It seems ironic to hear Michael Godfrey, a British expat and author of two travel books, confess that he wasn’t totally all that keen on it the first time he left the UK. “It was 1964,” he begins, “and when I touched down in Nigeria, I was overwhelmed by the heat…the smell…” He wrinkles his nose in disapproval. During that first night in Africa, as he gingerly closed the door of his hotel room and was accosted with “hopping, grasshopper-like things,” he began to think the whole idea was a bit silly. “If there was a plane I could have got straight on, I probably would have done it!” he admits.
Fast-forward 49 years and Michael has travelled through every continent of the world and recently become a travel writer, publishing two books that offer the armchair traveller a glimpse into a fascinating retirement that has taken him and his wife off the beaten path to places as diverse as Peru, Oman, Antarctica, and India.
In an attempt to locate the travel bug in the son of a man who holidayed in the same place every year, Michael goes right back to the beginning, and a potentially upsetting experience that, unexpectedly, delighted him.
“I was evacuated with my mother was I was one year old,” explains Michael. Having been born into the Second World War, Michael “spent five years in Devonshire, moving from place to place. I just enjoyed all the people, all the places; I can remember it so well, even though I was so young.”
Upon reaching adulthood, Michael considering joining the merchant navy to sail the world, but the idea was shelved when the application process proved too complicated. A turn of events saw him training as a Chartered Surveyor and travel was obviously in his stars: he was posted abroad in 1964 and never looked back. He gained a companion in 1976 when a job in Malaysia introduced him to his wife, Kelantanese Lian, and when he retired in 2007, the couple settled down here.
Perhaps “settled” isn’t the right word. Once freed from the constraints of work,
Michael and Lian began an endless round of trips, ticking off some of the world’s most fascinating locations and putting themselves in positions that would make the average senior citizen feel a bit queasy. Their transport is of the public variety, accommodation is anything that passes as clean, and their itineraries include eye-poppingly impressive feats such as hunting narwhals above the Arctic Circle, meeting the Dalai Lama, and riding the trans-Siberian express from Moscow to Vladiovstock.
“We did the other style of travelling earlier in our married life,” explains Lian, “the tour buses and such, but now we’d rather do our own thing. We like to the talk to the locals, visit their homes, walk the streets, sit.”
Their tales are, as you would expect, peppered with close calls and tricky situations, from turning up (accidentally of course) at a brothel in Macau to almost losing their lives in a landslide as the tracked Giant Otters near Cusco. “We get a bit anxious,” admits Michael of the latter experience, “but we can laugh about it all afterwards.”
Whenever they returned from their travels Michael hit the computer, writing up all their adventures for the benefit of disbelieving friends. “Oh some of them think we are crazy!” laughs Michael. “I liked to think that if they didn’t want to go themselves, at least they could read about.”
These emails amassed over the years and when someone asked Michael why he didn’t publish his tales, he couldn’t think of a reason not to. He now has two travel books to his name – Catch the Travel Bug and No Cure for the Travel Bug – and each volume dedicates a chapter to a different trip.
And the Godfreys aren’t finished yet. The week after our interview, they were jetting off to China to travel the historical “Tea Horse” route that connects Southern China with Tibet. It is a trip that will no doubt be making an appearance in volume three of Michael’s travel series, as his writing enthusiasms seem as unshakeable as his travelling ones. “I’ll carry on as long as my knees hold out,” he laughs.
For more information on Michael and his books, visit www.facebook.com/ Michael S N Godfrey. To order a copy of the softback or e-book version of either No Cure for the Travel Bug or Catch the Travel Bug, email [email protected] traffordpublishing.com.sg.
Source: The Expat May 2013
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