Mariska Ford ( 30 July 2015)


Bird on a wire
(Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana)


The Catamaran glided over the calm blue waters of the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. The sun was at the top of his journey when we arrived at the islet of Biservo. The olive groves and vineyards made fruitful dances in the ocean breeze and our guide closed his eyes as he took a deep breath of air. According to him, their Blue Cave is more beautiful than the Blue Grotto of Capri.


We boarded a small boat to investigate his judgement. The timing of the light was perfect when we entered the Blue Cave. The initial darkness made us apprehensive, but when the sneaky rays of sunlight reached us from the submerged opening in the rock, I gasped instinctively. The reflection of the filtered sun on the white sandy floor flooded the cave with a sublime shade of blue. The only thing the other tourists saw was my dark silhouette sitting in the boat, but internally I was luminous after witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime juncture.


I suffer from an acute case of fernweh! A German word meaning an ache for distant places, a constant craving to travel. One of the symptoms of this ‘illness’ is gaged in the flight of imagination I had in the above journey to Croatia. Smoke and mirrors, I must confess, but my random escapes from my armchair fill me with freedom.


My biggest dream in life is to be a travel author, one who visits exotic and remote places (on someone else’s expense) and then talking the readers with me on an emotional journey of discovery and transcendence. The reality, on the other hand, is that I am an emerging freelance writer with two small boys and a limited budget to travel. My husband tried to negotiate a six-month sabbatical at work. Our dream was to pack an Overland truck and travel our way up Africa to Egypt. We wanted to homeschool and do online consulting from the shores of Lake Malawi, but unfortunately, the volatile economy labeled this idea as career suicide.


At this stage, we are set on camping trips to nearby destinations in South Africa and a once-a-year holiday to the coast with the extended family. No need for a passport or visits to a travel clinic! Exotic and remote journeys feel so far away from my wander lusting radar, but lucky for me I have a means to escape!


I can hear the Great Wall of China calling me from space and I can feel the ticket in the palm of my hand as I am about to board a train at the Moscow Metro. My soul yearns to go with the Wild Horses of Camargue in France and to sunbathe in the secluded coves of Patmos in Greece. I can smell the damp leaves mixed with bark and cool crisp air as I revel in the annual show of autumn colours in New England. Clothed in my new down jacket, I’m searching for a polar bear in Churchill until my boys call me to do homework.


It was Victor Frankl who wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, that transcendence is a tool to rise above any situation with the help of your imagination. While he was a prisoner in the Bavarian forest, he used to escape into a watercolour painting of Dürer while witnessing the setting sun. Amid the omnipresence of suffering, he managed to see how beautiful the world could be.


Departure, exploration, and return, is well within my reach. I can do it as often as I like. Opportunities to travel are abundant. Books like Eat, Pray, Love, Under Tuscan Sun and Oh! The places you will go to Dr. Zeus will inspire you to transcend into worlds unknown. Movies like Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Endless Summer, and Out of Africa, can transform your armchair into the perfect travelling vehicle. Documentaries on distant countries or programs about international cuisine free my mind to dream of open-ended destinations.


A successful travel experience is not always measured by five stars, gourmet meals or prize-winning destinations. It is a connection of your senses to your heart and mind. Travel is not always about the physical journey, it is also about a flight of imagination or a movement of the mind.


I will never be cured of fernweh. I will forever strive to cross borders, climb mountains and conquer rivers. If it is physically or transcendental, I can honestly sing along with Mr. Leonard Cohen, ‘Like a bird on a wire… I have tried in my way to be free.’