England - Round The World Tour 3 2004 T-1


Monday 13th September

Well, although it’s day T-1, it suddenly feels like the trip has finally begun at last. This evening, Jacqueline drove us to our guest-house here, just a couple of miles from London’s Heathrow airport. Soon after she left, it happened. I think the exact moment was when we opened the door to our small room and we stepped in, full of anticipation about what the room will look like and whether it will suffice for our needs. It’s a moment that we’ve experienced countless times before during our previous travels. We both took about a second to take it all in, turned to each other, smiled and embraced each other in a long hug. The room is small, oddly shaped with all the familiarities of a traveller’s typical budget digs. There is a very small, neigh extremely small, on-suite bathroom, which is barely big enough to contain the small toilet and narrow shower. The twin bed sits against two of the walls occupying just over half the total floor space and there is a washbasin beneath the curtained window. No two pieces of furniture match nothing appears to be very new. Everything about the room screams cheap and cheerful but we love it. It’s ours, and although we will be here for no longer than a few hours, this will be our home until the next room we enter and survey in the blink of an eye. We’ve crossed the threshold into the world of the traveller. The journey has begun.

Almost instantly, we started the ritual turning out of the backpacks and within moments the room was strewn with all our worldly possessions. I don’t know why we do this, but it happens every time we step into a new place that we will temporarily call home. It’s difficult to describe but it’s not really the same as opening your bags onto the bed of your hotel room when you arrive at your destination on a two-week holiday. It isn’t exactly that this room will temporarily be our home even. It’s more like our home, that is to say the contents of our backpacks, has been temporarily unpacked into this new environment. What the room itself actually looks like is kind of irrelevant in a way. What’s important is that, for a time at least, we have that one thing that all travellers seem to crave most of all – our own, private space.

We’ve had to choose the contents of our backpacks extremely carefully. Every last item that we have with us has been carefully selected and there is nothing that isn’t crucially necessary to our trip. We are, by necessity, intimately familiar with every last little thing that we carry with us. Everything has its place in our packs. There is a definitive order to which things are taken out. It starts with unlocking all the combination padlocks. I usually go first for my laptop, charger, connectors, power cords and cables necessary to charge the camera & laptop batteries. I also get the camera out and start to take photos of the room. A ritual that we picked up from our previous trip is to take a photo of the toilet. I still cling to that distant goal of covering the walls of our future toilet with pictures of toilets we’ve encountered from around the world. Well, you’ve got to have a hobby don’t you? Although I’m sure there must be some kind of method to how Sandy unpacks, I’ve yet to identify it. I swear I have no idea what she does for the first 30 minutes or so but it invariably involves her slowly taking everything out of her backpacks and then slowly packing it all again, as if to reconfirm that everything is still there. I sometimes just sit there on the bed and watch in awe as she does this. I think its awe. It might be staggering incomprehension.

We haven’t actually checked in as such. I reserved the room on my credit card and we will no doubt settle up with the proprietors tomorrow morning. I’ve spoken to the owner several times now on the phone. She seems to go out of her way to make sure that everything will be just perfect for our brief stay here. Right down to talking us through the directions on how to get here, booking our taxi for tomorrow morning and even leaving her mobile phone number to call if there is a problem. I seriously doubt that we would have received this degree of attentiveness or attention to detail had we booked with a regular hotel (which would have been more expensive). At first, I thought it might be because this was a new guest-house and that the new landlords were still enthusiastic about keeping their guests happy. Having now seen the room, however, I’m convinced that cannot be the case. There is nothing new about this place at all. I’m looking forward to meeting her tomorrow morning over the complimentary breakfast. I’ve set the alarm for seven forty five. Something tells me, however, that we will be awake long before then.