One foot in front of the other…

I have agonised for a while over how to start this collection of ramblings I one day hope to call a travel-blog. The longer I procrastinated, the more daunting it became until it was something far bigger than the sum of its parts – a quick hello, an introduction into who I am and a brief glimpse at ‘the plan’… or at least that’s what I thought when I first sat down to do this!

How wrong can a guy be? Almost as soon as I put metaphorical pen-to-paper it became obvious that at least one of those initial fears had been justified…

“How do you say something that has essentially been said a hundred thousand times before in a way that will make people sit up and listen?”

I came to the conclusion that the answer simply lies in ‘the truth’, but more importantly in My Truth. For within that, as in everyone’s, lays a unique story. What keep us engaged and invested in the stories that we read are the contrasts that each journey strike with our own. Felt through those places, points of view or emotions, which are at once strange or familiar, we can either challenge or affirm the way we have travelled so far.

So, before I explain my route, how I’m travelling or even how long I will be away (if one can ever do those things on the Eve of a long journey) I need to at least touch on the journey so far.

I am a Child of the Eighties, my upbringing was ThunderCats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Swallows and Amazons and EuroSite holidays to the South of France. An upwardly mobile family life, prospering from ever increasing house prices and an economy that knew no limits only nurtured my natural laissez faire outlook on life and work – if you couldn’t afford it straight away there was always finance etc. bla bla bla… well we all know what happened next. It would be disingenuous to blame my current situation on the recent Financial Crisis and on-going austerity measures – there are people far worse affected than myself.

To this point I have been a lacklustre Quantity Surveyor, a failed Marketing Manager and more recently a very stressed out and ultimately unpleasant Recruitment Consultant. Most of the time, when I look back on the 10 years since I left school, it is difficult not to draw comparisons with the washed up, hometown College Football player you see in every other Hollywood film.

For the last ten years, there has been a battle fought between the opposing areas of my psyche, which until this point, I didn’t think had seen a decisive victory for either. First up: the beer-swilling, rugby playing, brash, City-worker who talks his way into work and has had the confidence/arrogance to leave when unfulfilled (for this read too lazy to knuckle down). “On to the next thing; there will always be a next thing…” I guess that was the arrogance talking. This part of me covets the salary and lifestyle that comes with a high-flying corporate lifestyle.

There’s also the relatively intelligent guy who can feign understanding of the socio-economic intricacies of modern society, reads a wide variety of books, is empathetic to those in positions of vulnerability and is keen to get out there, try new things and meet new people. The corporate lifestyle seems hollow and empty, full of people with the moralistic compass of Ferdinand Marcos (Yes people we will learn while we have fun!).

Finally there is the over-analytical, self-loathing side which can’t let go of a single cross word, mistake, missed opportunity, failed enterprise and everything that has been half-arsed or simply never started. That’s before we get to the more seismic mistakes I have made since I ventured forth to University some 10 years ago.

Typical escapist tactics have been used liberally and with increasing vigour over the last few years, alcohol, drugs, TV and console games were involved in almost every waking moment.

While option number one might seem like a bit of a tool to most, this last fella is the real problem.

I emphasised the ‘real’ in the previous sentence because while the issues I was (am) worrying about have tangible consequences it is the anxiety itself that creates the lasting damage. To those at arms-length you are the picture of middle-class normality but the reality is far less appetising.

Mine is a story not dissimilar to many of my generation and those following. Society puts pressure on us to meet its expectations – leave school, go to Uni, get a good job, settle down, car, house, dog etc etc. Unfortunately I dropped the ball at phase two and have been sabotaging my chances at 2,3 and 4 ever since. If someone had learnt to harness the power of self-depreciation in any war, fought at any time throughout history, victory would have been swift and casualties minimal. No one could have mustered the energy to resist.

Getting bogged-down in that head-space for too long can have a very damaging effect on you and those you love. If you get to the point where anxiety about the future stops you living in the present, then your future is already sinking fast in the maelstrom of your inner thoughts – actions change things, anxiety and self-loathing only serve to feed the demon.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Mark Twain

An even starker yet infinitely more powerful reality are the people out there who, in the face of the most awful events, show great courage and truly admirable force-of-will to survive, prosper and create a positive out of the adversity. My issues are minute in comparison.

It felt important to provide some context as to the starting point of this venture for two reasons; Mental Health in today’s society is an increasing issue, secondary costs create a huge burden on Government funds within the UK. With the UK Government needing to find £20bn through austerity measures it’s not unthinkable that these will escalate further with the budget for primary mental health care being reduced. Mental health is an issue with a huge amount of stigma attached to it. Sufferers often fear they will be told they are weak and a lot of people who know no better assume it means padded cells and a strait-jacket.

Even more disappointing is the ‘en-vogue’ school of positivity which is summed up brilliantly by this piece by Dione Lew. Medium is something I have stumbled on recently and I think there might be something in it…

All I can say is your worries are your own, their effect on you is only proportional to yourself, not other peoples’ lives and how they deal with the speed-bumps in them. Each of us is our own barometer for happiness and success and only once we accept that, process our pain or fear and move on, do we have a chance of reaching either.

“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.

DH Lawrence

Which FINALLY brings me back to the heart of this blog; travel is subjective, some want a boozy gap year, others a few months off between changing jobs. For a few, a month without travelling is called saving, a year… unthinkable! A lot go to ‘find themselves’, I used to pour scorn on that phrase and now I will proudly fly the flag.

I’m moving forward, As The Trade Winds Blow. Not eagerly searching out big adventure or extra notches on my bed-post but terrified of the consequences of this decision, desperately hoping that somewhere along the road I will walk round the corner and bump into myself – scruffy and a little thinner he may be but smiling, enjoying the day and looking forward to the next one…

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