Every so often I like to celebrate the awesome things in life. Or, in other words, every so often I like to create a little shrine to climbing. For me the 2016 climbing season has just finished – because I decided to fly back to the UK for the Christmas period.
Let’s be fair about climbing in 2016. It’s pretty much all I’ve done. Let’s see…
Normal life plan:
- Buy a house – Nope, I abandoned the place I was renting and moved into a van. (although this is probably for the best with the world’s worst housemate).
- Career progression – Failed. Quit job and fucked off to Spain.
- Relationships, marriage, children – Haha.
I wanted to write a blog post about my time away and travelling. I want to write about what it all means. I want to share the amazing experiences I’ve had. I want to tell stories, and I want to be able to look back here and know that life is pretty good. I’ve realised, however, that all the experiences are currently one big unorganised string in my mind, and it’s going to take several posts to fully unravel. 9 months can easily feel like a lifetime – afterall, it’s about 9 years worth of holidays back to back in one hedonistic power run. This is an overview.
I think over time on the road you learn to accept a new “normal”. Within a month, sitting out in nature and cooking food as a group over a fire seems the most natural thing in the world. Likewise, sitting down all day in front of a computer began to seem like some perversion of human existence. At this point life is infinite freedom. I could do this forever.
Over time it was normal to be without refrigeration, water and toilets. Over time my body adapted to not showering for two weeks. Normal also became being self sufficient and learning to put myself out there a bit more. To arrive in a place and not know a single other person. It was normal to drive down a forestry road to find a pull out. Or it was normal to keep a knife by my side while sleeping for fear of the wildlife outside. It was normal to sleep diagonally because I’m a tall person sleeping in a car. We even went from mocking someone for “I don’t mind just pooping in a bag” to pooping in bags and packing it out within about 2 days (You have to do this in some desert environments, or on big walls (but I haven’t big walled)).
Right now I’m briefly back in the UK. My desire to be back for Christmas was larger than my psych for going to Joshua Tree or Mexico over the winter. I’ve been on the road for quite a while now – coming up to 9 months. Obviously I’m being questioned by my family. “When are you going to get a J…J…Job?”. I’m not sure, but I’ll probably be UK bound soon. Hopefully still a nomad living in a van. Before then I’m really going to fire off the afterburners, and finish off this funemployment in style. Screw keeping a lid on my finances, I’m going to Patagonia and Nepal.
I also don’t care:
- I’ll chance to have the warm satisfaction of an adventurous life well lived coursing through my heart, a tear of “fuck, that was amazing” in my eye and the memories of rugged craggy mountain landscapes, desert cracks and steaming rivers etched in the back of my head. For that I’ll happily lose every penny I have and sleep out rough in a cave for the rest of my life. Rather that than normal. Fuck normal.
- When I wrote the life goals above I realised how little things like owning a home (without wheels) mean to me right now. For me it’s not a tick to validate myself in life. It’s not a race against anyone else, or an indication of success. Neither is a constant career or money. (I realise the need for the ability to be able to get a reasonable job though, but if I never earned more money than I did in the past I’d be happy. I realise I may only be able to say that because I’ve been lucky in life, coming out of Cambridge and working in the technology sector). But basically the important goals are avoiding deathbed regrets. I don’t ever imagine that these will come into it.
I like to think that as I roam and as I have roamed, the intensity and magnitude of the experiences will reprogram my brain and wear down at my inhibitions. I’m naturally a shy person who cares too much what other people think. If I’m honest, trying to break out of who I am is a large motivating factor for me to continuing to travel. I’m not sure to what extent I’ve succeeded at that. I think I’m still the same person, but I like to think that I’ve become a little more hardened to the world and a little more open.
I’m more comfortable pushing myself out there. I’m about to travel by myself (probably) to the furthest reach of the Earth without really knowing what I’m doing there, and without speaking a word of the local language (this could be.. interesting.. I don’t think they speak good English down in Argentina). But Patagonia is pretty and it’s out there – so I know I’ll have a good time.
I didn’t start off like that. Sure, I didn’t really know what I was going to do or where I was going to go. But I had a better framework, and I had friends that I thought I would be travelling with. I knew that I would start the journey with friends in the Sierra Nevada in Spain and then go to El Chorro. I knew that I would meet up with Joe in the Verdon Gorge. I had prepared to go to Iceland and trek with friends and go to North America and travel with Andrew. Turns out that Andrew ended up in Singapore when he went to leave his job instead of actually leaving. But that’s ok. I was quite in my stride by that point.
It’s all for the best. If I had known I would travel alone at the beginning of the year, I would never had gained the courage to leave my job.
Coming up are the places and stories that proved that I would always somehow land on my feet. In the meantime, some pictures:
I remember my life by the scenes within it :-).