On the wing…

Yes folks, that’s Crete below and non-paid placement of airline advertising as I depart this beautiful island.

So what great profound insights did I gain from this trip, apart from researching the book?

The most obvious is the comparison between these locations forty years apart. Many of the countries we visited back then were under Communist rule (good in theory, bad in practice) and life has definitely improved – they have food and freedom for a start!

Back then, most of Europe was still very ‘foreign’ – almost no-one spoke English, there were no signs in English and tourists had not yet become a bankable commodity. So there was a sense of real adventure and, in the main, local people were interested and welcoming.

Travel is now a global obsession, it’s easy and comfortable, every need it catered for. Obviously this is to the detriment of many popular destinations which are being crushed by the sheer numbers of visitors.

The worst I encountered was Prague; a fairytale city that is now suffering an overload of visitors and souvenir shops. The only time to explore the old city is very early in the morning while the hordes are sleeping because by lunchtime you can hardly move.

Tourism can consume the soul of a place, and then it becomes an imitation of itself with just the bits tourists want to see, and Greece is almost entirely dependant on it. But perhaps we need to spread ourselves more widely, share the love and bring a little affluence to the many places not on the tourist route, and probably more ‘real’ and interesting.

Travelling solo was essential for me on this trip but one of the issues is that, if you don’t want to end up locked out of your accommodation or miss trains or get pick-pocketed or whatever,  you have to be hyper vigilant and check everything three times – and that gets exhausting!

The benefit was that I met all sorts of interesting people, a couple of whom will stay in touch. But a little time alone does make you appreciate how important and valuable your friendships are. Relationships that take a lifetime to build and become the lifeline that can haul you back to safety when you’re adrift. Invaluable and irreplacable, the true riches of life.

So, play-time is over and it’s down to work!

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