The Colour of Travel

Maroc Tetouan M'diq 
What is it that draws us out of our comfort zones to venture far afield in search of – whatever?

Portugal Obidos 
While a sense of adventure and a desire for a frisson of danger from the unknown may first set some of us out on that course, others may plan travel only in order to lie back and relax in a comfortable environment well away from the stress of their work.

Rockingham Beach Perth WA 
But I have a theory that binds us all:

Portugal Lagos coastal walk 
I believe that, subconsciously, it is COLOUR we seek.

Portugal Castro Marim 
We usually plan our travel with little or no conscious regard for any of our five senses.

Caligraphy Shop - Assilah Morocco 
Subconsciously though, we yearn for a new swatch of colourful palettes and patterns that are mostly absent in our daily lives and that we know will be present when we take that journey.

Maroc Chefchaouen 
We will look for them, and they will be the font of most memories we retain.

Spain Bilbao Sopelana 
We absorb colour through our retinas.

Esperance Western Australia Southern Coast 
It pleases our aesthetic sense of order: light, contrast and warmth, shadow, clarity and balance.

Sicily Giarre Riposto Mt Etna 
Pleasurable harmony.

Albany Coastline Western Australia 
It is not to be found only in nature however.

Maroc - sheep grazing 
But also in architecture and design.

Scallop Shell Emblem Northern Spain 
Which we encounter while travelling.

Spain Bilbao museum 
The colours of such cleverly constructed and juxtaposed edifices will often morph with the passing of the day. Their colourful and contrasting images linger in our memory.

Spain Seville - la seta 
Ancient or modern, these incredible feats of design, engineering, masonry and such draw our eyes.

Italy Rome church art 
It has us doubly pondering the brilliance of artistic vision and monumental labour involved in their construction.

Buckingham Church UK 
Some people are drawn by the appeal of a change of climate, and this is understandable but relates not only to the change in ambient temperature but in improved ambient light; a light that emphasises contrasting colours.

Esperance Western Australia 
This, once again, is a visual appeal.

Portugal Evora 
It is a well-established fact that light can be spiritually uplifting.

Caceres Spain 
I would suggest the olfactory appeal of travel is not a major drawcard. When travelling, smells can be wildly diverse, from strongly offensive to seductive, but the memory doesn’t store them like it does colour.

Sri Lanka food market 
However, the visual appeal of the less offensive endures.

Maroc Tetouan - market butcher 
The sense of taste would come as a strong second in the travel appeal stakes as far as I am concerned. I do love my food and the best place to taste flavours from abroad will, in my mind, always be in their country of origin.

Barbeque Fish Portugalete 
But taste is harder to recall than colour.

Italy Naples - Mount Vesuvius Pizza 
The aural appeal of travel can linger and impact heavily on one’s memory too, from pleasant to downright annoying. Yet many of these aural impacts are accompanied by rich, colourful visuals:

The clip clop of donkeys’ hooves

Maroc Tetouan - rural folk 
A goatherd’s sing-song calls and whistles to his mountain flock with their clonking bells

Sicily Caltabellotta - shepherd 
The drumming of torrential rain

Spain Bilbao Festival 
The omnipresent din of motor vehicles in overcrowded towns

Sri Lanka Colombo traffic 
A festive and noisy village wedding ceremony

Pre-wedding Street Celebrations Tangier Maroc 
A bellowing beast being brought to its ritual festive sacrifice

Maroc Tanger - pre wedding celebration 
The early morning peal of bells from a cathedral too near to your bedroom

Portugal Caldas de Reinha 
The crack, boom, wiz and whistle of a celebratory fireworks display

Spain Bilbao Fireworks Festival 
And let us not forget the cheerful babbling of a stony brook

The gentle lapping of wavelets on a sun-dappled, palm-rimmed white sandy beach

The rhythmic yet sinister pounding of waves on a coral island’s outer reef

A village water seller’s bell announcing his presence

The baker’s chant as he does his morning deliveries

The town’s noisy rubbish collection in the middle of the night

A muezzin’s monotonal call to the first prayer of the day

Largely though, time and again my past (and future) travel speaks to me through its primary colours.

