Sunburn on the Moon

Greek Beer

Greece. The Moon. Paradise.

There’s a man sitting on a Greek beach, drinking ice-cold beer.

He’s laughing at a joke we’ve just shared and time seems an alien concept to us both. But then he goes quiet, and I wonder what he’s about to say.

He tells me about two teachers from his old school who were married to each other and went to Greece every year in the summer holidays. He can’t believe he’s here himself, or that this is actually his fourth visit to the Greek Islands. It might seem like standard stuff to most people, but not to this man.

“Those teachers might as well have gone to the moon,” he shrugs. “Kids like me never went anywhere like Greece.”

This man used to be a boy, living on a concrete estate in the city of Glasgow.

But now he’s smiling as the warm sun turns his fair hair blond and his pale skin pink as he sits on the moon.

Growing up, the boy’s life was all about where he lived, and the people he would know were the ones he knew already. That’s just how it was. Yet somehow, at sixteen, he found himself in Cairo with his grandfather on the trip of a lifetime.

Egypt existed in the books he loved, but the boy was never in the pictures he painted in his mind. All he had ever really seen before was the part of Scotland he called his home.

Egypt was another world entirely to the boy and his grandad, and they were almost afraid of it. So when they checked in to their Cairo hotel room, they watched a film on the TV; they didn’t know what else to do. The boy knew the pyramids were out there, but he thought even then that they might be too far away. If Greece was the moon, Egypt was a different galaxy.

Pyramids

Egypt. Another galaxy. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Ultimately, the boy did see the wonders of Ancient Egypt and he saw that life could be more than the city he was from. It was proof that a trip can change everything and confirmation that the experiences we share with those we love keep them alive long after they’ve gone from this world.

The man takes another sip of beer and his smile shines. He tells me that travel makes possible all the things you’d never even considered. For a long time he’d never considered anything but accepting that life just happened. I nod back to him, squinting into the Greek sun. His eyes are glassy, but I don’t say anything – I just listen. Now the man lives a life bigger than the city he still loves.

Mr Holiday Addict on his travels

The man – Mr Holiday Addict – photographing the big, beautiful world.

These days, this man I married teaches children just like the boy he used to be. He tells them stories of the places he’s seen –  Venice, Paris, Rome and New York. He also talks to them about his beloved Glasgow. Sometimes he thinks he might as well be talking about the moon.

But he knows that one day, some of these eager faces will rebel against the maps of their own futures that can all too often seem predetermined by the present .

Who knows?

Maybe one of them will even build a rocket.

12 Comments

  • What a beautiful, and beautifully written snapshot of life. Isn’t it incredible how one thing can change our world. I grew up in Philadelphia. Most of the people I went to high school with are still there. At 16 my aunt took me to Mexico to visit friends. It changed my definition of the world forever. Now I show my own kids just how large the earth is and how there is more to life than our neighborhood and city. They have no idea how lucky they are… yet.

    • Clare says:

      One day they’ll know how they lucky they are! It’s so incredible how travel can change your view. In my husband’s class they have one of those world maps where you can scratch off the countries you’ve visited – the kids (they’re 9 and 10) love it when he scratches off a new place. They are becoming fascinated by what’s out there now, which is lovely.

  • Aggy says:

    Beautifully written Clare! I totally agree with “travel makes possible all the things you’d never even considered” – it’s so true! I love this little travel reading of yours.

    • Clare says:

      Thanks Aggy! I’m so glad you liked it. It’s funny – I don’t think he realised how much I’d be affected by this little conversation we had on the beach over our beer.

  • Lucy says:

    Such a lovely post – it’s amazing how travel can change your whole view of the world. Once you start getting out there, those places that seemed like a different world become familiar and your boundaries keep growing and growing until going anywhere seems possible.

    • Clare says:

      Anywhere is possible – I like that! I wonder how what we consider to be our favourite and most significant travel experience now will compare with what it might be in 20 years? Or will it be the same?

  • Clare, this is beautiful! The power of travel is amazing. I was lucky to do a lot of traveling (at least in North America) when I was growing up, but didn’t get to Europe until I was an adult. I know that feeling when you finally get to a place of your dreams. I still get that feeling whenever I go somewhere new (or even revisit those special places).

    • Clare says:

      Thanks so much Cathy. The feeling of somewhere new is something I’ll always cherish. It makes me feel lucky every time. And going back can be so wonderful too. My husband and I have visited Venice twice and I didn’t realise that the feeling of returning would somehow be even more special than our first arrival there. Travel can transform our personal world in the best possible way!

  • Monica Suma says:

    Such a lovely written story! It’s always empowering to go to places you never thought you would ever go! Where does he want to go next?

  • What a lovely story, Clare! As they say, travel is more than just the seeing of sights…

    • Clare says:

      Thanks Pola. Sometimes I don’t think you appreciate how much travel has enriched you until long after you return from trips – but I guess that’s the good thing about blogging! You get to relive and digest through writing and photos.

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