Well for some it might be an epiphanous event that happens one day, for me it was much less a bolt of lightning in a thunderstorm, more a drip drip drip on a drizzly month in March . After considering this deeply for the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that it has actually been kicking around in my subconscious for much longer than I actually realised.
I guess the first trigger was a trip John and I took back in 2000 to Israel – the year of the millennium bug end of the world scenarios. In a year of relative calm in this much troubled spot on the globe we had the fortune of having a friend who was living in Tel Aviv and invited us over to visit. We ummed and we ahhed – hitherto our travels had been confined to a package holiday and the safety and security of Uncle Thomas Cook or Aunty Air tours – but finally made the decision to go.
In the space of three weeks, as a new Millennium dawned we had experienced the joys of semi-independent travel for the first time (having the crutch of our much traveled friend at the end of a phone line in the same country made the risk/reward ratio so much easier to deal with) and planted into our memory some significant ticks on the things to do before you die. Highlights from memory include:-
- Understanding for the first time what Jerusalem is all about, its complexity, its tension and most of all its fragility, and that it in no way reflects your impressions from watching news or reading about it in print for the last 20 years
- Travelling on Egged buses with Israeli soldiers who look about 12, but whom you are obliged to respect because they all have M16′s tucked under their seats
- The desert rest stop on the Jerusalem/Eilat bus journey where for the first time in my life I saw what a truly magical sight a sky full of stars can be without the interference of man-made light
- Welcoming in the new Millennium on a Kibbutz, overlooking the Kinneret
- Floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on land on this globe we call home
The Homemaking Years
That was that and we came back having had a little taste of something very different, slightly frightening but at the same time invigorating. The next few years were a mix of domestic bliss, career building and financial planning, with a relocation from London back up north, and a decision to build a holiday home in France which meant that long distance travelling was put on hold for a while exploring France and Spain around our newly acquired European real estate.
In the latter half of the decade we went and did India Lite. A safe, less challenging introduction in the form of Goa and came back with a deep desire of wanting to see more – whenever we could find the time…
Then in 2009 we did a three-week flashpacking splurge around Asia taking in taster sessions of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bali and Thailand. Here we met people who gave up work and went traveling; and the idea of doing it for more than two or three weeks a year began to rekindle those thoughts of further more satisfying travel. I also started to write a blog for the first time on this trip which added a whole new dimension to our travels. It starts to make you look harder, appreciate more, and delve that little deeper into the soul and listen to the heartbeat of the strange unfamiliar place in which you find yourself.
And so you find that a little devil (lets call him “Possibility“) has entered your head and then begins to make you question what you are doing, why you work so hard, worry about your investments and pensions and slowly but surely this little bugger starts to get you to look at many of those life’s ‘givens’ differently.
He makes you ask yourself why you are buying things that you don’t really need , why you are saving for products that you may feel are essential in the future, why you are working out how much you will have in pensions in twenty years time when you reach your retirement date. Only to allow you to afford the best Saga holidays, cruises, Zimmer frames, or the highest specification mobility scooter when you reach whatever retirement age the government has decided is fiscally prudent at that time.
Then ‘Possibility’ plants the next seed in your mind. What if you don’t get there intact to enjoy it? What if you do but your mental faculties mean you can’t remember how much you’ve got in the bank; or your dodgy knee/hip/heart means you can’t get up the airline steps onto the plane anymore? So then you start seriously thinking about the possibilities of actually doing it and lo and behold what do you find on the internet. That Possibility has been a very busy Devil indeed, and he has convinced many to actually do it; and no they are not all hippies/twenty somethings/gap year ganja dudes who have never held a proper job in their lives. You also find (ex/current) professionals, singles, couples, 30/40 year olds – some of whom tag their kids along too and then return refreshed and re-invigorated back to the lives they left months/years before.
