My love of travel and exploration is deep-rooted because it runs in my blood. My mother you see, for as long as I can remember, also has this burning desire to see the world.
My mum’s story is a fascinating one. With the communist regime raging, she was smuggled across the border from Canton (now Guangzhou) to Hong Kong by her dad, leaving behind her mother who she never saw again. And she eventually came to the UK after my granddad moved here to make a better life for himself and his family.
Most of her school days were taken up by working hard in my grandfather’s takeaway shop in Tottenham. She had big dreams which were muted by the daily grinds of shop life and duty to her family. So, when she turned 17, she defiantly left home with little more than the clothes on her back.
Because she’s always had to make her own way in life and work hard for every single luxury, travel has always been her reward. My dad, I hasten to add, never complains when he has to accompany her gallivanting around the world. In fact, it’s my mum’s influence that has also given him a zest for globetrotting.
We didn’t have tons of money while I was growing up but my parents always made sure we had a holiday once a year – a mix of the usual package holidays to sunny climes such as Spain, Mallorca and Greece. We’d have a blast building sandcastles and lying on lilos. Once, in Turkey, my dad and I drifted out to sea because we’d both fallen asleep on one. My mum nearly called the coastguard! But dad managed to paddle us all the way back to shore.
When I was aged 10, my parents had saved up for several years in order to take us to Florida and Disney World. I was old enough to still remember a lot of that exciting holiday. It was filled with adventure and awe – a magical experience which I want to create for my Monkey, too.
My mum and sister aren’t big fans of rides and roller coasters. So it was left to my poor dad, who doesn’t like them much either, to accompany me! I can still recall his white knuckles and deep breaths all the while trying to convince me he wasn’t scared! I still, to this day, have the autograph book which was signed by all the Disney characters and Disney World currency. Check out my bum-bag! They were all the rage back then…
We also got to go to Hong Kong on several occasions to meet family and stay at my paternal grandfather’s house which is situated in a small village in the town of Shatin. I remember the first time we went, how astonished I was to see where my dad grew up – he showed us where he used to go fishing on a lake right outside the house, but it’s now a mass of concrete and motorways.
My parents would take us to the markets, we’d suck sugar cane from street sellers, which my parents did as children; I’d watch as my parents paid their respects to their ancestors by going to a public columbarium (think a giant car park with lots of slots filled with dead people’s ashes); and they showed us the sights – things they hadn’t seen in decades. It was a cultural shock but also emotional – it was good to identify with my roots and my culture, and learn about my parent’s childhoods.
The holidays that I remember most vividly, however, are the ones around the UK – day trips to Brighton, and week-long stays in Cornwall, Devon and the Isle of Wight. We had so much fun, playing mini-golf and pool, running about the place, eating fish and chips and tons of ice cream! It never bothered my sister and I that we weren’t abroad – we were still away and that was exciting enough!
Looking back at our holiday snaps – and there are a lot of them – it’s clear to see, I am most definitely my mother’s daughter. It’s because of her I’ve got to see so many famous sights and enjoy once-in-the-lifetime experiences such as riding a camel with the Great Pyramids as the backdrop, getting to walk along the Great Wall of China and riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.
So I’d like to thank you mum for shaping the way I look at the world. You’ve given me some amazing memories and I will forever be grateful.
But more importantly, thank you for instilling in me a passion which I can pass on to my son – so that he can also explore, learn, laugh and see – and perhaps one day embark on his own life-changing journey around the world…