An anniversary

Three months! Darnit, mi gente, I really let the ball drop, roll under the cheap seats, sneak off out of the ballpark and head post-haste for the getaway vehicle. Well, it’s certainly time to get these nimble blogging fingers limbered up again. And I plan to start with a reflection.

September 25th marks the day each year where I reflect on my life since I took redundancy and headed for the exit. The first year it fell just after I cancelled my return flight and made a go of life abroad, longer term. Things were still very uncertain. I was living in a guesthouse in a small, Peruvian jungle city eating lentils and boiled eggs, both of which I boiled in a cheap electric kettle. Yes. In the kettle. In the tiny bathroom. Hell, those were the days.

By the end of my second full year away from home, life was somewhat more stable and involved things like frying pans and salad bowls again, generally used in a kitchen. This, while less pioneering, was probably a much healthier sign for both my digestion and my prosperity in general. I had managed to squeeze in a visit home to take the edge off the homesickness any traveller feels after the novelty and regular emails and dispatches to and from home start to dwindle. I caught England in the midst of a glorious English summer: the 2012 Olympics, an epic thunderstorm, walks through the Essex wheatfields and strawberry-picking all reminding me why it takes a journey to realise a home.

Last year’s anniversary pretty much passed me by in the excitement of getting ready for another continental shift. I had just accepted the job I’m now doing and was busy trekking around Lima to finalise police checks and medical checks, forms and fuss, in order to move to pretty much the opposite side of the world.

This year it feels like there’s something momentous to celebrate again. There have been many, many changes. Some have been the sum of the incremental changes over the last four years. Many would have happened whether I was travelling or still living in Manchester. Some are a direct result of other Things That Have Happened as a result of leaving home, family, friends, a career (don’t laugh, those of you who were there – it was a career of sorts, even if I did more ‘resting’ than acting), and diverting the river of my life into its new channel.

The best thing is that I am finally coming out from under the cloud caused by a horrendous assault in my first year of travelling. It didn’t stop me, it didn’t change my mind about what I was doing, but it did trigger depression; a pretty common outcome. That is something I am finally managing successfully and hoping to see off in the imminent future with a final wave of the sturdy staff of stability, confidence and general joie de vivre.

I am also getting my TEFL groove on. Despite the fact that I chose to start out in the kind of career that parents warn you about and teachers despair of, I seem to have made a pretty successful late career change. I feel like I am kind of on a par with my contemporaries who are all buying houses and starting families. Not that I have any desire to do either of those things, but I know I could comfortably do so if I wanted to. This is not something I expected to feel when I was hunkered over the bathroom sink waiting for lentils to boil in a crappy plastic tub with an element in the base. I’ve got plans and realistic career goals. I’ve also got travel plans and experience goals.

Which leads me to a further change, this one more subtle. I hope anyone who has ever taken more than a couple of months to travel somewhere will agree that the hardest step is getting away. Once you cross the threshold, you realise it’s easier and less expensive, dangerous and troublesome than you thought. There was a point in my first year abroad, when the financial crisis was really starting to bite down on everyday life (rather than the first two years, which was just bankers and lawyers whining about being out of work for a couple of months and wearing down the industrial stockpiles of Kruger Rand in their vaults) where it suddenly occurred to me that even if I wanted to move home, it would be unaffordable as I was effectively unemployable and had worn down my redundancy to the point where it wouldn’t last in the UK. Kettle-boiled eggs in a Tarapoto bathroom seemed the best way of surviving the global meltdown. Four years later, this mentality has blossomed out to the sweet realisation that the world really is my oyster. Travel is a dream I really can follow, in my own way, and on my own terms. Stable job in Korea and short holidays in east Asia? My bread and butter. Save up some money and plan a six-month trek through [insert destination here]? If you fancy. Move to Borneo and teach in the jungle? It’s worth a shot, and I’d be in good company.

Other changes have a more melancholy tone. Despite, or possibly because of combinations of all of the above, this feels like the Year of No Return. An important part of my life now which has cropped up a number of times in previous posts, but not so far in this one, is, of course, Wonderboy, who I met only a few months into this epic, life-altering journey. Having explained so much of my life in England to someone who never knew me then has highlighted all the changes that have taken place in my habits, interests, abilities, and – for want of a better expression – “lifestyle choices”.  I have painted vivid pictures of my exciting and fun-filled daily existence in the glorious city of Manchester: good dinners with great friends, clubs and socials, gigs, parties and adventures. All actually true – I definitely didn’t leave in search of adventure or a better life. I left because I wanted the same level of adventure and fun, but in a sunny country which appreciates the provision of blaring salsa music as a public duty. This year I have realised that the wonderful life I left behind is no longer there to return to. This is obvious – of course things change all the time and everyone moves on – however, over the course of four years there are inevitably friends who have drifted out of contact, my interests have changed, the city I left has changed, the country I left has really changed, and I am now much closer to 40 than to the fresh 30-something who set out on that fresh and sunny English autumn day.

I’ll round up with the positive. There are, of course, lots of new friends, groups, clubs and adventures. I have welcomed the awesome wonder that is Couchsurfing back into my life very recently with instantly gratifying effect. I have a recent short trip to Japan to post about, and I’m planning a slightly longer holiday in the Philippines at this very moment. I’m having all of my wisdom teeth sucked out and binned on Monday, so expect some photos (of holidays, not gaping, bleeding mouth cavities) and a better travel post then! I’ll leave you with a photo of a recent adventure up Mount Bukhan (Bukhansan) the mountain park in the centre of the city and the backdrop to the beautiful Gyeongbukgung palace; and a final, fourth year reflection: it is a recurring theme throughout this blog, but I count myself pretty damn lucky to have, so far in life, chased not one, but two impractical, foolish and idealistic dreams, and have achieved them both to the best of my ability. It’s a good point to be at.

Mt. Bukhan, Seoul

On top of the world

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caroline
    Oct 01, 2014 @ 01:08:09

    Oooh mate, I’m so fucking proud of you! Miss you like hell, of course, but knowing you are out there doing your amazing, inspirational thing is wonderful. Love you loads you brave epic traveller. Xxx

    Like

    Reply

  2. Dad
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 01:40:19

    Wow, that was all a bit deep.
    Dad
    XXX

    Like

    Reply

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