Some go back to what they did, others find new work paths to tread and some decide just to keep on traveling and see what happens next. So you read all of these and get inspired then another Devil makes an appearance and nudges “Possibility” out of the limelight for a while (lets call her “Reality“). She then devises a whole list of questions and challenges for you to deal with
- You are going to ruin all those years of careful financial planning What about leaving your family, friends, your’e just being selfish
- Your’e giving up a nice car, a well paid job and a lovely home
- What about that new BMW you promised yourself when you were 45
- Who do you think you are having these crazy ideas at your age – you’re not 25 anymore
- What if you get ill while you’re in some godforsaken place
- What if you get mugged and lose your passport and all your money
- You’ll never get a job when you get back you know – not at your age
- Three weeks a year flash-packing is enough for anyone, stop being greedy
- Stop trying to run away from reality just because it got a bit tricky for a while
So you retire to bed with all Reality’s advice swimming around your head and you come to the conclusion that she is in fact right and what the hell were you thinking of. So you satisfy yourself that for a brief moment you had a dream, but it was fanciful and thank god Reality was there just in time to stop you doing something truly silly. You get back on the treadmill of work, eat, sleep, shop and you have the satisfaction that you at least thought about it for a while, well that’s brave enough isn’t it?
Then a few days later who should come knocking at your conscience but your old friend Possibility, and this time he’s angry and has brought with him his friend ‘Regret’ and these two little diablo’s do a double act on you. He hands the floor to Regret and he starts with a few questions and challenges of his own.
- Imagine all the amazing things you could see in a year in all those fantastic places
- You will never have the time to see all of those before you get really old; even with your generous leave allowance from work
- Imagine having the freedom, and time to get underneath the facade of the tourist trail in those places and see real life and real people, warts and all
- If you don’t do it now and you get ill in later life imagine how you will feel then that you missed your chance
- Imagine meeting fellow traveller’s who have the same outlook as you and finding out about their experiences, background and stories; both the ones that will become friends and those that you can’t wait to shake off
- Imagine having the time to think, to write, to feel life, not just go through the motions – who knows you may find something out about yourself you didn’t know
Then he goes in with the sucker punch and rattles off a few of those philosophical clever quotes by clever people, because he knows I am a mug for them, he starts with a sustained assault on the reality of travel, but knows that this will excite me
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off-balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
Then goes in low with with his signature assault, tapping into the ‘what if you don’t’ dilemma
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Then when I am down floundering on the ropes and he knows he has me, he goes in for the fatal blow
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” Mark Jenkins
It may seem a bit cheesy including these in this blog, but I think they succinctly encapsulate the reasons to do this crazy thing in which I have taken nearly 2000 words to stumble over my own agonising mental acrobatics towards the decision.
So the first part of the journey is already over, before even leaving the safety and security of my home comforts. My mind is already traveling even if my body is not yet on the road. We therefore end a number of weeks, months and years of procrastination, and by now you know who won. It is no longer a matter of if, just a decision of when. Reality really didn’t stand a chance against Possibility and Regret did she?
Postscript – I have listed a few of my favourites blogs at the end of this entry that over the last few weeks have helped to cement my decision to get up off my workaholic backside and actually get on with this, I have dipped in and out of many more, but these I have completed their whole journeys’ with them.
They have all inspired me in different ways that they will never know; showing the highs, the lows and the sheer excitement and opportunity that travel allows you to experience.
- http://www.yearinthelife.org/ – Steve was the first blog that I read and allowed me to begin to think seriously that we could do this
- http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/LivingTheDream/ - Ben is still going strong two years since setting off and has had his fair share of ups and downs
- http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/byrnedm/thehoneymoon/tpod.html – This is one of my favourites, the blogger is witty, informative and gives a real insight into the realities and frustrations of long-term travel
- http://reasontowander.com/2006/11/no-2/ – Sloan and Amy’s trip blog is low on practical tips of travel but soooo makes up for it by capturing the pay offs and highs of what travel does for the soul. He’s a great photographer too and has a writing skill to envy.