In most people’s lives something happens that influences them profoundly and sets them on a certain path…For me, this was the first time I went overseas when I was 16 to visit my grandmother, aunts and cousins in the land of leprechauns, Guinness and shamrocks – Ireland.
Eleven years later I still remember my sheer excitement of exploring a new and totally different country and culture and my unbelievable fear of having to navigate the labyrinth of Heathrow airport on my own. The month consisted of getting to know my wonderful family who until then I mainly knew through letters (still before emails were commonplace) and photos, visiting the wonderful sites of this country from Dublin in the east to the towering Cliffs of Moher in the west, the northern most tip of the country – Malin Head in Donegal where my grandmother grew up to the southern quaint fishing village of Kinsale where I lay on the grass stargazing with my cousin. I tried different food and drink (I wasn’t the greatest fan of Guinness much to my cousin’s disgust), listened to traditional Irish music and watched the accompanying dances and even had a night out on the town with my two older cousins, despite still being two years underage (but we won’t elaborate on that story…).
I think the moment I stepped off the plane back in Johannesburg, one of the first things I said to my parents was that I was taking a year off after finishing school the next year to travel before heading to university and figuring out my future. And so my path was set…
For my 18th birthday my parents bought me a bright red backpack which has been my trusted companion on all subsequent travels. I have carried it on my back through 19 countries to date (actually 20 if you include Vietnam where it accompanied one of my best friends on her three week adventure) and it is now totally full of badges collected along the way. There are amazing memories and stories in each and every one of those badges. So this blog, which is the story of my latest adventure, is aptly called…Tales of a girl and her bright red backpack.