I long since realised that having a great time has very little to do with the where, and a great deal to do with the ‘who with’.
Circa 1985, pub ticketing was introduced in my home town of Gosport for special occasions such as Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.
Everybody knew about it, except of course me and my friends.
No ticket. No entry.
No entry to our usual haunts such as The Star or The George and Dragon. So, The Wiltshire Lamb and The Royal Arms here we come.
Are they Gosport’s best pubs? Not by a million miles. Did we still have a great time? Hell yeah!
The beer was as good, and cheaper. The company was even better. I was with my usual crowd, plus a few new people, just in different venues.
The venue mattered not one bit. The company I kept was everything.
And so it goes for my 1 year of travel. Hopefully around the globe. In reality wherever is open and will let us in.
It’s little to do with the locations, and everything to do with the people.
My nomination for extraordinary person #1 is my wife Carol.
Sure, many people are at least as happily married as we are, but what I find extraordinary is that she has volunteered to be with me pretty much 24/7/365!
365 days during which most couples will actually have a great deal of time apart. When either of you are at work, when you individually spend time with your own friends, when you do your own thing.
Not on our travels.
Pretty much together 24/7/365.
And Carol has volunteered to live in each other’s pockets, for a year, with me!
Thank you baby 😊
My nomination for extraordinary person #2, is my mother-in-law, Chrissie.
In the months preceding our departure we made good use of websites such as eBay and Facebook buy and sell. We reduced clutter, lessened the volume of things we’d have to move, and added a few quid to the travel savings pot. We sold bikes, guitars, cabinets, barbecues, games and toys etc.
Everything else would have to go into storage.
Our travel budget is definitely not what I’d call generous, possibly not even ‘comfortable’ but Carol is the world’s leading expert in finding a bargain, so I have faith we can do this. Even so, the thought of having regular outgoings in the form of storage fees was quite worrying; it was definitely an expense we could do without.
Enter Chrissie, who has given us an entire room of her house to store our beds/clothes/furniture in. For free! This will save us a small fortune.
This means that one day, we’ll be able to put a roof over our heads in some faraway land, when otherwise we may have been broke, due to large parts of our savings being spent on storage.
On top of that, she has allowed us to redirect our mail to her address for the duration of our travels, and is informing us of important looking mail she receives, and when necessary opens our mail, photographing it and sending us the pictures. An extremely valuable service. Thank you Chrissie x
On to extraordinary people #3 and #4.
John and Shazza.
Sharon is my friend and colleague, John her partner. Back in the old days, when we used to actually have to go into the office to do our work, Sharon and I were in the same team. We used to have our lunch breaks at the same time too, and we’d often walk up the road together to Waitrose to grab a sandwich and a free coffee, and sometimes we’d stop in Lidl and stock up Sharon’s wine cellar for the weekend. Exciting stuff! It involved some heavy lifting, and I was glad to be able to help and carry the gallons of wine back to the office or her car. 😉
We moved teams, at the same time, so stayed working together. After a while I stayed in the new team, whilst Sharon moved back to re-join the old team. We did similar work, often overlapping in subject matter, so managed to stay in touch workwise.
We no longer worked together, but the exciting lunchtime jaunts to Waitrose and Lidl etc. continued. Sometimes we went to the pub as part of a crowd of friendly workmates, but usually only if it was someone’s birthday, leaving do, or Christmas.
The work crowd, including Sue (Gatty) Ann, Deb, Caz and Trudy all enjoyed a social occasion together, so we arranged to do it more frequently and began going for lunch together at least once a month, usually on the Friday after pay day. At Sue’s suggestion we called this the monthly ‘nosh’. I proper belly laughed when Sue used the word ‘nosh’, but to explain why I’d have to make this an 18 rated blog. Maybe another time…
What did Sharon and I talk about during all those lunchtimes? Well, mostly my forthcoming year-off and associated travel plans. Every day. Every single day. “We’ve booked up our flights to South Africa” I would tell her excitedly “And some accommodation in Kruger National Park” “We’ve got a hire car sorted, flights on to Port Elizabeth from where we’re going to drive to Cape Town”
Every day I would add some details of our plans and what we’d actually managed to book. South Africa onto Brazil (via Angola), Copacabana, Ipanema, El Christo Redentor, Iguazú Falls, Argentina, Perú, Costa Rica, Belize, New Zealand, Vietnam…
She would often tell me to shut-up, and say that she really wasn’t interested. She sometimes resorted to putting her fingers in her ears and saying “la, la,la, not listening”
For 2 years this went on. Probably two very long years from Sharon’s point of view.
It was getting closer to August 1st 2020, the start of our gap year, when COVID showed its ugly face and changed everything.
