Who else felt uncomfortable watching the BBC drama series The Serpent? It told the remarkable story of how one of the world’s most wanted men: thief fraudster, master of disguise and serial killer, Charles Sobhraj was brought to justice. The Serpent was shot across South East Asia and is set in the 1970’s Hippie Trail. Very well done but uneasy viewing. I was a back packer back in the early 70’s. Trusting everyone and believing that no harm would ever befall me. I was invincible. I too hitchhiked, accepted invitations from strangers, partied and smoked marijuana. And it never occurred to me that I might be in any danger. I was having too much fun to even think about it. Yes, I do remember escaping through a few bedroom windows, and hurrying away from overzealous hand-wondering men.
I remember when I was living in Spain with a bunch of international fellow back packers I had to hide in the bushes when we got raided by the police. Two of our group, a Canadian and a Brit got arrested and spent 5 years in a Spanish jail. I shudder now when I think of my behaviour. But I was 18, naive, a sort of hippy and in love with the world which I thought was also in love with me.
Back then there were no mobile phones and letters took forever to reach home and who could afford to call home anyway. So, it would take weeks and months for reports of missing travellers to reach the authorities, mostly from their families who never got correspondence back from their letters. I truly wish that I had made a few more phone calls and written more frequently. As a mother I can imagine how worried my parents must have been – I am so sorry mum and dad.
Obviously I survived and thankfully my 3 adult sons who all did the pack backing thing survived. I did though make them promise that they would send a weekly text to let me know where they were, threatening that if I didn’t hear from them I would contact Interpol. I also made them all watch Midnight Express before they left.
How different is this world right now from the early 70’s. Now I can only travel in my head. I conjure up far off places that I will visit when we are free. I am thinking that perhaps travel might be limited to the UK so I am planning a trip around some of the 200 odd islands on our coasts. To keep me sane I am researching the best ones and working out routes and logistics. Sadly I doubt those wonderful hedonistic years that I so enjoyed will be available to the current generation. Maybe after The Serpent it’s a good idea. A return to travel as it once was is probably an unattainable fantasy.
I know this is a somewhat selfish perspective the bigger picture for many economies who are so dependent on tourism is catastrophic. Last year the industry suffered an estimated €3 trillion euros in losses on account of the pandemic. And tens of millions of people have lost their jobs.
Enough already Felstein you are in danger of getting stuck down a rabbit hole. My oh so wise Israeli cousin continually reminds me that I am becoming too much of a ‘glass half empty’ person and what good is that – quite right too. I just need her sitting on my shoulder reminding me to focus on the positive. And on that note I am happy to report that I finally came top in Bridge.
“Let’s be careful out there”