When I was eight, I was very happy living in a world that consisted of little more than my home, the playing field, and my school. The school had less than fifty students and everything was separated only by a matter of minutes on foot. As I got a bit older, I discovered the joys of the castle, the priory, the youth club, and the river, all found in my little village of a few hundred people. I would have tea parties under my climbing frame with my friends and walk through the allotments, picking fruit. In this bubble, I had everything… no, I had more than I needed. How could one person be so lucky?
Fast forward nearly two decades and it is a different story.
That same young boy who was fascinated by his tiny world, happy with everything else, now desires to see more. In the past few years, I have achieved a masters degree, volunteered in Africa, worked as a ski rep, taught English in Korea and Turkey, hitchhiked, cycled, and rafted to compile a brief summary. Plus all the things in-between. This is not a list to gloat. far from it. Instead, it is a brief reminder, trying to assure myself that I have been doing ‘things.’ Sometimes I forget because I always want more. After a few days of doing ‘nothing,’ my feet itch and I question why I’m not climbing a mountain, sleeping in a forest, or pushing myself to new limits.
There is a very poignant scene from Alastair Humphrey and Leon McCarron’s recent movie, Into The Empty Quarter, in which the duo haul a cart across the empty quarter in the Middle East. It is a wonderful adventure, but about 35 minutes in, Alastair, in tears and emotional pain, says to the camera, “What on Earth am I constantly pushing myself for? Why can’t I just be happy in one place like normal people?” I am highly sympathetic to this notion.
I sometimes look at people who live in the bubble I grew up in, friends who never left that bubble and who don’t know what it is like to venture as far as London, let alone another country. Sometimes they seem very happy. Or they don’t seem sad at least.
I could never do this. I constantly have a desire to do more. My actions do not have to involve travelling great distances, they simply need to involve me being active and living through days that I will remember. Often, travel is a by-product of these mini quests I set myself. Right now I have big ideas (although no solid plans) for what comes next. These ideas involve Asia and much sweating / walking / who knows what. It excites me. Yet this constant drive and search for something more is a roller coaster of amazingness and whatever you choose to name the bottom half of the ride. For me, the amazingness takes huge precedent over the insecurities or the worries that arise.
I ask myself, would it be better not to know? Would it be better to live in a bubble and to be ‘content’ with what I had rather than always wanting more? For me now, that is impossible. I have tasted the forbidden fruit of life on the other side and can never go back. Am I built like this, or did I choose this? I choose to live by the words of Theodore Roosevelt.
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
If you are on the inside of the bubble, live by different words. It is no better or worse, only different. For me, there is only one way to go and that is onwards, upwards, forward, and beyond into new places, new things, and the overwhelming sensory experiences that result from them.
Would it be better to have a regular job, go to the pub on a Friday evening, and pass the weekday evenings watching TV? Would it be better to live a simple life without ever wanting more and never knowing the highs or lows that my life involves? Would it be better, simply not to know? Is it true, that ignorance is bliss?
This is purely hypothetical. I can never go back. Would I choose to change everything for a simple, stable life? Would I erase all the memories (like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and live simply?
No. No I would not.
I chose this featured image when browsing through sxc.hu, a free stock image site. It looks just like the fishing huts in Slovakia where we started our rafting adventure from and as the girl looks off into the distance, I found myself pensive and pining over adventures I am no longer on. The fact that she is naked is somewhat irrelevant, but something about the picture struck me as beautiful.