On an unseasonably warm day in February, I board a bus.
I am going on a journey.
My breakfast is still swimming around my throat in protest at how fast I've gobbled it down, threatening regurgitation. I am pressed for time, yet I can still pause to acknowledge porridge oats as the one food I can make and eat within seven minutes. I have timed it and it is a remarkable feat, because usually, I can nurse my food till the cocks come home to roost. When I was fourteen and about to go to boarding school, one of my mother's valid concerns was that I'd be the soul left on her lonesome at the dining hall while everybody finished their food and left for their next class.
The sun is out and I am appreciating this rare opportunity to wear just a light blazer as opposed to the warm winter jacket that has been attached to my body for the last few months.
A cacophony of sounds jostle for dominance in the bus. Noisy children ask tedious questions of their parents, whilst they in turn respond with the patience that only a parent can muster. There is loud chatter and general bonhomie which only the appearance of the sun can bestow on the good people of the United Kingdom. That it is also a Saturday adds a certain gaiety to proceedings.
I go to the upper deck and I spot them immediately.
He is blond, with a face that looks like it is always on the verge of bursting into raucous laughter.She has skin the colour of rust, and an accent she later assures me is supposed to be Kenyan, as though she could tell my geography fails me on various occasions.
'Do you think I have the face for it?' She asks without preamble as I take the seat behind them.
'For it?' I echo dumbly.
'For a perm cut. Come on, be honest with me.' She adds conspiratorially.
Before I know it, we are discussing hair types, cheekbones...and the luminous Lupita Nyiong'o for whom the world has gone loopy.
They are good friends, she tells me, turning to her mate, ruffling the blond hairs on his head, and he retaliates by telling her that a perm cut would not suit her prominent forehead. I am touched by their easy banter.
With mock solemnity I assure her that life is so much better when you accept that yes, your forehead is prominent et alors? I point to the scar on mine, the one I can't hide especially now my hair is short, and we share a smile.
I am nearly at my stop so I say goodbye and go downstairs, feeling like my day can only get better thereon.
I am attending a travel writing workshop run by Peter Carty, an experienced writer whose travel features have graced numerous publications including The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph etc.
It's a full house, chatty with enthusiastic people from all walks of life, and it doesn't escape me that for all our differences, one thing unites us all in that moment: our passion for travel. During the ice-breaker session, I meet Georgina, born in Serbia, raised in Sydney and now living in London. Seated on my left is an English woman from Kent, whose transatlantic accent reveals on further probing, an early life spent in Nairobi. I want to tell her that the only Swahili I know is from playing 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' as a child, but I don't think now is the time to outdoor my limited language skills. (I can say 'Stop, thief!' and 'Are you a detective?', just in case you're wondering.)
Through various conversations and writing assignments in the course of the day, I am taken on a food tour in Bologna, hiking up the Scottish Highlands, navigating local life in Colombia and back for a culinary tour de force in San Sebastian, amongst other exhilarating experiences brought piercingly alive through text.
The workshop is intense, packed with nuggets of information, and so easily whets my appetite for travel until I can almost feel the ants in my pants move down to give me itchy feet.
And so as the day ends, I am buzzing, thinking of passports, finances and travel destinations. But mostly, I am also thinking who will I talk to next?
Because to travel is to allow yourself to experience a people, a place, an adventure.
Where will yours take you?
Travel Writing Workshop