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.
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.
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 .
Maybe one of them will even build a rocket.