“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
TS Eliot, Little Gidding
The world is vast and it’s for us to explore. “Because it’s there” was George Mallory’s response as to why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. I was in Nepal in March, just before I had to return home to the UK and lock-down started. I wasn’t trying to climb Mount Everest, but I was trying to see and do at lot else that was there. Prior to that I’d been in Sri Lanka and India. Unlike Gertrude Stein’s famous and somewhat rude description of her home town, Oakland in California, “There is no there there”*, there’s an awful lot of there in the Indian sub-continent.
I travelled around India by train for 10 weeks or so, from Kerala in the south to Amritsar in the north, west to Rajasthan and east to Kolkata and Darjeeling. Fantastic and varied scenery, amazing buildings, a whole new history to get my previously-Eurocentric head around, some stunning wildlife, a remarkable range of foods, experiences such as autorickshaws and sleeping berths in huge train carriages, teeming cities, and, in many places, new friends. I could happily have carried on – the only limit was the duration of my travel insurance policy. With my tablet instead of a PC I could run my life quite effectively from a cheap hotel room. Occasionally I signed up for very touristy experiences – the zip-line ride in Jodhpur, the tour of an informal settlement in Mumbai, the canoe ride along the canals in Kerala – but many other times I sought to head off away from the beaten tourist track to find out a little of how people lived. Sometimes I discovered something really worthwhile, other times I just got hot and footsore and tired, once or twice I came a bit of a cropper. But without the risk of bad times you can’t get the good times to enjoy.
Since then I’ve been under lock-down in London, though in more recent months gradually enjoying more freedom and scope for travel. Soon I hope to be properly under way again, off to Italy and Greece by train and ferry. But life in lock-down has also offered the opportunity of exploration more locally to my home base. At first I walked – to Limehouse, to Alexandra Palace, to Hyde Park Corner. Then I got a bike and headed slightly further afield – to Barnet and Barking and Teddington. TS Eliot may have meant something deep and metaphysical by the lines from his poem at the top of this blog, but I like to think of it as I discover a park or attractive street or distinguished building within a few kilometres or so of my home that I’ve never seen before.
Whether you’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future and can only dream of travel, or whether you’re actively planning your next trip, C4Urselves.com can be a useful resource to find out about the world, stimulating ideas, and providing information by way of other travellers’ impressions of a place. The site relies on its contributors, so, staying within a short distance of where you live or exploring the wider world, do shoot and upload some videos for the site. It couldn’t be easier.
I shall not cease from exploration – to do so would be a kind of death of the mind. And I’d like to think that everyone else would want to do so as well. Whether the travel is local or far from home, somewhere that’s entirely new to you or somewhere with which you think you’re familiar but which may well still have unexpected corners, it’s always worth the effort.
Check out Martin's videos here: https://c4urselves.com/user/MartinLunnon/
* Gertrude Stein was being unnecessarily rude about Oakland, I feel, if the quote is interpreted as it usually is. I’ve visited the city a few times, even living there for a few weeks one summer over 30 years ago, and there’s quite a lot there. I mean, for celebrating a local hero, a socialist author who loved wilderness, with a shopping mall and a parking lot, the place deserves at least second prize in a world irony contest.’