Travel genes

T2020Those who know me well, are familiar with my love and obsession of travel. As a child, I never really expected I’d have the opportunity to travel the world but I’ve been so fortunate.  I’m so very grateful to be able to see amazing places and learn a little about peoples’ lives in other countries.

Where did this travel gene come from? Firstly I think Aussies are often infected with this itchy-feet disease – perhaps it comes from all those hardy pioneers who travelled to the far side of the world. More recently, my mother had an interest in aircraft and travel from the war years, but again, never expected to be able to travel beyond our shores. My own interest was fostered by a neighbour who would send or bring me back treats from her overseas travels. And then there’s my great-grandfather Melvin. His ancestors, and hence mine, were merchant seamen for many years, sailing out of the port of Leith in Scotland. That urge to explore must have been carried down the DNA.  He has a double responsibility in my genes: the travel bug and the love/addiction to all things sweet from chocolate to cakes. After all, he was also a confectioner par excellence. Can I blame him for my ageing waist line?  I thought you couldn’t fatten thoroughbreds but it turns out I was wrong! But then again, I’m more mongrel than thoroughbred.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. Maya Angelou, American poet.

Ancestors and Travel

Aorangi maiden voyage The Sun 9 Feb 1925 p1
RIDES A GALE (1925, February 16). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 1 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved April 22, 2020, from

My great-grandfather, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, was an inveterate traveller. He took sea voyages like I catch the Qantas “bus” – well I do in normal times. If all the news reports are indicative, he thought nothing of jumping on a coastal steamer between north Queensland and Sydney. He also made journeys to Britain where he no doubt saw his brother, John, while also making contacts for his confectionery import business as well as purchasing supplies.

I wonder if the most exciting voyage he undertook was on the Aorangi’s maiden voyage in 1925 from Southampton to Los Angeles and San Francisco via the Panama Canal. From there the ship sailed to Honolulu, Suva and thence New Zealand before arriving in Sydney.

Did he think it was a grand adventure to be on this voyage, or when the storms hit did it raise memories of the much-lauded Titanic, only 13 years earlier? After sailing regularly between Leith and Scandinavia across the North Sea, I’d expect he may have been fairly pragmatic to rough seas.

While I’m not that partial to taking sea voyages on cruise liners, when I’m on stormy seas I do like to be in the open with my nose into the wind. I’ve only taken two cruises and suspect that may be “it” for me, especially after all the coronavirus dramas on board, but I am willing to tolerate those tedious long haul flights in economy for the privilege of travelling the world. In fact, one of my “losses” in lock down or social isolation in this pandemic, is the disinclination to dream of future travel plans.

Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection. Lawrence Durrell, British writer.

Did your ancestors like to travel and is this something that’s been passed down to you?

Header image : Aorangi,  State Library of South Australia

Photograph from the Arbon-Le Maistre Collection of ships, mostly from the 20th century. No known copyright restrictions



11 thoughts on “Travel genes

  1. You’ve hit a raw nerve here! Early on in the Covid-19 scare my husband was increasingly worried about our proposed trip to Sicily and Croatia in June. So I cancelled everything. It was heartbreaking as every single detail had been meticulously planned. We love to travel although Covid-19 coupled with my husband’s recent ill health might mean a change of mindset. My mother was able to see the world in her 60s after she married my Dutch stepfather. My father never left our shores because of financial considerations. My bio father travelled the world in World War 1, visiting North America after the war as well as the soldiers’ usual destinations of Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Belgium and Britain. Between 1840 and 1870 my ancestors were all great travellers but they only went one way. I didn’t get to England and Scotland until I was 47 although I had been to USA , Asia and New Zealand. It was like a homecoming, having grown up with so much English literature but I would never live there permanently even if they would have me. I tried it for a year and that was enough. Blue skies for me every time.


    1. A wise decision not to travel for a while even if it was imposed. More worrying when we age and aren’t well. Fingers cross the borders open eventually and you can make your trip without worry.


  2. I was with my grandmother in Manila in the Phillipines in a shuttle bus and there were some very boorish Americans talking loudly and insensitively. My grandmother said to me that travel might not broaden the mind but it broadens the conversation. For some people of course it does broaden the mind too but sometimes our fellow travellers can be a bit wearing. My grandmother did enjoy travelling and I would like to travel more too. It is definitely a privilege. Just dreaming for the moment.


    1. Sometimes travel brings out the worst in any nationality especially when in groups. I’ve been grateful that the few small group tours we’ve done have been very subdued. Travel dreaming is all that’s available at the moment. 😢


  3. My parents did quite a bit of traveling when they retired. I am more an armchair traveler.
    My husband is the one with itchy feet and finding it hard to stay home. When he was still working he’d call me on his way home after being gone a month or more, and ask where were going to go, what were going to do?? I’d tell him how about he get home first haha!
    We did a lot of ocean sailing, gone 5-10 days at a time… that’s about as long as I could take and I’d have to get home. He sailed our 40’ boat from Vancouver to Hawaii, took 26 days. I flew out and met him there *grin.
    Most of my ancestors sailed to Canada then stayed put,


    1. I’m grateful my other half also likes travelling though plainly you’re willing to let him travel as well. I’m so excited that today we’ve been told our home isolation has been moderated from the end of this week so we can go for drives within 50km. You’d think I’d been given a Business class airline ticket. Haha. Watch out for W…you may relate.


  4. A shame you are cooped up when you love to travel. I don’t suppose virtual tours would satisfy — but there are some very good ones online now that we’re quarantined. Like you, I wonder if some of my predilections may have been inherited — like a certain family research tenacity that reminds me of my dad, an electrical engineer, who was relentless in seeking answers to problems. We’ll probably never know…but nice to speculate.


  5. Love this post. I have a ‘mariner’ and ‘sea captain’ as ancestors. I always wondered if this was behind my fathers love of boats and fishing and hadn’t related it to my love of travel. I feel that my love of travel came from the postcards that my grandmother sent me from her travels around Australia and overseas.


    1. It’s interesting isn’t it, how seemingly small things can have an effect on our lives. I think Miss King’s postcards and gifts spurred my travel lust as did your grandmother’s. I’m doing my best with the grandchildren 😉


  6. I enjoyed your thoughts on traveling. I have been lucky in spending a year working in the USA and undertook the “99 days travel for 99$” that was on offer in 1966 – a marvelous e
    experience to look back on. I had to wait over 30 years before returning. Later city breaks in Europe and longer holidays in Bavaria and Austria were our joy. I did hope that retirement would bring the opportunity for more travel – but sadly it was not to be. Still I have my photographs and my memories to,remind me of those times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It must have been fun to have that year away when you were young and then that special deal…wow! One of the great things about living in Europe or the UK is how close you are to fascinating places to visit. Here everything is an expedition and more expensive. At the moment however, our geographical isolation has been a bonus.


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