My name is Desiree Anstey, and I got hooked on travel at the age of six. It began when my family decided to leave the panoramic vistas and wildlife-rich habitat of South Africa, including the riots and car bombings (the dark reality they don’t show you in the brochures), and immigrate to the Isle of Man – in the dead of winter.
Where? You ask. The Isle of Man is a small Island that still firmly believes in fairies and other pagan practices – and can be pinned on the map – in the middle of the Irish Sea.
But my first impression of Ellan Vannin, the Manx, was negative. I was misled as a child into believing we were immigrating to the warm shores of Australia. Until, I stepped off the plane and into what resembled a slushy monsoon. Then it hit me.
And as we struggled to adjust to the climate, and to the unique culture, I began to crave travel. I read books about adventure and became transfixed with the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) travel documentaries. Michael Palin and Jill Dando were my heroes.
Eventually my family – father, mother, sister and I – decided to take action. We went on our first holiday to Northern Ireland – in the heat of the IRA conflicts. I will never forget touring the streets alongside crawling tanks and rifled stern-faced men, with the occasional gunfire.
This eventually came at the age of 14. I was sent to a Romanian orphanage. Here, I joined a group of missionaries and we helped families suffering from the effects of severe poverty. Romania was my first real eye-opening experience, and the sequence to my insatiable wanderlust.
To nurture this love affair – with travel – I began writing about my challenges, bureaucratic obstacles, and profound international insights. At first, this was just scribbled notes in a journal. Then after studying different writing techniques, I would eventually share my experiences of this extraordinary planet in an online blog…