October 23, 2018

When the Travel Bug Bites Hard—the Mindful Life of a Wanderer.

In two months I will turn 40.

I’m back living with my father (again).

This is not where I thought I’d be by now.

Like many others, I was inspired to travel in my early 20s and was encouraged by those who had already taken the first leap.

So I worked in an office and a pub, saved up as much as I could, and said my goodbyes. I spent eight months in Australia, a month dashing around New Zealand, two weeks on a tiny island in Fiji, and the final two months in the Gulf of Thailand.

Wow. Mind successfully broadened and blown.

I remember sitting on my bungalow porch on a beautiful beach located on the island of Ko Pha-Ngan, navigated to with a Treasure Island-style hand drawn map, accessible only by boat. Yes, I felt like I was in The Beach, but it was real.

No computers, let alone an internet connection. The most advanced technology was a generator for some soft lighting, kitchen appliances, and a CD stereo. Just three small resorts with the simplest of accommodation and a bunch of kids having the time of their lives.

When my money had finally dried up, I didn’t want to go home. I had caught the bug.

Nevertheless, I made it back to the United Kingdom safely. My parents were relieved to see me in one piece, and most pleased that I had those experiences. And having all the creature comforts of home helped my readjustment to the real world.

The problem was, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life—other than what I’d just been doing.

Big decisions frightened me. They still do. So, having to decide on a career that I’d pursue for the long-term was terrifying!

Excluding weekend breaks, one or two-week vacations, and a month spent in Vietnam, it was nearly a decade before I’d go on a voyage of discovery like that again. A string of unfulfilling jobs, a failed relationship, and the hardest period of my life so far—before and after losing my mother—meant my travel shoes were hung up for longer than I’d have chosen.

You could say that life got in the way.

A pretty unusual set of circumstances meant that those shoes were put back on three years after the passing of my mum. After receiving some funds from an insurance payout when a burglar stole some family heirlooms, I quickly made plans to use it wisely—doing something I knew I wouldn’t regret.

The destination was India, a land that had lured me for quite some time:

Mesmerising colours!

The constant whirl of background sounds.

Indescribably vibrant scenes almost everywhere I went.

Some mysterious moments.

A proper adventure.

If I had to use one word: wonderful. 

Two words: life-changing.

Travelling solo obviously has its highs and lows. You can feel lonely at times, homesick, scared, depressed, exhausted. And you can get ill.

Especially in India. And I did get especially ill. So bad that I thought I was going to die, until, with help, I made it to the doctor and found the medication he prescribed. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of it, as the two rounds of antibiotics killed everything off, including my immune system. So I got sick again. It was enough to make me want to return home—with no regrets this time.

India had been a steep learning curve. I realised just how fragile we are, and the extreme bout of “Delhi belly” was not my only dicing with death while high in the Himalayas:

I saw with my own eyes what extreme poverty looked like in a “developing” country—the growing issue of plastic waste spoiling the natural beauty and damaging the landscapes. And I witnessed cruelty to animals that still haunts me today.

I had an increasing intrigue in a familiar, but misunderstood term: spirituality. I had already learned some yoga, and had been guided through my first meditations at a Buddhist retreat in Scotland prior to the trip, but during those four months, a whole new world was emerging in front of me.

That period of my journey marked what was the beginning of what I’d now describe as my ongoing process of awakening.

Since then, I’ve been hooked. Bouncing back and forth between the Americas and staying at my dad’s, working casual jobs for cash. I’m getting good at doing everything on the cheap.

During my most recent expeditions, I’ve spent more time on the west coast of the United States than home in the U.K.

I’ve had some wild journeys from California through Colombia, with a few stops on the way. At a mountain refuge in one of my favourite destinations, Mexico, I took the opportunity to abstain from alcohol—something I had wanted to do for some time but hadn’t found a place I deemed it realistically possible. It was there I began the detachment to my poison.

I helped out on a permaculture project in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Mingled with mystics in Guatemala. Laid low in Nicaragua. Most importantly, for me, I began and continued my work with truly awesome Taitas (more widely known as Shamans) in Colombia, a land that feels more like home every visit.

I absolutely love getting lost in it all.

And finding myself in the process: learning what makes other souls tick, what kind of places and cultures interest me, and observing and taking part in fascinating traditions. Gaining confidence in trying out things that seemed like fun, or that helped me to grow as a human being.

Travel has opened me up, allowing me to form a new path, and I now take much joy in exploring and cultivating my creative self:

A relatively new hobby in journaling, I’m back drawing again for the first time since school, using photography as an artistic way to make a visual record, letting my hair down to drum, dance, and sing—all taking centre stage in my latest reinvention.

I have so many new ideas from the multitude of new experiences, that the challenge is not so much working out what I could do, but which route to focus on. And I’m finding my worldwide tribe.

My old man and I are learning to accept these other ways of living and to help each other out. His house and garden are improving and I have a free place to call a base.

Sometimes he says things like, “You really need to think about your future more,” and “What will you do when you’re my age?”

My responses are usually, “I do, every day,” and “I don’t know, I’m nowhere near there, yet!”

Despite the difficulties, despite the occasional concerns of having no home to call my own as I approach middle age, and knowing that none of us know how long we’ve got in this precious life, or what the world will be like in times to come—I remain hopeful that this is the right path for me.

And besides, none of us get out alive anyway.

It really doesn’t worry me too much. When I weigh things up, I’d regret not doing it far more. I do believe I’m still young enough and hopefully have plenty of time to work the rest out.

The idea of how or where to have a home is still open to change. I’ve become far less materialistic, progressing toward a more minimalist way of being. So a house, filled with stuff, is not at the top of my priorities. I find most joy in the serendipity of a nomadic lifestyle.

To me it’s become all about love and fear.

Should we fear the future and lean to the sensible approach, or should we have more faith and do what we love in the present?

Or…should we try to find the faith to do what we love in the present, whilst laying foundations for the future?

In more general terms, is doing what we love dangerous? Or, is it more dangerous to our souls’ growth not to?

So many questions.

And there’s really only one way to find out…

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