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MEMORIES: In the fast lane

by Jan Wheatcroft

In my apartment I have a large bookshelf and one of the middle shelves is full of my travel journals. I counted them…all 15. I picked one off the shelf at random. 

Its title is 2004 and The Road Beckons, beginning January 9. Whenever I traveled, I carried with me a bag containing black ink pens, colored pencils, a pair of scissors, an eraser and glue. In my purse I had a small camera. Every day I would take my film into the one-hour film shop and the prints would be developed quickly so that I could use them in making my journal that night. I also drew pictures and filled the pages with writing of what I did that day, and cartoons of me doing it. Looking at this book I see that I had found some lovely batiked paper and covered the front inside of the book with it. Then I added a photo of myself looking happy on the travel trail. 

I began this trip in England staying with my friend Leah for six days. During that time I met up with Hazel and she took me to the Borough Market which became one of my favorite open markets. We had an olive oil tasting and I discovered just how much I liked Spanish olive oil. When in England I have often revisited this market. The next pages show that Frances and I went to Goa, India and is full of information on our flight, food that we ate and books I read on the trip. We continue our trip to Mysore, visit local markets, watch elephants on the beach, visit temples and then up to the hill country to Ooty, an old British Hill Station and the tea plantations. 

All this I see in photographs which were almost instantaneous, and drawings which I made, and long written entries. Just reading through brings back one of my first trips to India which was a “falling in love” experience for me. And then down to Fort Cochin in Kerela, in the south of India and still one of my most favorite places. I kept careful records of the hotels and the spice farms and the boat trip down the Kerela Backwaters. I spend hours peering over all the drawings and photos and remembering the time spent there. 

I am sorry now that I just stopped making these journals after my 15th trip. They are so rich and interesting even now, or maybe more now that I am home and not able to travel at this time. 

After leaving India on my own I see that I am in Amsterdam, I see the canals and the room I stayed in overlooking the Singel Canal in a 300-year-old building with a crooked room. I have drawn a cone of French fries served with mayonnaise and ketchup and I saved and glued in the fork that came with the fries. Here I visited the Anne Frank house, I have pasted in favorite cards and pictures of old tiles. I love the stimulating art. I am alone in Holland but do not feel lonely. In Germany I meet up with my Laguna Friend Helga and we stay at her sister’s house. It is in the countryside. We cook a meal and then we walk. Her friends come over for our meal and it seems very elaborate. All of this I have recorded and always love seeing again. We visit the town where Helga grew up, spending time with her childhood friend. On the last night in Germany, I see that I cooked the meal (rather Greek in design). 

Then off to Sweden for a friend’s wedding. What a varied selection of experiences! In Sweden I go to visit Susanna and Christer at the Baltic Sea, where they live and teach, and Susanna creates her art. It’s a quiet time and I am soon flying home. At the end of my journal I have pasted photos of my orange and magenta house on Arrow Highway. I write HOME! A welcoming place to be. 

So we can’t travel right now. We are not welcome in foreign countries because of the virus. But I have spent an hour or so traveling to beautiful places and visiting old friends, even if they don’t know it, I just will have to do this again with another book.

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