When I was 21, I lived in a small town in the UK that thought a great deal of itself. I grew up there, and most of my friends did not travel, other than occasionally to Weston-Super-Mare for a paddle and a dabble on the slot machines in the summer. One day, I went into a travel agent (yes, this was a while ago…) and booked a flight, a hotel and a hire car in Cyprus. I can’t remember why I suddenly decided to go abroad on my own, why I decided on Cyprus or why the hire car was a factor right from the beginning. Maybe the last two were connected, as Cyprus is one of the few European countries where they drive on the left. Yet all three choices turned out well.
I stayed in a very decent hotel in Paphos, which was much less built up then. Although by no means a confident 21 year old, or usually a pathological liar, for some reason I pretended I was writing a travel piece “for Oxford University”. I did not go to Oxford. I spent a lot of time talking to both locals and fellow guests. I also saw most of the Greek part of the island, on my own, in my hire car and drove about at speed, frequently screaming aloud at some amazing sight. I did take photographs, but this was before the age of digital cameras. Maybe one day I’ll sort through the boxes of prints in the attic and find my original Cyprus prints.
I have never been back to Cyprus or particularly wanted to, other than spending one afternoon recently in Limassol as part of a longer sea voyage. However, this journey set the tone for all my trips since, apart from the pathological lying. Despite being an odd mix of different travel ‘genres’ it worked out really well. I booked it all myself, travelled about independently and got excellent value for money. It was sort of what everyone else does and sort of not. It wasn’t cool. I loved it. I wanted more.