Wednesday, 16 September 2009

It's a small world

Is it wrong that I found myself feeling mildly excited by the prospect of walking the aisles of our local Tesco? On second thoughts don't answer that. The thing is my world has shrunk to such minuscule proportions since having the twins that any trip out of the house, however mundane and workaday, is a thrill nowadays.

It used to be that I would feel a fizz of anticipation at the idea of a night out with friends, or a mini break to a romantic foreign destination. Now I plan my day around a half hour trip to Boots to mooch around amongst the baby clothes, or if I really want to push the boat out I might visit the nearby shopping centre for a browse amongst the boxes of chicken Kiev and over priced, undersized ladies fashion.

Don't get me wrong, I am not entirely unhappy with this turn of events. I have never been a party girl, or yearned to 'travel', complete with backpack full of rancid clothes and seedy encounters on sandy beaches. In fact I usually found that even when I did go out or away the high point of the event was returning home, planting myself on the sofa and recounting my adventures. They were more fun in the retelling that in the living.

When I was 18 I went to India, which was the de rigeur activity for a gap year back in the 90s. I took a rucksack packed with water purifying kit, clean syringes, antibiotics, Immodium and malaria tablets, my head filled with terrifying tales of dysentery and disaster on the road. The culture shock was terrifying, I had never gone further than a package tour to Italy and here I was in the teeming, boiling, alien mass of humanity that was Delhi. I lay in my filthy flea pit hotel bed, sweating under a rickety fan, shaking with fear and longing for home.

I certainly found myself on that trip, but what I found out about myself is that I am timid and prissy in the face of an alien culture, I didn't gasp in awe at the gleaming white palaces suspended as if by magic in the centre of a glassy lake, at the monkeys scaling ornate Hindu temples or the glowing jewels studded into the tragic marble edifice of the Taj Mahal. No I was too busy being shocked by the people pooing in the street in broad daylight, and then reaching nonchalantly up to stir a pot of curry they were hawking to passersby, or the leprous beggars, their decaying limbs swathed in greying, filthy rags and the skin and bone children with their piteous liquid eyes beseeching you for a rupee whenever you walked the streets.

I was terrified, horrified and desperate to get on the next plane home. When it came to the day of my departure there was some kind of a problem at the airport, I don't recall what, but there was the threat of having to remain another day. I broke down in tears and begged my way onto another plane back to Blighty. I have never returned.

I have met many people who have adored their time travelling, who are full of entrancing tales of magical chance encounters, life expanding experiences, beautiful beaches and sensuous strangers, but I found out at an early age that it really wasn't for me.

Perhaps one day I will return to India, it is after all a beautiful and magnificent country, but this time I'd want to travel in the comfort and style that all the backpackers I met so scorned, but which I secretly envied. For now though I am quite happy to limit my travelling to Tesco with my twins.


  1. I never did the gap year thing or travelled very far.

    A trip to the supermarket is a rare and exotic treat for me these days. Sigh.


  2. I knew my life had reached dizzy heights when I used to set off for the Co-op at 7.00pm, so that I could sit in the car park and listen to the Archers before doing the shopping. A double treat.

  3. Thank goodness it's not just me, but how sad it is the lengths we will go to for a bit of 'me' time! A busy Tesco sometimes seems a lot more peaceful than my house.

  4. You've just summed up my pitiful existence i too take pleasure in planning a whole day around a trip to Ikea. It's only 5 miles away and does a mean breakfast too killing two birds with one stone. But like you i'm secretly not that bothered about missing out on the high life, give me a hot bubble bath and Tea and Biscuits any day of the week over exotic beaches and nights clubbing away in seedy bars!
    The trouble is i can't even enjoy a hot bath these days in peace and quiet.