What a difference a couple of decades makes!
A long time ago I remember interviewing one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Although I’ve been fortunate to meet quite a few famous names and celebrities this man’s name probably means nothing to you, but I guarantee you know his business. His name is Jimmy Wales, and I interviewed him in Dubrovnik a good 15 years ago.
Yes, I told you that wouldn’t recognise his name! He is the creator of Wikipedia.
To say that it was a pleasure to sit and sip cappuccino with him would be an understatement. “The key to success,” and when he starts a sentence like that you just know that you have to listen carefully, “are two E’s – education and experience.”
He continued “One without the other will mean that you’ll always be falling short, there are of course exceptions, but there will always be exceptions, but if you have both you’re in a good position to succeed.” Of course, by education he didn’t exclusively mean a school or university education.
“For example, a footballers education is training,” he added. “The more and harder they train they better they’ll become,” he smiled. I have always, and will always remember those two E’s.
Now as I’ve already written we’re driving from Dubrovnik to England for Christmas.
The last time I embarked on this very same journey was almost 24 years ago when I first came. Whilst the journey may be the same the planning is vastly different.
In your younger years you have this more carefree view on life, this invincibility that makes you believe that everything will turn out right. There is a fine line between this way of thinking and just sheer inexperience. All those years ago we basically just jumped into a battered old rusty car that looked like it wouldn’t make it to the end of the street let alone manage over 2,500 kilometres.
“Don’t forget that we were travelling that time without mobile phones, without GPS and I am not sure that we even had a map,” laughed my wife as we reminisced. She was right we didn’t even have a map, we just followed road signs and headed south.
This was a time before TripAdvisor, Goggle Maps or booking.com.
We had crammed all our belongings into this old banger and set off, we just about had enough money for petrol, we were basically human snails carrying our home on our backs.
“All we had booked was a night in a hotel in Salzburg, the rest of the time we slept in campsites and sometimes in the car,” she was now in fits of laughter. “Without any health insurance, any clue of where we were going, and finding places to sleep by asking passers-by in French and German villages, we probably drove in a zag-zag like the Srđ path around Europe. And look at us now!” she looked at me as we both chuckled.
Are we getting old, or are we just, as Mr. Wales would say, experienced. This time we have all stops and hotels booked, GPS navigation, travel taxes across Slovenia and Switzerland paid for, Channel tunnel tickets, PCR tests booked (yes, times have changed) and for the first time in our lives health and travel insurance.
Either we are preparing for a SAGA holiday or we are as prepared as an explorer going to the North Pole. For God’s sake we’ve even organised house sitters, or couch surfers, or in reality “cat sitters” to look after our home and cats when we are away. The same journey but that’s about the end of the similarities.
And did we enjoy our young and foolish adventure, you’re damn right we did. And we will enjoy our more organised and sedate Christmas trip, you’re damn right we will.
Because although the calendar states, and the number of birthday cakes make clear, we’re both over two decades older, we’re really the same youthful age in our heads. We may have grown older and wilder at the same time. Ok, wilder, but a more prepared wilder. All those years ago we found our way to Dubrovnik and realised that life is a journey.