I wake up just before ten, five minutes before I start work and drag myself out of bed. My clothes stink – the accumulated sweat and grease of being in a busy kitchen for days on end – but I have no choice other than to put them on once more. Plimsols, stretchy black trousers, stain covered t-shirt, and a cap I have learnt to hate. I live in a room that consists of a bed, a mouldy bathroom, an open wardrobe, a sink, and a sandwich maker. I’m not complaining – it’s more luxurious than other places I have lived – but it is very basic. The room is shared with a handful of elusive mice that prevent us from storing food in the cupboards.
I walk downstairs – because I live above the pub where I work – and find that I am in the kitchen before the chef, but that’s not a problem, I know what to do. I go to the fridge, pull out some vegetables, and I begin to chop them. I make pesto next, taste testing it to my perfection, then debate between making up gravy or beetroot relish. I still have fifty serves of bruschetta to make up when that is done. The chef arrives, lunch hour happens, and I continue prepping food while plating and serving – the waitresses don’t run food at lunchtime to save money on wages. As lunch service ends, the chef leaves me alone with a huge pile of dishes that have accumulated and I rush at them, sweat pouring from places that I didn’t know it could pour from as I plunge my hands into hot water, surrounded by hot fryers, a raging oven, and a salamander in a tiny, unventilated room. We have a ‘dishy’ in the evenings to wash down the kitchen and do the dishes, but it’s my job at lunchtime – more economical that way. I finish them at four-thirty, just enough time to go upstairs, sit down, whip off my clothes, and jam a veggie burger into a bun. I sit in my underpants on the end of the bed, munching on my lunch, wishing that I had remembered to put some water in the fridge so that I had something to drink, before heading back to the kitchen to start my evening shift at five.
That’s when I realise that it’s Sunday. I don’t mind working Sundays – not that I have a choice – but to save money on a Sunday, we don’t have a dishy for dinner service either. The restaurant soon fills with people and coupled with counter meals in the pub, we put together a hundred meals in under three hours between the chef and I. When we run out of plates, I call for one of the waitresses to start the dishes, but when service is over, I plunge headfirst into the melting pot once more. It’s approaching midnight by the time I close up the kitchen. The boss offers me a knock off beer (a free beer at the end of service), but I’m too tired, so decline and take a coke for the sugar. I trundle up the stairs, stand under a cold shower, but can’t shake the embedded sweat and grease from the day. Now I should wash my clothes, but I start work in nine hours and without a dryer, I can either wear sweat filled or incredibly wet clothes. I fall onto the bed and pass out, my decision made by my exhausted body.
I punch my alarm, irritated, before looking at it in disbelief. I have eleven minutes until I start work and no-one else will be scrubbing those floors if I’m not there. I rip my room apart, throw on my work clothes, and sprint to work in blistering heat. It’s only 7.42am, but this is Darwin and the coldest temperature overnight is around 23*C (74*F). By the time I arrive, I am sweating again, but I clock in dead on time. For the next five hours, I sweep, hose, and scrub floors and windows. On my five hour break, I debate between sleeping or swimming, before I head back for a further five hours of cleaning up after tourists. By the end of the day, I’ve entered a weird mental place that occurs after multiple hours of mundane tasks without fellow human interaction. I stop at the pub on my way home with just eight hours until I start my next shift and the next day begins before it has ended. I get a call to ask if I can cover someone in my second job (I have three) and my five hour break is filled by a four hour shift on a day where I am already scheduled to work ten hours.
Why Am I Telling You This?
You might look at all this and you might think why is he whining about having a job (or three) and a roof over his head? I’m not – I’m grateful for the work, however mundane, but what I want to show you is that the life that you want to live is not simply handed to you on a silver platter as so many people think. I have lost track of the amount of people who message me to tell me how lucky I am to live the life that I live and I wish I could forget all the condescending comments I have received about being rich and living off my parents. There is one particularly poignant comment that sticks in my mind after an article I was commissioned to write for an outdoor clothing brand (yes, I do write paid articles from time to time on other sites, but only when I feel the content is appropriate – and the amount of money I make is minimal compared to the endless hours of ramblings I have spent posting online). The company asked if I could write an upbeat article, showing how adventure is possible for everyone, irrelevant of experience or finance, based around my ultra low budget cycling trip across Europe and my rafting trip down the Danube river. Immediately after the article was posted, someone responded.
Oh, the adventure of white trust fund kids
I’m aware of trolls and when I looked into the author of this particular comment, I noted that they had posted around three times a day for over a year, and all of the comments were of a similarly negative fashion. However, his sentiment is echoed over and over: that I have a secret flow of money allowing me to live my life.
The truthful response to one of the questions I get asked incredibly often – how do you afford to do what you do – is this:
I try to work very hard with whatever I do
When I have the opportunity for paid employment, I take everything I am given. In Australia, I worked in a kitchen for over sixty hours a week (I believe one week was 78 hours) for multiple months continuously. In the first two and a half months, I was given one day off. Upon settling for a second time, I took on three jobs: housekeeping, burrito rolling, and working in a cafe, once again racking up 70+ hour weeks. Right now I have things more under control – I work only fifty something hours a week and despite only having one day off in the last forty, I foresee that I may get a day off sometime within the next fortnight.
When I am on the road, I work similarly hard by surviving on very little. When I cycled to Slovakia, my bicycle cost 30GBP and I slept in a tent, mostly eating food that I had pulled from the back of supermarkets. I don’t often keep an account of what I spend on a journey, but when hitchhiking from Istanbul to the UK, I spent an average of 2.36 euros per day (for nine days) while having a lovely time visiting Venice and the beautiful mountains of Italy.
You might ask why it is that I take jobs cleaning floors and working insane hours when I could use my degree to find an ‘easier’ job and it would be a valid question, but I feel that my heart lies outside of the financial world, and I want only to work for a few months so that I can further my adventures. When I obtain more money than I need, it runs through my hands like water because I don’t know what to do with it. But that is besides the point.
The point is this. Everything I do (in terms of adventure), you can do too. I am lucky to have a UK passport which enables me to visit many countries with ease, and I am lucky to have a wonderful family who are happy for me to visit at any time, but what I do is largely achieved through working hard. We do not get anything for free in this life and if you are going to get where you’re going (hopefully a good place), you have to work bloody hard for it. I am working hard and when I finish this stint of working, I hope to have a solid platform to continue my adventures through life for the next few months.
This is the joy of being ‘a white trust fund kid.’
Note: I have no idea why the author of the comment chose to denote my race in his comment, but I have included it for authenticity.
Note 2: Despite not needing much money to lead the life I want to lead, having some is very useful – hence why I am working now – particularly for the purchasing of cameras and other such devices through which I can share stories. This money will never be repaid, but I capture things and share them largely for the enjoyment of doing so. Thus, while I am not enjoying my current lifestyle, I put up with it and work hard for a greater end goal.