What is the lure of travel?

The trip to Tilbury Docks in London took six weeks – the holiday of a lifetime.

SHE BEGAN her great adventure aboard the magnificent liner (photo credit: POSTCARD/COURTESY DVORA WAYSMAN)
SHE BEGAN her great adventure aboard the magnificent liner
(photo credit: POSTCARD/COURTESY DVORA WAYSMAN)
Way back in my youth in prehistoric times (1951 to be truthful), there was a popular song:
“Faraway places with strange-sounding names...
Are calling, calling me....”
Travel has always held a fascination for the young, and post-Army trips to locations like the Far East are still popular with Israeli youth. The current terrible pandemic has assigned these dreams to the back burner for now, and in our locked-in state, many of us yearn to get away to distant shores, just to see new things and have new experiences before we settle down to life in Israel.
However, even in normal times, the cost of travel has always been an issue.
When I was 19, living in my birthplace, Australia, air travel was very rare, so if you wanted to go overseas, you would think about a ship, particularly one of the P&O company liners that made regular trips to and from Australia, docking at Port Melbourne.
I fantasized all the time about traveling, but my job in the advertising department of the popular Women’s Weekly magazine paid six Australian pounds a week (half of which I gave to my mother). This was when we followed the UK with pounds, shillings and pence, before we moved to dollars and decimalization. In today’s Israeli currency, I probably earned around NIS 24 a week, of which NIS 12 was mine to squander as I wished.
I confided in my father that I wanted to go to England, to help my dream of becoming a writer. After all, it was the land of Shakespeare, Dickens, Shelley and Keats – names he had also been educated to revere.
In a rare moment of generosity (for he also had very limited resources), he said: “If you save up half the fare, I’ll give you the other half.”
He imagined it would take me several years, but he underestimated my longing to travel. The next day I spent my lunch hour at the offices of Pacific & Orient liners and found out that if I was willing to be in a 10-berth cabin in the bowels of the liner RMS Strathaird taking a cargo of wool to England, it would cost me 20 pounds (about NIS 80).
From that moment, my savings frenzy began. Instead of taking the tram to work, which cost sixpence, I got up an hour earlier and walked the three miles to and from work. Instead of joining co-workers for a cafeteria lunch, I took a sandwich from home and a thermos of coffee. When I needed a haircut, I got my sister to do it. If I needed to buy anything, I went to Coles – a chain of stores whose motto was: “Nothing over two shillings and sixpence.”
In seven months I had saved my half of the fare, to my parents’ great dismay. But my father was always a man of his word and honored his promise to me.
I WILL never forget the day I left. I boarded the magnificent RMS Strathaird. I stood on deck holding a handful of paper streamers – my family on the pier was holding the other ends – this was the custom then. As the ship sounded the horn and slowly pulled away, the streamers tautened and finally broke – probably along with my parents’ hearts. But I was smiling. My great adventure was about to begin. My life as an adult, independent woman and my dream of travel to faraway places had begun.
The trip to Tilbury Docks in London took six weeks – the holiday of a lifetime. Wonderful meals. Ice cream on deck at 11 every morning (my favorite was pistachio!). At 5 p.m. a band performed on deck playing Gershwin and the golden oldies I still love. Deck tennis. Swimming in the pool. Fancy dress parties.... Today I imagine such a cruise would cost thousands of dollars.
We docked for a day at some exotic ports on the way – Colombo, Bombay (different names then!), Aden on the equator. We sailed through the Suez Canal and saw the awe-inspiring sight of the volcano Mount Etna in eruption, spewing fiery orange lava. We spent a few hours in Marseilles and Naples. Men in small boats offered us all kinds of treasures (I remember my one extravagance was buying a bottle of Chanel No. 5 from one of them, which – when I opened it months later in London, for a special occasion, smelled like Canal No. 5! But the cruise was everything I had dreamed of and, to this day, whenever I think of it, I smile.
My love of travel has never diminished, although at my age it is no longer easy, and of course the current pandemic makes it impossible. But I’ve seen much of the wonderful world we live in, and yes – faraway places with strange-sounding names are still calling, calling me.
The writer is the author of 14 books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah. [email protected]