Here we go... Today is 11 October 2015, which means that 21 months and 3 weeks ago I was about to leave home for an unknown period of time. The internet was a door-opener and in many ways without the internet it would have been difficult to enjoy the diverse range of experiences I had on my journey. Not only great for keeping in touch with friends and family, the internet made it easy to make travel arrangements. I’m not even talking about booking flights, trains or buses.. I’m talking about connecting with people – real people, who welcome you into their homes and feed you and show you around the town, village, local area – some including the most beautiful beaches, desert, and woodland landscape’s I have ever encountered.
Being able to rely on the kindness of strangers is something that we don’t really associate with the modern way of life, in the UK at least. People lock their doors (rightly so, if they’ve been robbed in the past!) People don’t let their children play outside (again, rightly so, if they’re scared of what the news tells them about a crazy on the loose!)… It’s a shame people fear and distrust each other as much as they do. You realise how much your own negative tendancies are ingrained in you through your own social and cultural conditioning when you start to get used to people smiling for no apparent reason as they walk down the street or you notice the hope in the woman's smile you see every morning as she kneels in silent prayer on the dusty ground. Was this life the whole time? And I was on the outside?
It is the kindness of people that warms your soul. To the girl in the Lub-d hostel in Silom in Bangkok who offered to take my laundry to the cleaners after 6 days of inter-railing in Eastern Europe – thank you. You were on your way back to the UK from Australia after 1 year. I had just started my journey. We’re like those little ants you carrying leaves on our backs, some bundles bigger than others, different shapes, colours and sizes. It’s important to remember the people who help to ease the weight of our bundles along the way - and to thank them! If we forget to thank them, then we should help another to get there good karma back to them. Is that how it works? Like a mexican wave? A charm of goldfinches take flight at the same time into the air. But how do they all know that the time is right? They sense the beat of life as one, as an ancient oak tree sends chemical messages into its leaves to turn and fall to the ground. Maybe it's like a handshake passed around a big circle. Or a smile that starts off in the morning - from the boy on the bicycle on his way to school through the whole city to the elderly woman sat looking out of her window in the evening rain.
Whatever it is, it is definible in no other way - it is humanity. The best, the worst, the ugliest, and the most captivatingly beautiful. We are full of it. Contrast and conflict is in our Nature. Narrative is propelled through conflict, so they say. Our human narrative has come far and only grows more complex as time goes on. There's a lot to talk when you talk about 'humanity'. We are human. But what defines us? We are animals. The most complex animals of all.
It's taken me a while to process everything that happened in what ended up being a sixteen-month non-stop travelling adventure across Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
I often thought 'how lucky I am' to come from somewhere and to be part of this lucky generation that so often, takes for granted what we have. It’s time to do something more with my memories. I had thought about making a scrap book… something permanent and physical. But I never got round to printing any of my photos. I was writing constantly while I was away. Poems, short stories, ideas, scribbles and a few doodles. It was a good way to pass the long journeys in between looking out the window.
So here’s what I want to do – every week (or so) I want to remember an experience from travelling that still makes me smile. I’ll respond to it in some way, maybe with a new poem, a story (fiction or non-fiction), an account of something that happened, or anything else that I feel appropriate in association with that particular memory. There were definitely stand-alone moments during the 16 months… some I’ve shared, some I’ve kept a little more to myself. I’m hoping that in staring this blog I can immortalize some of my more exciting memories, things I hope never to forget – but in case I do, I’ll have my blog to thank for all its clues into my travels of 20 August 2013 – 20 December 2014.