When I was about 19, I started work on my “Great Big List of Places to Go”. I was sat in my bedroom at uni, talking to my housemate, desperately trying to avoid reading Gawain and the Green Knight, and it seemed a pretty good list to make at the time. And I convinced myself that gradually, I would be able to make my way down the list and visit all the places I wanted to see, and eventually I’d be the most brilliantly-travelled person in the world.
I am beginning to realise that this is not going to be the case.
There are two problems with my original plan; the list itself, and stupid reality. Because when I was sat in my slightly damp and utterly filthy bedroom in Birmingham in 2004 talking about how I really wanted to go to China because I was “fascinated by the history and culture” and other such knobbish things, I was not even a little bit aware of what life’s like after uni. When you have jobs. And bills. And rent, or maybe a mortgage. And you get one paycheque every month, and 27.5 days of annual leave every year.
And yes, you can fit some pretty good trips in around this – I’ve done safari in South Africa, and I’ve done dragging my boyfriend around Holocaust museums and memorials, and I’ve done romantic trip to Venice and I’m shortly going to do a Leonard Cohen gig in Finland – but still, chances for escape are pretty limited, and the funds with which to do the escaping aren’t really any more forthcoming.
And yet, that’s not really the problem. It is, as I started saying before I distracted myself, the list itself. Because the bloody thing just keeps growing in a way that is not at all proportionate to the number of places I visit. It’d be fine if I could operate a one-in-one-out system on it, because then I’d at least be able to trick myself into thinking that maybe one day I could get to the end of it. But that’s not how it works; I go one place, and it ends up inspiring about three more potential destinations. And I keep hearing from friends who have just been Very Exciting Places, and they end up going on my list as well.
At this rate I’m going to need to win six different lotteries and then take 15 years off work if I’m going to make it to even half the places I want to go.
So I think I’m going to need to introduce some really good List Administration if I’m not going to spend the rest of my life looking at the British Airways website and sobbing. I think the time has come for me to introduce The Numbers of Desire – or, if you want to be boring about it, to just actually prioritise where I want to go.
So Russia’s staying near the top, because I’m a disgusting history geek and my Farthing Wood Friend has a Russian A-Level and can hopefully at least read some of the signs. Paris is sticking about because it’s near and can be done in a weekend and I haven’t been since I was 8. Japan, because it’s Japan. Vietnam because everyone keeps telling me I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO GO THERE and I think I agree. And China, because at heart I’m still as pretentious as I was when I did my history A Level and decided I absolutely had to go and see the place where all this stuff happened.
So I’ve got the top five. For now. It’ll probably change tomorrow, or after lunch, or the next time someone mentions somewhere different to me. But for now, I’m just going to focus on the five, and ignore the rest of the list. Because otherwise, I might just cry.