I have never subscribed to the theory that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Granted, there have been occasions when I have been disappointed in my destination but they have been very few and far between, both in distance and time. There have, more frequently, been occasions when I have found some part of my destination failed to meet my expectations or anticipations. On the other hand, I have usually approached travel with an open mind, neither expecting anything spectacularly memorable nor being wary that all I would find would be dismal and drear. Perhaps, then, it is just as well that I have never managed to visit some of the places that I have always associated with magic and romance.
There are three places in the east that have names which have always thrilled me with the promise of I don't know what. Arabian nights, perhaps, even though they are not in Arabia? Baghdad was always well up on my list of places to see before I kick the bucket - until I saw it on the television news: now I'm not so sure. Likewise those two cities on the Silk Road, Tashkent and Samarkand. I have always thought they sound dreamy, mystical. Then I learned that Tashkent is one of the foulest industrial cities sprawling across that part of the world. I doubt Samarkand is any different.
The Shenandoah River has always exerted a magnetic pull since my schooldays when we sang the song in music lessons. Like Samarkand, Tashkent and Baghdad, there is something about the name. The words of the song help, of course. Then one year we spent a holiday in the Blue Mountains of Virginia. That magnetic pull exerted itself, naturally, and I saw the object of my dreams, the Shenandoah. For once I was not disappointed: it was everything I had always dreamed it to be.
Another place that didn't disappoint was Carson City. The name has always sounded to me as though the place should be the epitome of the wild west, even though I knew before we went there that there would be no dusty street lined by boardwalks and saloons with gun slingers crouched around every corner. But I still felt a sort of frontier town atmosphere even as I entered a distinctly 20th century casino with its slot machines.
There are still some places that I would love to visit and that I think - at least, I hope - would not disappoint me. The Norwegian fjords, for example. But I suspect that my long distance travelling days are past. There used to be something exciting about travelling by plane, but not now. I'm too old to enjoy long-haul travel crammed into those ridiculously cramped seats in economy and I can't afford anything better. Besides, the sheer tedium of going through all that rigmarole just to board a plane is enough to deter me. Then there are so many hoops one has to jump through if travelling to or through the USA that the mere thought is exhausting.
I have always liked the sea, but frankly I cannot stand the thought of cruising, locked into such a small place with all those other people whom I would probably detest and finding interesting stopovers crammed by the very people I am trying to avoid. I have thought of those merchant ships that carry a few passengers, but that sort of journey sounds boring.
No, future travel for me will be to places I can reach in a couple of days by car. It sounds terribly unadventurous but there are still so many places even here in England that are crying out to be explored: Northumberland and Shropshire for starters. And just across the Channel there is the vastness of France, plus Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and parts of Germany and Italy. What more could I ask for?