I woke amid brilliant white light. No, it wasn’t a near death experience. I was in my villa in Ubud, Bali, where the curtains are pale and the morning sun streams in with tropical quickness.
This was taken at the very end of my last shift as a news producer at BBC World in London. I had just worked overnight, from 10:00pm to 7:30am – the sky was grey, the early morning was cold and fuzzy. But I was with good friends, celebrating the end of one thing and the start of another.
A few days later I stepped on board a plane to Croatia. Then it was Canada, the USA, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Guedeloupe, Bolivia, Peru, The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Australia and now Bali.
All in two years. 730 days of travel. 104 weeks on the road. And we’re still going.
How my life has changed
I wish I could go back and tell that guy in the suit what was ahead of him. That there was nothing to worry about. It would all work out fine. Because I was quaking in my patent leather shoes that day.
And now, I wonder what the next two years of travelling the world will bring. We are all journeying, no matter if we’re standing still, on a bus or hitchhiking.
So looking ahead, I’m arming myself with some things I’ve picked up along the trail, so that when I look back in another two years, I’ll marvel at how far I’ve come, not at how scared I was!
Proximity makes the heart grow fonder
They say to truly know someone, drop LSD with them. Travel is a less risky option, however, but if you’re in a romantic relationship a sojourn outside the comfort zone can be a make or break thing.
So naturally I wondered how my marriage to Mrs AP would stand the scrutiny of sharing overnight buses and cramped accommodation. The stresses of figuring out taxi fares when the basic currency is divisible by millions and you’ve drunk half a bottle of cheap vino. Would we drive each other mad?
No. Not yet anyway. For the first year or so after our wedding, I never saw Carmen save for the weekend. I worked a lot of overnight shifts at the BBC so when she came home at night I was heading out the door. Shifts in the daylight produced the same outcome, me coming home at 9pm just in time for the wind down to bed.
So when all of that went away, we were faced with a brave new world – actually spending time with each other. We know lots of horror stories of couples who can’t stand each other on the road, who refuse to travel together because it’s such trouble and strife.
But actually, it’s been brilliant. And I like having her around all the time. It doesn’t get smothery – we have our space and limits and often do things independently. But while it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’s better to have her there by my side.
Mayhem brings better memories
A concern I had at the start of all of this was would I get sick of it? Would I crave normality? How could I possibly take it all in?
I have a crazy good memory for certain things. I’m very visual, as you can probably tell through my writing style, and my dreams are often so vivid (and often controllable) that I have déjà vu on tap in my waking life.
But I can’t for the life of me remember much of what I did I four and a half years of living in London. That’s a bloody long time, and I recall good times with friends and places and events – but much of it is sunk down a quarry.
Contrast that to the last couple of years where I’ve been on the move and on the make. Each day flicks backward as though I’m dealing cards and I can see the suites, one by one, day after day.
I recently drew out a map of our USA adventures and took Carmen through our journey of the six months trip – and then beyond to now.
All of that chaos brought me more way points to form memories than four and half years of being in one place. And I have the pictures to prove it!
Doing beats thinking or talking
For a lot of years before Carmen and I took the travel plunge, we talked about. We planned it, fantasised about it, and talked about it some more.
Then one day a friend of ours said “When are you actually going to do it?” Good point. So we did it.
Now, instead of talking about things, I try as much as I can to just do it. I wanted to try Yoga, so I did the 30 Days of Yoga challenge on Youtube – here’s episode one – try it!
I finished my first book last year. Now I’m half way through writing a second one. We used to talk about getting more clients, now we’ve hired a business coach and are following a plan of action to get them.
Travel has made me realise that the only way to get from A to B is to go. Stop wishing, start doing, and all those other platitudes that are meaningless unless they acted upon. I look back on the way i used to live life and cringe – get off your arse! I want to shout to the past Dave. Although maybe I should shout at the present one…
Compared to two years ago, this life of mine now has no plan, no rules, no neat progression. I make it up as I go along – and without action, nothing gets done.
So I’d better hop to it!
Home is where the heart is
I was quite homesick in the beginning when we started travelling. Now I’m not. Because I know that I can return there any time that I like.
I think homesickness comes from uncertainty and fear.
We miss what we know when confronted with what we don’t.
If we push through the fear, homesickness goes away, and comes back in a new form – nostalgia.
Throughout our early travels I was nostalgic for Australia sometimes – the white beaches, the wide-open plains, the sunburnt country for me! Then I went home over the southern summer just gone and four months amongst it scratched that itch really well.
It was awesome to see my family, my friends, my parent’s legendary beagle named Banks – all of whom I’d missed. I still miss them – but I’m not nostalgic anymore, and I’m very rarely homesick.
I love my home as much as ever, but as long as I am me, and I’m doing the things I enjoy, that’s my home as well. There’s too much of the world to see, too many things to do, and not enough time.
The big thing I take away from travelling for two years is that I’m relieved.
I’m relieved I took the plunge. Relieved that I leapt into the void and pulled the rip chord and a big parachute popped and I glided down to a new land.
There is no normal. No true path. Just the one you follow. And from here, the path keeps going…