I think I am supposed to sell you an aspirational dream of my life.
You are meant to look at me, my travel writing, and my photographs of many exotic destinations and browse them like you would a catalogue, taking mental notes of all the things you quite like. Maybe I could even set up a glamorous Instagram with sickening sunset shots. That is why we all read these stories isn’t it, for the glossy image? The daydream?
People constantly tell me how lucky I am. They are absolutely right and there is not one day that I am not incredibly grateful, but I did not win any golden ticket. It may look like I am living the dream but don’t forget that real life always has #nofilter. There is a fine line between brave and reckless, and the truth is any time you take a leap of faith you walk that line in an, often not so graceful, wobbled balancing act.
Two years ago I quit my job. I’d like to say it was an epiphany to leave the rat race, but in reality my life had fallen apart a little which made it a lot easier to jump. The man I was living with ended our relationship and started dating our co-worker. Ouch. And yes, there was a “crossover.” The other woman was beautiful, talented, and on TV. Double ouch. As much as I enjoyed going into our place of work and seeing them on a daily basis, after several months of introspection (aka: wallowing) I decided this was an opportunity.
You see for years I had wanted more; despite never quite knowing what that more was, let alone how to get it. I had a beautiful home, wonderful family and friends, and a job as a journalist at the BBC that others envied. But still a deep craving for adventure had been building in me my entire life. Quite frankly any adventure at times would do.
“Let’s take a career break and move to Italy for a couple of months,” or “Let’s move to the countryside and open a guest house,” I would say to my ex. I seemed to be full of these suggestions. Yet when it came down to giving up everything that I knew I had, all my safe bets, in exchange for a giant question mark, seemed more than daunting, it seemed delusional. Regardless, a discontented voice kept whispering (and occasionally shouting) at me that there must be more to life than this. It turns out it was right.
It’s a lot easier to leap when it feels like life is chasing you off the cliff. The great thing about any kind of loss is it leaves you with a lot less to lose. So I decided to quit my job, put my house up for rent, and take a one way flight to the other side of the world. I had no plans. Quite frankly I was a little tired of plans. Perhaps it was my attempt to rebel against life. These calculated non risky strategies I had I’d been told to make my entire life, which were supposed to offer me some protection for the future, had proved in reality to offer no shelter whatsoever. Instead my new plan was just to see what happened each day, to make no choices in advance, to head to New Zealand and just live.
I mean really LIVE.
Since then I have travelled in every continent, I have lived in a tent at beaches around the world, jumped off a bridge, taken Italian lessons in Turin, learned to (and become slightly obsessed with) surf, walked on broken glass, swam naked in ice cold rivers, and cared for abandoned horses. I’ve hiked up volcanoes, driven my little car 1000s of miles across Europe, spent the night completely alone on a mountain top, trained to become a yoga teacher in India, and so many more life changing experiences. I have pushed my boundaries further than I ever thought I would ever dare. I have met some incredible people along the way and experienced so much of the generosity, warmth and kindness that really does exist in the world.
The honest truth about traveling for so long is that sometimes I get restless, sometimes I get scared, and sometimes I am a little bit tired of change. Sometimes I feel alone, sometimes I feel idle, and sometimes I feel nostalgia for the familiarity of a past life. Sometimes I wonder what I am actually looking for, sometimes I wonder if I will find it, and sometimes I wonder where I will end up. Yes, even an endless holiday becomes real life eventually and not every day can be magical.
Not every day can be magical, but some things truly are, and they make it all worth it. Like the time in Sri Lanka when I was making a coffee and casually glanced out of my kitchen window to see four long tailed black monkeys, with little white faces, just staring straight back at me. I was thrilled. They were uninterested. Or the time I was sitting on my surfboard in the midday sun patiently waiting for the waves, when I was surrounded by thousands of delicate white butterflies, as far as the eye could see, flying in from an expanse of ocean towards the land. There were so many and they covered so much of the sky that it looked just like snow fall. Or the time I watched as the very first of a hundred teeny tiny turtles made it to the sea and was washed away, to start its journey into the big wide world, after it had scrambled and tumbled over the countless others scattered along the beach.
Right now I am in Portugal. I am still trying to say YES to life, still trying to take opportunities that come my way and still trying to embrace adventure and work out everything as I go along. I am not sure what will happen next, but the truth is none of us do. I also swing between making my peace with this fact (occasionally even enjoying and embracing it) and being scared to death by it.
There is one thing I am sure of though. I am so glad I showed up for my own life, I must admit there were times in the past when I wondered if I would ever get around to it.