First the flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth was cancelled, due to a South African government imposed travel ban. So everything to do with South Africa was cancelled. What followed was months of wrangling with every company we’d given money to, trying to arrange refunds for everything. It was bloody hard work and very tiring. It’s not like we actually wanted to cancel anything, it was forced upon us.
We’d have to make new plans.
We’d follow World News, government advice, and view COVID statistics from around the globe. Our travel insurance was already in place, but it’s invalidated if you travel somewhere against government advice. We needed to know which countries our government allowed us to visit, and which countries were allowing foreigners, especially British people in.
It was a very small list of countries available to us. Iceland was on the list, so we arranged to go there. And then it wasn’t on the list. More plans cancelled.
I’d already arranged with my employer to delay my year off. Put it back 2 months. We made the same arrangement with the landlord of our rented property. We’d even managed to arrange an extension on our lease cars. We’re not the kind of people to mess anyone around, our word is our bond.
It was now late September. We knew that next week we’d be away, starting our travels, but with just a few days to go before we set-off, and after a solid two years of planning, we had no idea when we were going exactly, or where.
I had gone out one afternoon to collect some Icelandic currency I had ordered, I had the radio on in the car and on the news as I drove back from town came the announcement The UK government has just added Iceland to the list of countries it advises against all bar essential travel.
We had planned to visit Iceland with our friend Ginny; we were devastated that yet more plans had to be cancelled. Ginny told us Turkey was open, and that she could personally recommend Kalkan. We looked into it a bit, not having previously heard of the town, we liked what we saw and we booked our flights immediately.
I sent a message to Sharon. I knew that her partner John had a property in Turkey, and as a result they visited the country as frequently as COVID would allow.
“Hey Shazza, you know I’ve been boring you to death for 2 years with our travel plans, and that all our plans have been cancelled, well guess where we’re going now?”
“You got it, Turkey!”
“As you know the place, we were wondering what recommendations you had, if any”
Shazza replied that she and John were currently in Turkey, and when we were going to arrive? The dates tallied up, we were going to all be there at the same time, albeit a 4 hour drive away.
We arranged to meet.
After a leisurely drive through beautiful mountainous scenery, we arrived in Antalya from Kalkan.
John had told us Antalya is a huge city, “You’ll never find us, so let me know when you’re in the city, tell me where you are and I’ll come and meet you.”
We found the address ourselves, and looked around the building trying to see how to get into the block of flats. We looked up at the balconies and sitting there reading a book, was a familiar figure. Shazza!
She came and let us in, and showed us our room. After a long drive we had very kindly been offered to stay the night. We readily agreed as for one thing it meant we could all have a drink, always good!
In the evening we went out for a meal with John, Sharon and a couple of their friends Phil and Semra. Semra is Turkish, Phil Welsh, and they have been married 36 or 37 years. Having a native talker/bilinguist amongst us was a great help in terms of the service we received.
We walked from the restaurant to a large bar-filled public square and Semra’s smile and flirty attitude made sure we got served quickly. She was relentless, twirling her hair and batting her eyelashes at the waiters and after one exchange in Turkish she turned round and told us all with a twinkle in her eye, that the waiter, an innocent looking 22 year old, would be her new lover! After a couple of drinks, Phil and Semra wished us well on our journey and headed for home. We headed for the next bar. Barrels.
The drinks were now in full flow, and continued once we’d all got back to John and Shazza’s and sat in their ‘Turkish Lounge’ out on the balcony.
On Sunday afternoon, after the Saturday night out, once the hangovers had worn off and we had successfully rehydrated, we announced we’d be leaving by about 4pm in order to get hire car back by 9pm.
By now, we’d spent time with John on only 3 occasions in our entire lives. The first being some months beforehand at a wedding reception of mine and Shazza’s colleagues Deb and Matthew.
“Before you go” said John “Here, have the keys to my apartment” “We’ll be going back to the UK in a few days, so when you’re done with Kalkan, you’re more than welcome to come and use the flat for as long as you like”
Proper “mi casa, su casa” stuff.
Not only that, but he made us a picnic to take with us on our drive back to Kalkan. We stopped off at a lovely place with a fantastic view and enjoyed the much needed food and drink.
As a result of John and Sharon’s extraordinary generosity, I am writing this whilst sat on their sofa, in Antalya where we will stay for the next few days.
Thank you John and Sharon.
This brings me on to Extraordinary People 5# & 6# the aforementioned Phil and Semra. We met them both with John and Shazza when we met up in Antalya during our first visit. Since we have returned we have met up with them both twice; first time for a dinner in the football stadium and yesterday also for coffee and a cake. They have both been amazingly helpful with advice around Turkey and our travels and have been great company – all from a lovely couple we had only met once before – Thank you so much for everything and we really hope to keep in touch.