Ten years ago, I came up with a somewhat dubious plan. I had just lost my beloved mother so, perhaps, formulating any strategies about my long-term future wasn’t the best thing for me to be doing at the time. Anyway, the plan was to get rid of everything that I owned (and by that, I mean EVERYTHING!), don a backpack and, travel the world.

It’s been a really, really tough ten years. Tougher than I ever imagined life could be for me. But, on Thursday, 12th December, I donned a backpack (…………OK, OK, OK, it’s two backpacks, a large duffel bag and………a Sainsbury’s carrier bag) and left Hertford.

Hertford, the place which has been my temporary home and haven for the last year. Thanks to my amazing son and daughter, their equally amazing spouses and my absolutely awesome grandchildren, I have been able to sort my life out and make that “dubious” plan a reality.

So, on Sunday I leave the UK and head for my first stop, Calais. From there, I will visit as much of Continental Europe as possible, a few North African countries and, some of the Middle East. I’m going to be taking photos and writing stories about the things that I see and experience.

For now, I’m in Dover.

There’s not much that I can say about the place. I haven’t seen any of it because I just stayed in and around the hotel. Much of that was because of the bits and pieces that I still have to sort out. Bits and pieces like finding and booking a place to stay in Calais. You know, minor stuff like that. And some of it was because of the weather. OK, it’s not that bad. But, it is bad enough to keep me indoors.

And then there’s Dover itself. A drab and dreary place which seems to do nothing to inspire people to actually visit anywhere. It’s a bit of a weird place. On the one hand, it’s a busy port, a gateway to Continental Europe. On the other, it’s rundown and more than a little bedraggled. It has a rich history, Dover Castle dates back to the 11th Century and has, within its grounds, one of only three surviving Roman-era lighthouses in the world. One would think that the local authority would have found ways to encourage visitors to actually spend time, and money, in the town. But no, just come through and be on your way. That was the feeling that I got from the place. I didn’t even feel encouraged to go and see the castle.

I’m sitting by a window in the hotel lounge, the sky is blue and, to my left, the sun is lighting up the Castle. The Union Jack flutters in the breeze. To my right are housing estates and the motorway leading to and from the port. Surrounding the hotel is a generic shopping centre. All of the buildings which speak to the character of the town are, as near as damnit, derelict. It’s pretty sad really.

Then again, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m sad to be leaving.

Obviously, I’m happy to be embarking on this adventure but, there’s no denying, a part of me is sad.

I wish I knew why!

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