I've come to visit John to talk about his incredible adventures, and the first thing I spot in his living room is a bookcase packed full of travel guides. China, Peru, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jordan, Syria, Soviet Russian, Japan, Australia, New Zealand... John has travelled to them all. In fact over the course of our conversation, I lose count of all the places John mentions that he's visited.
John is full of tales of distant lands that most of us will never visit, and his Flickr account boasts some of the most breathtaking photos that look better than postcards. I ask John about how he picks his trips. "It's just a question of mood," he says "I just look online and see what flights there are. Then head off."
John moved to London from Scotland in 1970. You might think that he caught the travel bug from his parents, but actually, he tells me that his parents never went on a plane, and only left Scotland to come to England a handful of times.
(above, left to right, John in Syria, Norway and at the Grand Canyon)
John's true love of adventure began at university where, during one summer holiday, he hitchhiked through Turkey, Jordan and Syria all the way to Jerusalem!
John's breezy attitude to intrepid travel is enviable. You might think that his journey to Jerusalem was the trip of a lifetime, but for John, it was the first of many. Over the last 20 years since retirement, John has explored the world. "I suppose I can no longer claim that the world is flat..." John muses during our conversation.
Just last month, John returned from a trip to India. But this wasn't just any trip - cast all ideas of Exotic Marigold Hotels aside. At 72, John decided that he wanted to explore the northernmost part of India, and so he caught a flight to Delhi and travelled to Spiti, a region in the Himalayas bordering with Tibet. Upon arrival, John promptly got caught in a snowstorm and spent some days stuck in a small village as the one bus that ran there was cancelled.
"But then they were running out of food, and there was no electricity, and I'd read the book that I was reading, so I decided to walk to some different villages, and hitchhiked around for a bit and eventually caught up with the bus networks again," John tells me casually.
(Above, small photo - Mudh village, large landscape - Pin Valley in the snow downriver from Mudh. Right, Sunset near Dal Gate, Srinagar - Jammu & Kashmir)
"Oh and then I ended up going onto Jammu and Kashmir," John adds. The same Jammu and Kashmir that has for years been the centre of a deadly conflict? Yep. "I did look at the foreign office website and they said absolutely don't go there but I went. Maybe November isn't the right time to go there but it was nice."
I ask John whether there are any places he wouldn't travel to... "I don't know about North Korea, I'd probably never go there. I've been to South Korea of course." Of course! John is a regular at our Social Clubs, and if you happen to sit next to him pick a country and ask him about it. I'll bet you he's got a story! When's the book coming out, John?
(Left, John with Social Clubs Coordinator Emily at one of our Social Clubs.)
Posted by Johanna Brooks on Wednesday 9th January 2019
Johanna is the Development Coordinator at South London Cares. She heads up our fundraising programme, cheering on our donors, challenge fundraisers and all those that help to make our activities possible.