Travel can teach us many things - about a destination, about other people and about ourselves.
THOMAS DE MALLET BURGESS
July 29 1981 and England is in the grip of royal wedding fervour. I am 17 and on my way to Livarot in Normandy to work on a farm with a family I had stayed with the year before on a school exchange programme.
I made my way to Paris via London, Le Havre and then on to Lisieux. The ferry was packed with republicans in joyful good humour — several hours dissipation of the English reserve as conversation flowed.
On arrival in Lisieux I had missed the last bus to Livarot and, having looked around the cathedral, decided to set off on foot hopeful of a lift. This never eventuated and it wasn't long before the seemingly endless road drained the good spirits and in the end dehydration took its toll.
I passed out on the verge. I awoke mid-air. A group of scouts had discovered me and were carrying me above their heads. Gulliver comes to mind.
I arrived at a farmhouse. The family was watching the wedding on television and the arrival of an Englishman in their remote area was nothing short of a miracle on that day. I was plied with cider. I threw up all over their lounge.
Once I reached my destination I was unable to work — too feeble to lift a hay bale. But I did read the complete edition of Herge's Adventures of Tintin to the youngest member of the family, freeing up mum to work on the farm. And she could lift a hay bale.
We talk a lot about resilience these days. Travel teaches it.
Thomas de Mallet Burgess is General Director of New Zealand Opera. The Barber of Seville plays in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from June 6 to August 7. nzopera.com