To celebrate (or berate) turning 27, I spent the night of May 13th on a beach in jungmun (Jeju Island, South Korea) with some friends. We made a fire, cooked dinner on it, and swam under the stars in the ocean. Then we camped. It went exactly as I had hoped, but I awoke in the morning to find myself cold and shaking. In the clear night sky, I had left the roof flap off my tent and the inside was flooded. All of my belongings were soaked through except (curiously enough) my kindle and my full notebook – the two rain sensitive belongings I had with me. Feeling I would never get warm again, I shuffled around, collecting my belongings, then traipsed up the cliffs in the still falling rain to a fancy hotel. There we went into a Korean sauna (a collection of hot and cold pools) and our bodies returned to life.
Last year I reflected on being 26 – about five defining moments of my life that had helped to shape me into who I am today (for better or worse). Those five moments still stand true. However, this last year seems to have taught me more than most others.
Real Jobs are Hard
I spent my last Birthday in Istanbul, working as an English teacher. I was utterly miserable and hated being there. Doing something I didn’t love in a place I had grown to dislike so intently, over and over again, day after day, was driving me crazy. Kudos to people who can put up with routines like this, but I couldn’t, so I left and hitchhiked across Europe with very little money, not looking back. I have zero regrets about this.
You Make the Impossible, Possible
Long distance cycling is very elitist, but I was determined to have a go. Not having much money, I bought a £30 bicycle and successfully cycled over 1,000 miles, disproving everything that I had been told. I didn’t practice, I had never changed a puncture, and my bike was ‘not worthy’ of the journey. I had been told that all of these things would result in my failure – it didn’t. Then I decided to build a raft and float down the Danube river. I was told that I would die – I didn’t and I loved it. Then I hitchhiked eastern Europe, countries I had been told not to go to – I loved them all. All of these wonderful experiences only proved to me that you don’t need riches, experience, or anything else to have an adventure – you simply need the desire to put one foot in front of the other and start moving. Everything else will fall into place.
Birthdays Become Less Welcome
When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to be 17 so that I could drive. Each birthday after this has been less welcome.
The Internet is Powerful
Due to the internet, I have been able to share some of my stories online through photos, writing, and video. This has allowed me to connect with many people around the world, some of whom I have even met up with intentionally (as well as by chance). Because of this, Emily, a video editor, made some great videos using my footage (Pedal, Paddle, and Separate Tracks) which will soon be playing on British television (a freeview channel). I also connected with Ric from xpedition.tv who has made a short movie that will soon be released – the trailer is out already and I am excited to see the final piece. I was also able to write a story (The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World) and publish it digitally – it is not (sadly) selling hundreds of copies every day, but it did briefly jump to number 4 and 12 in its categories on the Amazon book charts. My first mid-length piece, The Avant-Garde Life, has been downloaded nearly 9,000 times since publishing it last year. By utilising the internet, I have been location independent by writing articles for various travel sites and making websites for people – work I can do anywhere. I see more opportunity for work and collaboration in this way in the future. None of these things would have been possible without the internet.
Getting Arrested Isn’t So Bad
I was arrested twice this year, firstly for sleeping in a park, secondly for rafting on the Danube. It is far less painful than I first imagined, although it is rather irritating. In future, I will be better prepared to not get arrested, but when it happens (as with life), you deal with it, you move on.
The Future is Exciting
This was an important year in terms of personal development and pushing myself forward – I hope that it was the same for you. My head is full of ideas and I now have the belief that anything is possible – not easy, but possible – if I work hard. What comes this year? I am not sure yet, but I have big ideas. We have all got to aim big, right?