change in light: rays of sunlight and wafts of Mediterranean air pouring into our apartment on St Julian’s bay while the Cat Stevens song, “Morning has Broken” played loudly, my dad singing along in full-throated voice as he often did.  Firmly held in my memory too is my appreciation of the difference in temperature; not just of the air outside but also of our mood in general. Like the weather, we were altogether more temperate; warmer, lighter, breezier. Dare I even say, happier? I carry around a photo of my Mum and me posing on the docks – one of the few pictures I have of her when she looks happy and carefree and her brow isn’t creased and darkened by shadows of worry and fear. At home, it seemed we dare not be too happy for too long as we never knew what lay around the corner – as if being on high alert protected us from the threat of further hurt and disappointment. This state of high alert endures in me today and travel (even just the thought of it) remains one of its most powerful antidotes. Stepping out of airports in warm climates nowadays brings that same feeling of calm and wellbeing as for a moment, it’s as if I have escaped the realities of the world and of my life.

Not one of my best looks – I blame my Mother!

Physically too, there were discernible signs of change and improvement on this little island. My infected spots, annoying rashes and a big boil on my leg, little but annoying infections which could turn nasty at any moment and which plagued me often (and still do), just disappeared overnight. Of course salt water and sun play their part but perhaps there is also a link here to be made between the emotional and physical: I kid you not, when we landed back again in dreary, rainy old Britain they came right back, almost before my eyes.

So, it is no surprise then that, in spite of it being one of the most ill-advised career choices an immune-compromised person should make, I became a tour leader. I remember chatting away in Maltese to the cleaning ladies (who loved the fact I wanted to learn their language) and it became clear to everyone that I had a gift for languages. This gift led in due course to a first class degree in modern languages and was my passport to a career in travel. I started with an American company leading groups of 14-18 year old American high school children and their teachers around Europe and then for a leading adventure travel company leading small groups of up to 18 travellers all over Mexico and central America, East and West Africa. No sitting behind a desk at Lunn Poly for me – no. I needed to travel to far-flung and exotic parts of the world where there lived a “vastly increased variety of infectious microbes compared to Europe” – I quote one of my doctors who took care of me in hospital for a week after returning from Burkina Faso. And what an incredible experience it all was – I don’t regret a moment. Whereas before I had been struggling terribly with the depression of not knowing what I would do for a living and had been devastated at having countless ideas written off by my health issues compounded by a terrible lack of confidence, at selection days for tour leaders/managers, it seemed I just could not fail – I have that kind of personality, I suppose. As my Grandmother told me, I am just like my Mother, a born extrovert. It was meant to be and it was amazing and I enjoyed a 15 year long career in travel that I had hitherto only ever dreamed of.

Those days are behind me now as, due to failing health and fitness, I had to leave my last role as Head of Operations for a wonderful little company specialising in charity challenges.  But my life has been immeasurably enriched by the places I have been and the people I met: those who travelled with me as well as my colleagues and most importantly of course, the inhabitants of these lands both human and animal!

Looking into whatever the future holds for me can be daunting and scary but it would be bleak indeed without travel featuring prominently; I am not one for compromises and intend to continue far-flung travels as long as I can (although being too remote from decent medical facilities now is not really an option) and you would not believe the cost of the insurance. The sights and sounds of travel have always taken my breath away. Now, nothing is different – it’s just I am much more breathless in a different way and for different reasons! Despite being forced to traipsing around with a portable machine to help me oxygenate my blood, I insist that my travelling days are far from over.

I may no longer be a tour leader but on a recent trip to Paris, outside the Basilica of St Denis, I tried to recapture some of the magic of those good old days when I would stand in front of a group of nonchalant looking teenagers doing my best to keep them interested … See what you think.

What a Carry On….!

Coming soon: Breathtaking Travel ….  in Sicily


5 Replies to “Breathtaking Travel”

  1. It is very true that travel throws light on ourselves and can expose hidden sides of ourselves to us. When younger this can be incredibly thrilling. When older, it can be more challenging I think occasionally but is nonetheless pretty vital medicine indeed. Thank you for this lovely comment.

  2. A wonderful carry on! I would pay good money for a tour from you. I think when we travel to other countries and places we also get to travel to different parts of ourselves, physically and psychologically-to expose bits that have not seen the sun for too long and give them a good airing. Our window to wall ratio alters from Romanesque to Gothic and our vision gets misty. It is wonderful that you have not relinquished your desire to travel; it is as important to your health as oxygen and tablets. Thank you for sharing.

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