The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Fear...

With only 31 days to go until we will say our goodbyes to family and friends, the doubts about what we are doing increasingly force their way to the surface.

Maybe it's answering so many questions about the where, why and how? Maybe it's being tired from organising things late into the evenings after work? Maybe it's it is just feeling groggy from jab number 15 as it sinks into an already bruised left arm?

Deep down we both know that the trip is something we want to do. The sense of adventure, the shedding of comfortable routine and the justification to buy pen-knives, head torches and a tandem all combine to reassure us that it's the 'right decision'. However, since telling people about it the common response is, 'I'm so envious', or 'I would love to do that'. Perhaps logically this then begs the question, 'Why don't you?' And this in turn makes you answer it for them… There are lots of reasons why you don't do it.

There is the obvious stuff. You lose your job, you don't have a steady income, you leave all your friends and, as people often remind me, it's a massive test of Hol and my relationship. We could get robbed, ripped off and one or both of us could get badly ill at some stage and have to come home. Something could happen to Holly where I am powerless to help. That final one sends shivers down my spine more than the others. But what is to say this wouldn't happen back in London? On Lavender hill, 5 minutes from Hol's house, I walked past wilted flowers and a rain spattered picture of a smiling girl. She was stabbed and killed 14 days ago outside a Thai restaurant. Yet, all of these you can put from your mind as unlikely, unavoidable, part of the experience.

However, there is one thing that is pretty likely to happen and is the one thing that is hardest to deal with. Feeling like we aren't making the most of the trip.

We have been planning it for 3 years. Through dank London winters, on packed commuter trains and in lengthy meetings we've nurtured this ideal in the back of our minds. Yet at some point on Sunday 14th after tearful goodbyes we will find that it is just us, alone on the road. It will have begun. At first this will be an incredible feeling just to be underway, but at some point it will descend into routine. Whilst attempting (I fear in vain) to not sound like hideously pretentious travel snobs, we have always said we don't want this only to be making our way around the world and backpacking. We want to get something more from it than just covering ground from town to town, witnessing things and moving on. Just skimming the surface of where we go won't justify it. We desperately want to get under the skin of other cultures and learn lessons from the broader world we live in. But this is hard.

It will take time, patience and it's going to be exhausting. It will also be a total change from the last 3 years of a clearly goal orientated and results driven working life. Setting yourself a challenge that involves sitting in the freezing cold up a mountain with no food, water or sleep is relatively easy to do. You set out and you do or don't achieve your goal of climbing, traversing or building x or y. But it is the unexpected, the relationships forged and secrets uncovered that we want to find. Therefore, we are purposefully leaving the routes and means of travel loose. To fix them is to stifle the flexibility we are trying to retain at the heart of the trip, but the security net that a recognisable and achievable plan usually provides feels conspicuous by it's absence.

The reality is that it is going to be 18 months of ups and downs, but also a lot of flats. But maybe this is where we really begin to understand and notice the things around us. Learning how a sense of adventure
and interest in the world shouldn't only be brought on by faraway places or people. Maybe what we are really searching for is a perspective for the rest of our lives. An oft quoted phrase that sums it up well is courtesy of G.K Chesterton, "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land." If we come back and see the world in clearer focus and understand some of it a little bit better then the trip will have been worth something. However, to try and force this means we will crush the ideal with fumbling fingers.

Postscript: upon re-reading this posting I slightly vomited in my own mouth. If anyone knows how to avoid writing like a repressed teenager who has been watching too much Dawson's Creek your advice would be much appreciated.

1 comment:

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