A Change of Scene, A Change of Life
In July 2009, I was lounging on a Thai beach, genuine Roy-Bon aviators on my head, customary well-worn Havainas on my feet, and I had a decision to make.
The classic post-university gap year was almost at an end and I could soon tick off 'travelling' from life's checklist. As much as I loved riding the backpacker runaway train, was it now time to catch my flight back home, begin a career, and live my life to the status quo? My dinner-time conversation contributions would now be infinitely more interesting, and most importantly, I could now settle down safe in the knowledge that I'd "gotten off the beaten track" and "got travelling out of my system". I caught my flight home, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I've ever made, but not for the reasons that you might expect.
Sure, in the last three years I've earned a decent amount of money, indulged in the vibrant yuppie social scene that London has to offer, and have met some fascinating people along the way. But life has mostly involved spending 10 hours a day in an argon-lit office, transported there and back by a slow-moving cylindrical oven (also argon-lit), and surrounded by drones who avoid all human contact (but are seemingly happy to stare at the argon lights instead).
From childhood we are conditioned to value (almost above all else) property ownership and financial reward, and that a settled, stable life is the modus operandi to achieve these life-goals. Therefore, deciding to come home turned out to be the right decision, because it was the wrong one. If I hadn't left my amphetamine-laced, glow paint-stained island to join the hordes chasing a paper dream, I would never have realised that this wasn't even close to what I wanted for my life. In my modified opinion, property ownership equals inflexibility, settled means stagnant, and focusing on financial reward results in losing sight of what's really important.
Inevitably, the thought of going travelling again started to enter my consciousness. But would it simply be gap year take two? Possibly. Would I be back in the same confused position in a year's time? Perhaps. Would I be several rungs below my more career-focussed peers in the career ladder? Probably.
However, for me these are risks worth taking because, thankfully, life doesn't always hold true to the ideals of western society, and the diverse, invaluable attributes to be gained from travelling to new places, appreciating alternative perspectives and experiencing different cultures far out-weigh the perceived downsides. In addition, I have a renewed confidence that it is possible to live life as a traveller, an adventurer, a wanderer, while earning enough money to survive and possibly even supporting others, thus becoming your 'real-world'. The people I've met over the last few years are the main source of this confidence, but other sources include the books On the Road and Into the Wild, both true stories. Both of these have unhappy endings ultimately, but the main character in each discover what they're looking for from life, and alter their lives accordingly. Life becomes about the journey rather than the destination, because, as the saying goes; everybody dies but not everybody truly lives.
So, having saved as much money as living in London would allow, my bag is packed and my mind is infected with wanderlust once again. Instead of having a very prescribed route along a well-worn path like my first gap year, I'm travelling without a plan. Armed with a one-way flight to Brazil, a newly created couch-surfing profile, and a renewed confidence that life always works out in the end, it's time for me to hit the road again. My younger sister, Anna, has also contracted the travelling bug, and so she'll be joining me for the first two months, first stop Rio De Janeiro! The rest of the trip, and possibly life, will unfurl naturally from there. I am leaving in hope rather than expectation, but I have a feeling that the world won't disappoint; it never does when you open your mind to all the outlandish opportunities contained within it...