Barbara and I travelled a lot during our 43 years together – in fact we travelled whenever an opportunity presented itself and especially so in the last 12 years of her life when we worked hard, side by side for 9 months of the year, saved our money and then went away for the remaining 3 months. Most times it was within Australia but sometimes overseas. And we did it because we both loved it. Loved the discovery, loved the adventure, loved being together.

From the start of 2007 when I was trying to come to grips with being alone, it just seemed to happen that I found myself on a plane to Turkey with a thought in the back of my mind that after the organised Turkish tour was finished I would like to buy a cheap old car, drive around Europe for a few months, sell the car and return home. It wasn’t a conscious decision; there were no plans, no commitments – simply an idea in the back of my mind.

Well, it happened.

I bought Phe (for Fiat). Then I bought a GPS (her name is Karen) and a compass (and he’s called just that – Compass). So there were now 4 of us – Karen and Compass, Phe and Me. Two blokes and two sheilas, so off we went.

I spent the next 5 months of 2007 just following Phe’s nose as she wandered around the minor roads of countries that I knew little or nothing about. Scandinavia, Iceland, Russia and central Europe. Through huge cities and tiny villages, through farming land and wilderness, over mountains and past lakes, on sealed roads and dirt tracks. And it was wonderful. So wonderful that I decided I would like to do it all over again next year, and the next year, and the years after that for as long as I was able. So, for each of the next five consecutive years the 4 of us – yes it’s still just the 4 of us – spent four or five months in each of those years exploring the northern hemisphere.

Then came the idea of writing a series of books – travelogues – covering each of those journeys. I started with the second journey, the 2008 one, that took us through all of those countries that had been behind the Iron Curtain not that many years ago. It’s called Book 2. Then the 2009 journey through France, Spain, Portugal and magical Morocco became Book 3, and surprise, surprise there is a Book 4 that covers the four months through Italy, Tunisia, Albania, and into the Middle East of Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. I hope to get Book 5 into print sometime this year. It will trace the experience of driving across Russia in 2011. I had picked up the other three in England, got a Russian visa while in Finland and then we drove the 14,000kms to Vladivostok on the Pacific. We then caught a ferry across the Sea of Japan for 5 weeks of beautiful Japanese autumn. A big trip.

And you know, the effort of putting all my experiences down on paper, retelling the myriad of stories, putting captions to so many photos and welding it all together, all this has given this old codger a purpose in life once again. It is as though I have been granted a second life to live.

And I am grateful.

Graeme Robin

March 2015