Saturday, June 14, 2014

Have Lipstick, will travel!

IMG_0628Choosing a blog topic is complicated. At one time I used to promote fellow authors on my blog. It kept it live and made the featured writer happy but it ate into my writing time in a big way, so now I mainly tweet their book links instead.
I sometimes blog about my own books of course but there is only so much I can say about them before self-aggrandizement sets in, so for a while I’ve been stuck for a topic. Then, yesterday, I had an inspiration.  My website strapline is ‘A ticket to Romance’ because so many of my books are loosely based on the  countries and places I’ve visited. For example Cabin Fever is set on the cruise ship that took me from Auckland in the North of New Zealand right down to Sydney in Australia, whereas Reluctant Date takes place in a small town in Florida where I had one of the best holidays of my life.
As well as being hugely enjoyable, travelling, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures has changed my perspective on life. To quote Mary Anne RadmacherI am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.’
I’m not, however, going to turn my blog into a travelogue. Anyone who is interested in the places I write about in my books can find out about them on the Internet. Instead, I’m going to talk about the flip side of travellings - the many things that went wrong, or made me laugh, or cry, or both, because ‘Travel is glamorous only in retrospect’ ― Paul Theroux.
This means that I have no choice but to start with India and the two weeks I spent travelling between Delhi and Amritsar with no luggage, not even a change of underwear. It was New Year so the shops were closed - well the shops that sold western clothes were - and I would have looked ridiculous in a shalmar kameeze or a sari because I am so obviously from northern Europe. I worried too about offending the Indian families I was going to visit, some of whom lived in remote villages where many of the inhabitants had never seen a white face. I might upset them by choosing a wrong colour or an inappropriate style.
Fortunately, because it was winter I was travelling in layers, so my solution was to wash the sweater while I wore the blouse, and vice versa, while the jeans, boots, woollen jacket and cape were easy to dress up with scarves and cheap jewelry, things that I was able to acquire. At night I festooned our various hotel bathrooms with drying lingerie while I went to sleep in a pair of my husband’s pajamas.  I also borrowed his socks.
The experience had a profound effect on me. Once I’d accepted that the airline really had lost my luggage I was able to enjoy the trip in a way I’ve never experienced before or since. While others were busy unpacking or repacking their suitcases, I went sightseeing or talked to strangers. While they prepared for each formal visit or outing, I could only brush down my jeans, shrug on my jacket and think about the day ahead. In those two weeks I saw more, heard more, learned more, and worried less. It was totally liberating and I also learned that in the wider scheme of things, a suitcase full of clothes, a hairdryer and a change of shoes is neither important nor necessary. I learned that it really is possible to travel light.
Oh, I forgot to say...my lipstick was in my handbag. Now if that had gone missing it might have been different story!

In the coming weeks there will be more traveller's tale from the flip side on my website at sheilaclaydon.com and next month there will be another one on the Books We Love blog.  In the meantime, what would keep you sane if your luggage went missing? I'd love to know.



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