Remona Aly
Wednesday 16 January 2019 BBC Radio 2

Misadventures in a Minibus

Misadventures in a minibus

Back in the nineties when I had a fringe quiff, my family decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime – around Europe, in a minibus, hired from a Kent old people’s home. Emblazoned on the back doors were the words, ‘Never too old for fun’.

It was the journey of a lifetime because – it was never to be repeated.  We answered the riddle of how many Indians can you get into a minibus. The answer is… 12. We all piled in: parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and a team of cousins – and off we set in the dead of night.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I fell out with my cousins in Rome and got the silent treatment between Italy and Germany. We itched from bed bugs in a Dutch guesthouse. And we spent hours circling around Siena in frantic search of my brother and cousin. ‘Meet us at the gate’, they said. Siena has seven gates!

We got lost, ran out of money, lived off watermelon and boiled eggs for two days, and nearly fell off a cliff edge in Switzerland when dad was dozing at the wheel. It was not the dream holiday.

But memories like these make the stories of our lives. We journeyed through a spectrum of cultures, landscapes and crazy experiences in a matter of weeks and I will never forget them.

The 14th century Moroccan Muslim explorer Ibn Batutta travelled for nearly 30 years across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Apparently, he covered three times the distance of Marco Polo. Ibn Batutta said, “Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

I can relate to this. When I gazed upon the majesty of the Swiss alps, I felt like I’d wandered into a piece of poetry. Whenever we lost our way, I saw the kindness of strangers who helped us like they were blood.

Every time I step out of my door it’s a new adventure. I don’t know what’s around the corner, or what story it will bring.

Like Ibn Battuta, I don’t want to lose the wonder of curiosity or the hunger for exploring. Little did I know that the embarrassing minibus motto would be one for life, that I too will ‘never be too old for a bit of fun.’