For the last two days I’ve been on my own for the first time in nearly two years. In the entirety of our travels Emma and I spent two days apart, both of which I spent with a close friend. Of course, there have been the odd hours of some days when we’ve been apart, but never full days beyond those two. That sounds pretty intense and sometimes it was (in both good and bad ways), but for the vast majority of that time we got along very well indeed and have come out the other side more solid than ever.
These two days have also been the only in which I’ve not been visiting with someone, catching up over pints or generally fulfilling some other lovely obligation. It sounds a bit silly to say, but it is actually thoroughly exhausting visiting people, eating their food and drinking their booze for six weeks. And so the first day was spent idly surfing the internet, reading a book and eating with only Dave the cat for company. Yesterday though, I found myself thinking a lot; looking back on our travels and looking at where we are now and what we’re doing.
My mum said something to us the day after we arrived at her house:
“It’s as if you never left!”
That was music to my ears, because there was always this worry that we’d be distanced from our family and friends through absence. But since we’ve been visiting up and down and across the country I’ve often found myself acting as if we never left. I’ve tended to focus on catching up with the people that I love and often barely mention our travels. Of course this is probably brilliant for the people we meet as I’d imagine incessant nattering about what a brilliant and meaningful time we’ve had is probably not that great to hear.
There’s definitely something a little deeper going on here too. Why am I finding myself so hesitant- reluctant even, at times- to talk about what we’ve been through? It’s as if I don’t believe it’s possible to relay what happened with a series of experiential stories. Yes, we have discussed some of those experiences, and even a few times in depth. But it doesn’t feel possible to express the cumulative effect of those experiences in a conversation without consigning our poor listeners to silence as we prattle on.
That said, I do feel duty bound to share as much of our experience as I can. Travelling without money has, essentially, rewired me! To a lot of people (myself included), I appear to be entirely the same chap who left, just a little darker-skinned and a touch older. Inwardly, though, a lot has shifted (beyond the missing tooth). Perhaps most obviously my views on money have radically transformed. As have my ideas about what I do and don’t need. And most difficult of all (for me) to talk about, I have had real-life, visceral, spiritual experiences that have lead me to question my belief system and begin to see the world I inhabit differently. In combination, these changes mean that for the first time in my life I have a fairly coherent idea of the life I want to live.
This, frankly, feels great, and is an important and immensely valuable facet of travel. As such, I want to share this personal journey, the changes it has provoked and the sense of self-knowledge and direction it has given me. Beyond how good that feels to me I think there is some genuine value in there for a larger audience. I believe it is a story that is worth telling. So I’m going to write a book.
This is something that I’ve tried to start a few times since we returned, but it just has not happened for me. I’ve had brilliant support from Emma, been gifted a netbook by my nearly-brother Paul, and even had the odd hour here and there to write. Yet, it hasn’t come. It’s as if something is missing, as if there’s a knot I just can’t quit untie yet. We’ve been asked by two or three friends now a question which addresses this issue well:
“I mean, I don’t know where to start or what to ask you! You must have been through so much.”
We have! And each time I’ve attempted to write something I’ve just jumped straight in, through some kind of memory puddle, and tried to write about whatever experience I first think about. This, of course, has not worked well, and I just end up with very little show and an uncomfortable feeling. The fault, of course, is with me. So what I’m doing here is making an open and public promise to myself to write this book methodically.
There, I said it! It may have been a very long-winded way to say it but I said it.
And now, to work.