Portugal Elvas - fort

I’m a Traveller, not a Tourist . . . hmmmm, is that so


I recall a time when I humped a bag on my back during my travels, hitching rides where possible. When cheap accommodation was unobtainable I would lay my sleeping bag atop my plastic rain cape, use my backpack as a pillow and sleep at the side of the road or in a field, or wherever.

While I fancied myself as a ‘Rover’ or ‘Wanderer’ and a free spirit, some may have viewed me simply as a ‘Bum’, my mode of travel synonymous with being a ‘Vagrant’, ‘Tramp’, or ‘Pilgrim’. This was the early 60s and many of us on the road were being influenced by authors such as Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles. Though certainly not the first well-heeled author-travellers to write of their experiences in exotic countries (Wilfred Thesiger, Gertrude Bell and Jan Morris to name but a few), in those heady times they sufficed to inspire us with a sense of experimental, unfettered freedom and wonderment as we explored foreign lands.

In those days there was a wide gulf between the casual traveller and the well-heeled ‘Tourist’. The term ‘Backpacker’ was not yet in vogue and the ‘pack’ remained the realm of Mountaineers, Trampers and Campers. Wheeled suitcases didn’t exist and ‘Travellers’ were usually the author-adventurer type mentioned above.

The backpack was, however, the logical means to carry your belongings while walking. But fast forward a decade or so and the innocent low-budget long-distance traveller of the time had become seduced and usurped by a burgeoning Tourist Industry. ‘Backpacker Hotels’ began to proliferate along with designer travel accoutrements and a plethora of How To – What To – and Where To – literature.

My memory of the discomfort of wearing a backpack still lingers: in hot climates it was uncomfortable to wear and whatever you needed to access would mysteriously have lodged itself deep within its bowels. Having long forsaken any form of backpack I sometimes wrestle with which label should best describe the nature of my travelling – am I now ‘Tourist’ or ‘Traveller’, or something else? I can no longer be called a ‘Holidaymaker’ as, being retired, every day is a holiday. These days, with on the one hand an affluent and globally-mobile youth, while on the other cashed-up retired persons all utilising a melange of proffered travel means it is a fine line that differentiates any sort of ‘Vacationer’. Most of us, somewhere along the line, have been drawn into the commercial tourism web.


Interestingly, there are some folk who seem to have the means to enable them to travel continually, moving often. Could they, perhaps, be categorised as modern ‘Nomads’, grazing globally. And few of us who venture away from our homelands in search of some diversion and difference could deny an element of voyeurism in our travel, which brings to mind another anachronistic word, ‘Voyager’.

My personal etymological wrestle with travel nomenclature continues, though these days I harbour a preference for the simplistic term ‘Traveller’ as portrayed in Laurie Lee’s autobiographical ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ – if only in that I prefer to avoid tours and tour groups; can’t abide Cruise Ships or Resorts; incorporate a rubbery flexibility into daily decision-making while travelling; carry my own bags and can’t see the value in 5 Star hotels.

To add greater confusion to the issue, the word ‘Traveller’ is now disparaging polite-speak in the UK for Gypsies and other ‘Itinerants’ who would live like them. It is used to describe, contrarily, those who settle for as long as they can on someone’s land until ordered to move on – a form of ‘squatting’.

Recently, I saw what surely must be the final nail-in-the-coffin for any lexical differentiation between those two words, Tourist and Traveller. Advertisements are now appearing on the internet proudly heralding a ‘new’ type of tourism catering to the “REAL Traveller”, and they spend some time differentiating this from that pampered creature, the “TOURIST”.

The Tourism industry, creative and adaptive as ever, has set out to capture another niche market of innocent ‘Venturers’, this time appealing to those consumers with an adventurous (but not too adventurous) spirit, but who still seek a little guidance, organisation and the company of others of their ilk. Like the humble ‘Hitchhiker’ of old, we see the commercial usurpation of our inherent spirit of adventurous independence and, somewhat regretfully, I’m sure it will succeed.