When is the best time to travel?



Because none of us know what tomorrow will bring.

Heating up the hot air balloons near Mareeba, Atherton Tablelands. Slug-a-beds struggle, as passengers have to be up well before dawn – we take off before sunrise.  But it’s well worth it!

We all have to keep a bit aside in case we reach 95. And nobody wants to reach 80 & be scratching for cash. But on the other hand, most 95 year olds need very little spending money; they’re not going out on the town or buying a new car & hopefully the digs have been paid off. I’m not a fan of constant travelling – it’s like eating chocolate non-stop; too much of it and it’s no longer special. It’s a bit every now and then that makes is so enjoyable. Sadly I know so many people who worked long & hard then had a health hurdle just before what they’d saved up for and planned for years came to be.  Travel insurance gets harder to obtain and there’s too many health dramas that can prevent air travel or simply make travelling no longer enjoyable.

This is why I went to Mexico last year to see mariachis.

I thought, I’m going to a drone conference in the US, my second visit to America in 6 months, I cannot possibly justify the time & cost of having another week off. Ridiculous!

Then I thought – I’ve always wanted to see mariachis in person. Ever since knee-high to a grasshopper, old enough to see Westerns on the black & white TV.  If I don’t go to see them now, then when?

And was I sorry I did? Like everyone who has decided to do something special on a not-very-regular basis – no I was not sorry! Mexico was fantastic.

Warming the air in the hot air balloon just a bit more before we lift off. And a tip – if you’re tall or the head hair isn’t quite as good at protecting your head as it used to be, wear a cap. The burners emit a lot of heat and not all of it heads straight up!

This plea to not delay everything is not a spruik for my own tours. I’m talking about anything special, anything you’d really like to do that you’ve put off.  It doesn’t have to be big, fancy, costly, complicated or time consuming. A trip to a concert, the beach or a shady river, a great knees-up in a local restaurant, something special not far away that you’d like to revisit or haven’t even got around to seeing yet.  Buying a hammock and then actually using it. Or just lying in bed reading a good book on a Sunday morning!  Little breaks in the routine can be fantastic and when we are least likely to take them is when we most need them. I’m saying this because I meet so many people who have missed the boat they wanted to be on and it’s just so sad.  When we’re young we think we have all the time in the world – often we only realise we don’t when we hit an immovable hurdle. Please don’t put all the good stuff off until all the ducks are in a row.  There’s always sound reasons why something can’t be done. Sometimes you just have to make it happen, boss the ducks into a line, if you want to ensure it does happen before we no longer have the choice.

Hot air balloon floating above the Atherton Tablelands, at sunrise. My eldest son’s head (he’s now much taller than me) – and my mother’s hands. (Scanned film image.)

It’s the things we don’t do that we regret most.  And I can give you a personal example. My mother visited not long after dad died, and I took her and my sons to the Atherton Tablelands and we spent an hour in a hot air balloon at sunrise, floating above tropical agriculture. Mum was thrilled with it.  But it was hard for me not to think about how very sorry I was that I hadn’t hired a car big enough to bring all of us up to do it while dad was still alive. Because he’d have absolutely loved it too. Dad was one of those classic farm blokes born just before the depression, who worked non-stop and didn’t spend money on himself. If dad ever had a treat, it was because somebody gave it to him as a gift. And he only took time off when mum put her foot down.

Glorious sunrise over the Far North Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands, as seen from another hot air balloon. (Scanned film image.)  It’s the silence of travelling by balloon that surprised me. Because you are moving with the wind, there is no sensation of wind, or noise. It’s a beautiful way to travel.

So if you’ve always wanted to float around in a hot air balloon, don’t put it off! A tip – you have to be able to climb into the basket unaided or you’re not considered nimble enough to be taken safely. We had to give mum a sneaky boost, to get her in. She laughed so hard she nearly gave it away. If you have crook knees or hips, take someone useful enough to give you a bit of a punt from behind.

Climatic vagaries have made this a tough time for many rural residents. If this is you, plan something special over the coming days, weeks, months or this year – something little, something big, or both – some sort of break from the treadmill that you’ll really enjoy. You won’t regret it!

Mareeba hot air balloons, Atherton Tablelands. Even packing up can be fun, with the right outlook and in good company.

Mexico City – if you’re interested in coming to Mexico with me on a future tour – to see mariachis as well as interesting agriculture and a fascinating culture, let me know!

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