by Carmen Allan-Petale
Following Dave’s recent blog on his late grandfather – the main influence in his life inspiring him to travel – I thought I’d write about what drives me to see the world. It was, and still is, my Mum and Dad. Between them they’ve seen much more of the world than I have (although I am slowly catching up!).
My parents were born and raised in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was called back then. They met in 1972 at a local swimming pool in Salisbury (now Harare) when my Mum was 15 and my Dad 18. He claims he knew in that moment she’d be his bride, even though they spent just two months getting to know each other before my Dad joined the merchant navy.
The ships he sailed around the globe allowed him to hop off at far-flung ports; the world was his oyster. Returning to Rhodesia two years later, the Bush War broke out and he was conscripted to spend the next couple of years fighting. When he got out of the army, my Dad hitchhiked around Europe for 12 months; exploring the continent in a way that’s pretty risky these days. When that was done he returned to Rhodesia and volunteered to fight for another two years.
For all this time my parents were separated, yet they wrote letters to each other and deepened their relationship. When my Mum was 21 and studying computer science at Cape Town University in South Africa she proposed to my Dad over the phone.
They were married in 1980 and a year later the Bush War ended so Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. They stayed in their newly renamed homeland for a while, but wanted to see more of the world so they bought a round the world ticket and left for London with $200 Zimbabwean dollars each and a couple of battered suitcases.
Arriving in London they quickly got jobs and continued travelling when they could; they went on a road trip through the US and saw more of Europe. Five years later, I came along and they realised they wanted to live in a place where I could run around outside barefoot in the sunshine – something that’s difficult to do in London.
It was now 1987 and once more, they were packing their life up into boxes. But where would they go this time? The situation in Zimbabwe was getting worse, so they decided to head to Australia. They’d never been down under and had no family or friends there at all. They chose to visit Perth first because the climate was pleasant and it was a small city.
Twenty-four years later and they’re still there.
When I was still very young I was fortunate enough to go back to Africa with them. My parents borrowed my uncle Ronnie’s ute and I squeezed in between them as we travelled around Zimbabwe for six weeks. As a nine year old it was the best adventure you could ask for.
When I was 15 they encouraged me to do a student exchange trip to Paris, so I hopped on a plane and enjoyed what is still is one of the best experiences of my life. I lived with a French family, went to a Parisian school and learnt to speak the language. That year taught me to get outside my comfort zone and see the world from a different culture’s perspective.
Later when I was at university in Australia I still had a case of the travel bug so I saved up all my copper pennies and backpacked around Europe for six weeks. But it still wasn’t enough. When I reluctantly returned I made the decision that once I graduated from studying I’d move to London. Australia, as much as I loved the country, was too far a starting point to see the rest of the world.
So I finished uni and worked as a cadet journalist for a year, putting money aside for the big move. In this time I developed my relationship with Dave and found in him someone who was just as passionate about travelling as I was. We’d been dating just three months when we packed our own lives into boxes and moved to London, just as my parents had done 25 years earlier.
Four years later and I still haven’t shaken the travel bug. I doubt I ever will. Sometimes I wonder whether the desire to live a nomadic life is in my genes – something passed down from my parents. Either way I’m grateful they’ve always encouraged me to see the world, because without that wanderlust I’d feel lost.