Eleven Years

Eleven years ago, almost to the day, I left England for the first extended period of my life. I was eighteen years old, my hair was dyed electric-blue-black, and there was a very blatant scar on my tongue from where I had removed the piercing. For several years I had laboured on building sites for my dad, stacked shelves in Woolworths around my studies, and packed bread in a bakery. For that last one, I lived in a leaky caravan in an isolated field and got up at five something in the morning to run across a field in the dark so that I could shower before filling hundreds of donuts with jam.

My 19th Birthday, on Aitutaki, one of the Cook Islands

Thorough these pursuits I was eventually able to buy what I had been hoping for – an RTW (round the world) ticket – they used to be ‘cheap’. For six months I left everything I had known, my simple country life, and I went to explore the world.

I was fascinated, I was intrigued, I wanted to see more – eleven years later, I feel the same. [I did not magically become a better person, I was not instantly enlightened, and my choice was no better or worse than those who chose (or were not able to choose) to see more of the world.]

What I value most from the little bit of the world that I have seen, is its diversity. People, places, and experiences vary so wildly that I couldn’t even begin to imagine this world unless I had experienced a slither of it first hand. In every country I have been to, I could spend ten lifetimes exploring and barely scratch the surface because you cannot know every place, every person, and every time. For twenty-nine years, the more I learn about this world, the more I desire to know. The more I see, the further I want to look. The more of humanity I encounter, the richer I find it. It’s a never ending cycle that has taken me bad places and wonderful places, and every little bit in-between, but I have loved the ride and I don’t know where it leads next.

All I am sure of, is that the diversity I have encountered has changed me.

One of the first times I ever saw a coconut tree

I believe in no borders because I have met people born on ‘the wrong side’, I will never eat animals because I don’t want to damage this incredible planet more than I have to (read Eating Animals for an explanation of this point – I don’t want to discuss it here), and I stopped playing computer games because I now find the real world more interesting.

After eleven years I have found myself a base for the very first time – never since I lived with my family have I lived in a place without a fixed end date. The wanderlust is alive and kicking, but transformed into something different. For this period of time I will live a different life, but still hope to search for the excitement I felt for the past many years. Life has become busy – very busy – and now I am aware that I need to find a way to fit everything in, especially the fun times.

I don’t have a point here. I just wanted to say that the world is a pretty nice place if you give it a chance, as are people. But it’s easy to forget sometimes. And the road to get where you’re going is rarely an easy one, but we shouldn’t hurry because we don’t know what we might find when we get there.

Somewhere during that first trip I took the following photo. At the time I thought it was the best photo I would ever take. I hadn’t seen it for years, but I still remember the day on that beach. And I realise the photo isn’t that great after all!

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