Yesterday a good friend of mine said something to me which got me thinking…
‘I get what you do and I respect it but why do you travel, what’s the actual reason that keeps you on the road with no desire to settle?’
I stopped and looked him in the eye. Electricity coursed through my veins. I stumbled, never before having to justify my choice to travel.
Most people just assume I travel because it’s fun but actually, it’s more complicated than that.
The short answer; when I travel I can do whatever I want.
The long answer; when I travel I can be whatever I want.
My first foray into travelling was an unhappy one, I came back a broken kid, desperately sick and with my dreams shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything I had wanted was snatched away from me. As a young lad, 19, I had just been getting to grips with the kind of person I had wanted to be and suddenly, without warning, that person was killed in action.
My dreams of joining the marines, fighting for a cause (I didn’t even care what), becoming a hero and exploring the world with a rifle slung over one shoulder? Done. Gone. Over.
I would never be a marine. Not after my injury.
I descended into a downwards spiral of madness. I think I was legitimately insane for a while.
I had been a shy kid my whole life but I had been working hard to change myself for the better, to improve my confidence and find a purpose in life; with my plan to join the marines wrested away, I had to start all over again.
A lonely year passed whilst I leant heavily on my parents and a few, bored, friends for support. Gradually, my injured leg began to heal but it would never be back to normal. Mentally, I was screwed – paranoid, depressed and down-right miserable. I continuously put myself in dangerous situations for no reason other than to feel something a bit different.One day, I woke up and something had changed. In a moment of beautiful clarity a single thought entered my mind ‘start again, build something new or give up and die’ – within an hour I had booked a one way ticket to India. Why India? It was big, far away and cheap…
I hit the road, unsure of myself but certain that if this did not work, that would be it. This was a redeeming shot, a chance at something new; I would give it my all, I would grab it by the throat, charge in all guns blazing, it was do or die. The time had come to make a change, my current plane was crashing and burning; now I had to jump out of it and steer myself towards something new.
But what was it to be? What did I want out of my life? In truth, I still wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be inspiring. Before I could inspire anyone however, I would have to inspire myself. I began to make a list of the qualities I admired in others and the actions I needed to take…
- Physical Fitness
- Quit drinking
- Open up (lower my defenses)
- Do something scary once a week (talk to a stranger?)
- Inspire myself (and others?)
Positivity; the most important thing on my list and the hardest to fake; everything had been so shit for so long that my knee-jerk reaction to anything new, anything unexpected, was to be negative. This needed to change. I began simply by pretending. Before I made any remark, before I responded to any situation, I thought about how my alter-ego would handle himself.
Quickly, far quicker than I would have imagined possible, I become a positive person – sure, I still got annoyed by things but my tolerance was way higher. In general, I smiled, laughed and just got on with it. People started to gravitate towards me, I was approachable, friendly, fun… Now, I needed to be inspiring.
How do you inspire? You put yourself in situations where you are scared, uncomfortable or in danger and then, you conquer your fear. You complete a challenge. I headed into the mountains, alone. I crossed deserts. I bagged peaks. I traversed jungles. I got stoned with wandering holy men. I faced down a robber armed with a 12 inch knife. I taught myself how to ride motorbikes, I scraped myself off the road. I scrambled up waterfalls and threw myself from cliffs. I lived alone, with no contact with the outside world, for weeks at a time. I snuck past border guards, drank tea with rebels, I camped in abandoned temples, I fired a Kalashnikov into the sky whilst yelling at the top of my lungs.
My travels spanned years and continents, I survived by picking up odd-jobs, by hitching rides, couch-surfing in unlikely countries and buying and selling trinkets. I felt like a Victorian-era explorer; I headed to countries many people had never even heard of, the more extreme, the more ‘dangerous’, the more I was interested.
From Venezuela to Palestine and Myanmar to the Western Sahara, my adventures have taken me on one hell of a journey. The end result? A person I like, a person I respect, a person I can be proud of. I have friends in over forty countries, numerous hair-raising survival stories and a growing following online. Every now and again, I even inspire others to follow in my footsteps – for me, this is my greatest accomplishment.
Traveling the world has changed my life, my personality was forged upon the road. I am a passionate believer that everybody has the power to change their life and that traveling offers one of the best opportunities around for self-growth.
So, why am I still traveling? Originally, it was for me – I wanted to become something new. These days, it’s because I want to continue to learn. I travel not to explore new places but to explore new cultures, new vibes and new points of view. Only by continuing to challenge myself physically and mentally, can I continue to evolve.
Would I change how things have panned out? Would I reverse time and un-do my injury. Never.
This is who I am.
I am a nomad.
I live to learn, love and inspire.