“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”– Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta is a well-known historical personality whose prominence was as a result of his extensive travels in the 14th Century. Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited many part of the medieval world, includingNorth Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, theMiddle East, India, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and China.
Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, entitled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling usually referred to simply as The Travels. This account of his journeys provides a picture of medieval civilization that is still widely consulted today.
While travelling today is not as complicated and time consuming as many years ago, there is still as much trepidation mixed with excitement. Those who love the thrill of travelling can recount their exuberance in having the opportunity to visit new places and experience different cultures and peoples.
If one has the means and opportunity, financial and otherwise, travelling is a highly recommended activity. And travelling could mean internal or external. One doesn’t have to go far to enjoy leaving home and one’s surrounding to experience a whole new world. Barbados is a small island and as such internal travel wouldn’t amount to going very far, but even going from Christ Church to St. Lucy or vice versa on an excursion can be exciting and an enjoyable, learning experience. For instance I made a trek from St. James to St. Lucy recently to explore the Lighthouse in that parish. It was an experience for my family and friends that went along.
The archipelago of islands that make up the Caribbean also opens up our neighbours as potential destinations for us to visit. Although, I suspect, it is hampered by unusually high airfares to countries in our region.
Many Barbadians over the years have opted to travel to traditional destinations like New York, Miami, Toronto, Boston and London. But I note lately more ‘exotic’ locations have become alluring. China and Dubai are among those places that are seemingly attractive to many. I believe that ease of travelling, transiting and special fares to these further destinations play a part in convincing travellers to venture out more.
I was invited by the TVET Council recently to speak to a group of young persons who were going to Abu Dhabi to participate in the World Skills Competition. My task was to introduce the culture and habits in a predominantly Muslim country. There was excitement among the contestants and chaperons about having the opportunity to participate in such an event in a ‘far off’ land.
My first question was where in the world is Abu Dhabi? Interestingly not many knew exactly where it was. Somewhere in the Middle East was the most common response which is correct but somewhere in the Middle East could land you in a place you may not want to be. But the thrill of going was evident.
I have been afforded the opportunity to travel to several places and there are experiences that are worth relating. Travelling certainly opens up your mind and allows for you to understand more clearly the world. And while it is easier to get around, dealing with delays, immigration and customs at different airports can be challenging. Some ports of entry are welcoming while others can be very difficult. Such are the thrills associated with travel, I guess.
In all my years of travel, I didn’t have the experience like I had last week while returning from Brazil via Panama. On our way from Sao Paolo, Brazil to Panama City, Panama to get my connection to Trinidad and then to Barbados, our flight was diverted to Colombia. An hour out from Panama, we were told that the airport was closed due to electrical failure.
How does an important airport and hub for Central America have an electrical outage, and there are no back-up generators? We landed in the city of Cali in Colombia and waited there until the Panama airport reopened. When we eventually reached Panama, it was chaos. Flights cancelled and changed. Lines of people trying to rebook. We stood in a line for almost 3 hours trying to get sorted.
Frustration set in for some and tempers rose. When I finally got to the clerk, I was told I couldn’t get a flight for the next three days. So Panama City would be my unintended place of stay for a few days. My luggage didn’t come so I began to understand the plight of those who suddenly lose their belongings and have only the clothes on their back.
Not to become frustrated, I took it all in stride and began to look at the positive aspects of this ordeal. I have never been to Panama and so here I was presented an opportunity to add the country to my list of places I am blessed to visit. I knew one person well in Panama but when I messaged him from the airport, he was in the US.
Nevertheless, he was kind enough to put me on to another who was extremely hospitable and kind. He and another whom my cousin contacted made sure my stay was productive. I visited the Panama Canal about which I had heard so much and from our history knew that many Barbadians toiled to help build.
My aunt, on my return, reminded me that my maternal great-grandfather was one of those who journeyed there in the early 20th century to build the Canal. The Panama Canal is an engineering feat and wonder. In the write up, it is described as “the result of a saga of human ingenuity and courage that goes back to the early 16th Century when the Spaniards arrived on the Isthmus. Since then, the idea of building a route that joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was conceived.”
I agree with Ibn Battuta who is right even after the passage of seven centuries. “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Today our stories are relayed via social media where we can share our experiences instantaneously on Facebook, Snap Chat and the other media so easily available and accessible.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page.” Saint Augustine