In 2011, I visited three countries for the first time, India, Hungary, and Poland. It had been a long time since I had been to a place I didn’t know. Twenty-three years residence in Spain had lead to all holidays being trips back home to see the family or visiting places in Spain. And as Elizabeth Gilbert said in her book, ‘Eat Love Pray’ – “there is different energy in travelling to being in a place where you have to pay your bills”. I was to feel that traveller’s energy surge and sparkle again, for the first time in many years, when I went on a city break to Krakow.
Initially, I was wary of visiting a place where I didn’t speak the language. I had found visits to both France and Portugal frustrating as I sort of understood but didn’t have the confidence of being able to communicate with fluency as I can in Spain. However, I found it fun trying to guess the meanings of words, identifying endings and with the centuries long influence of the Catholic Church in Poland, finding there were quite a few words with Latin roots. We did trips to Auschwitz and The Salt Mine.
Only six weeks later I was on the go again- visiting Budapest, a place I had always wanted to visit. Tackling the city on its own; using the hop on hop off services, was fun but less fulfilling than the organised trips, we had done in Krakow.
Bitten by the bug, and finally finding the time and money to do so, in September I had my dream holiday to India. I began with the Golden Triangle- New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur in the north. I then flew to Kerala in the south; to investigate Ayurveda, India’s ancient holistic medicine, where I visited a tea plantation, a tiger reserve and had a cruise on a houseboat. Everywhere was memorable, however, my favourites have to be Jaipur, The Spice Garden and Kanya Kumari- the southern most point of India where the three seas meet.
On all my trips to India, I had a guide; and every one of them contributed to making the journey truly memorable. I love travelling and tourism is an area that has always attracted me and in 2012, I undertook a short intensive course to become a tour guide in Edinburgh. The idea had been planted by one of my closest friends Helen, who I have done most of my travelling with when not alone. Knowing how unsatisfied I had become with teaching and how it blocked my writing, she commented while on a walking tour in Edinburgh in 2011, “you can do this.” and I am happy to say I now do.
Before the course, Helen and I spent a week in Istanbul, once more tours with professional guides the most satisfying. We also made the long trip to visit the site of Troy, again the visit conducted by a wonderful guide who brought history to life by relating it to the Iliad.The horse but not the original! I returned truly motivated to do the course.
Since April of this year, I have been doing foodie-walking tours in Edinburgh for www.eatwalkedinburgh.co.uk I take pride in my home town, its history, its beauty, its culture. While remembering, the Polish, Indian and Turkish guides who explained with passion, with feeling, with professionalism and the difference it made to my visits and I hope I can impart my knowledge in the same way as those who were all inspiration for a new career path.