Published on: May 19, 2015
Yesterday a good friend of mine said something to me which got me thinking…
‘I get what you do and I respect it but why do you travel, what’s the actual reason that keeps you on the road with no desire to settle?’
I stumbled, never before having to justify my choice to travel. Most people just assume I travel because it’s fun but actually, it’s more complicated than that.
The short answer; when I travel I can do whatever I want.
The long answer; when I travel I can be whatever I want.
My first foray into travelling was an unhappy one, I came back a broken kid, desperately sick and with my dreams shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything I had wanted was snatched away from me. As a young lad, 19, I had just been getting to grips with the kind of person I had wanted to be and suddenly, without warning, that person was killed in action.
My dreams of joining the marines, fighting for a cause (I didn’t even care what) and exploring the world with a rifle slung over one shoulder? Done. Gone. Over.
I would never be a marine. Not after my injury.
I descended into a downwards spiral of drinking and fighting.
I had been a shy kid my whole life but I had been working hard to change myself for the better, to improve my confidence and find a purpose in life; with my plan to join the marines wrested away, I had to start all over again.
A lonely year passed whilst I leant heavily on my parents and a few bored friends for support. Gradually, my injured leg began to heal but it would never be back to normal. Mentally, I was in trouble – paranoid, depressed and down-right miserable. I continuously put myself in dangerous situations for no reason other than to feel something a bit different. One day, I woke up and something had changed. In a moment of beautiful clarity, a single thought entered my mind ‘start again, build something new or give up and die’ – within an hour I had booked a one way ticket to India. Why India? It was big, far away and cheap…
I hit the road, unsure of myself but certain that if this did not work, that would be it. This was a redeeming shot, a chance at something new; I would give it my all, I would grab it by the throat, charge in all guns blazing, it was do or die. The time had come to make a change, my current plane was crashing and burning; now I had to jump out of it and steer myself towards something new.
But what was it to be? What did I want out of my life? In truth, I still wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be inspiring. Before I could inspire anyone however, I would have to inspire myself. I began to make a list of the qualities I admired in others and the actions I needed to take. I scrawled the following in my notebook.
Quit drinking (stop fighting)
Open up (lower my defences)
Do something scary once a week (talk to a stranger?)
Inspire myself (and others?)
Positivity; the most important thing on my list and the hardest to fake; everything had been so shit for so long that my knee-jerk reaction to anything new, anything unexpected, was to be negative. This needed to change. I began simply by pretending. Before I made any remark, before I responded to any situation, I thought about how my alter-ego would handle himself.
Quickly, far quicker than I would have imagined possible, I become a positive person – sure, I still got annoyed by things but my tolerance was way higher. In general, I smiled, laughed and just got on with it. People started to gravitate towards me, I was approachable, friendly, fun… Now, I needed to be inspiring.
How do you inspire? You put yourself in situations where you are scared, uncomfortable or in danger and then, you conquer your fear. You complete a challenge. I headed into the mountains, alone. I crossed deserts. I bagged peaks. I traversed jungles. I got stoned with wandering holy men. I faced down a robber armed with a 10 inch knife. I taught myself how to ride motorbikes, I scraped myself off the road. I scrambled up waterfalls and threw myself from cliffs. I lived alone, with no contact with the outside world, for weeks at a time. I snuck past border guards, drank tea with rebels, I camped in abandoned temples, I fired a Kalashnikov into the sky, I made new friends and found a new purpose.
My travels spanned years and continents, I survived by picking up odd-jobs, by hitching rides, couch-surfing in unlikely countries and buying and selling trinkets. I felt like a Victorian-era explorer; I headed to countries many people had never even heard of, the more extreme, the more off the beaten track, the more I was interested.
From Venezuela to Palestine and Myanmar to the Western Sahara, my adventures have taken me on one hell of a journey. The end result? I became a person I like, most of the time. Every now and again, I even inspire others to shake up their lives a bit – for me, this is my greatest accomplishment.
Travelling the world has changed my life, my personality was forged upon the road. I am a passionate believer that everybody has the power to change their life and that travelling offers one of the best opportunities around for self-growth.
So, why am I still travelling? Originally, it was for me – I wanted to become something new.
In 2015, it’s because I want to continue to learn.
I travel not to tick off passport stamps but to explore new cultures, new vibes and new points of view. Only by continuing to challenge myself physically and mentally, can I continue to evolve. Would I change how things have panned out? Would I reverse time and undo my injury. Never.
This is who I am.
From my greatest adversity came my greatest opportunity.
2017 Update: I’m continuing to learn cool new shit on the road and to meet inspiring new people. My goals have changed a bit as I am now focussing on building a large online income and recording everything over at Ditch Your Desk to provide newbie digital nomads with plenty of free information on how they too can earn money online. Eventually, I hope to delete social media and take a break from this website so I can hit the road and travel without a phone; a luxury that I miss. For me, travelling is about really connecting with people and places and that can be tough whilst running an online business – on the other hand, this is hand’s down one of the best jobs in the world…