“All I want is something I can write about” – Neil Finn, 2007
Before you read this edition of Sunday’s Inspiration, please listen to the following Crowded House song, one of my favourite songs and a peaceful tune to get us through the bad times, of which there are many, Don’t Stop Now:
There has been a pure progress of realisation in my life in the last month or so. And while all this was going on, I listened to the song “Don’t Stop Now”, a song which reminded me of my time backpacking in New Zealand back in 2007. The comeback song for Crowded House after they “called it quits” in 1996. My journey through New Zealand in 2007 not only took me to the home of Crowded House, but also through the magic of Taupo, volcanic Rotorua, relaxing Hamilton and Auckland. Yeah baby it was all inspiring.
The New Zealand journey on which I found myself with my pen and paper out every day. On buses, trains, boats and planes. In bars, cafes, hostels and bus stations. Writing even the price of a Mars bar or how many free beers you can get in hostels. I began documenting my journeys and indeed that trip inspired 5 out of the first 10 blog posts on Don’t Stop Living. I didn’t think I’d still be documenting my journeys some 8 years down the line, or that I’d even still be on a journey.
The question is the same as what it’s always been: what makes you happy in life?
Travelling. Writing. Football. Pubs. Friends. Family.
Generally speaking it’s those six things. But where does Don’t Stop Living fit into this? What the fu*k is Don’t Stop Living? Is it time to quit Don’t Stop Living? Is this the end of this travel lifestyle blog as we know it? Should I just quit?
Don’t Stop Living is my life. It has become my life. Those six things are all incorporated onto this website. I’m travel, work and writing in the brain. It ain’t healthy, but what is? Eating salad? Hardly. You get salad in a burger.
“The sink is full of fishes, she’s got dirty dishes on the brain” – Oasis, 1995
Everyone thinks long term travel is just one big long holiday full of ups and ups and more ups. You want to know the truth. It fucking ain’t. This lifestyle I have chosen and become obsessed with has the same amount of ups and downs as anything else in the world. Yeah. Just like the guy down your local butcher’s shop (that was once me), or the dude sorting out your bank account (that was once me) or the geezer pouring your Friday afternoon Guinness (that was once me). But I’ve documented this crazy journey on here and I won’t get angry or sad or upset by that. I’m proud of DSL and the lunacy of this lifestyle. But guess what, I get angry. I get f*king angry. I get upset. I get down. And I need help. Even the Beatles needed help remember?
“Sometimes you have to turn the wrong way round” – Neil Finn, 2007
Help came and more is coming. Shyly and in a bad state of mind from a hotel room in Stockholm Sweden last month I announced it was game over for DSL. I stuck one of those Facebook posts on my main page. I had to do it. I wanted to let people know DSL was finished. It was the end for me and I was finished with it.
“It’s over, you don’t have to tell me” – Damon Albarn
Why did I end it? In one word – technology. Technology and I are not friends. I hated it at school. I hate mobile phones. I hated the computer in my office jobs. I still don’t like using laptops.
“When love and hate collide” – Def Leppard
On the flipside, I can backpack the world easily. It’s a piece of cake. I can write articles without thinking. It’s easy. It’s natural. I reckon I can write as many articles per day on my travels than Michael Palin or Ernest Hemingway. Easy. But one thing I can’t deal with is technology. Once technology fails, it’s time to say goodbye. I’m out of the game.
Since the inception of DSL, I’ve spent over $40,000 on technology. A crazy whopping figure. Or if you like, DSL has spent $40,000 on technology for me, or technology owes me $40,000. Either way it’s a lot of cash. I’ve made a lot more money than that back though. But it ain’t the money. It’s the anger. None of this enters my head when an online business starts by relying on these two essentials (before market comes into it):
2. Working Equipment
January 2015 was the hell month for me. It was meant to be all cool wasn’t it? Backpacking through 4 new countries and reliving 3 old ones. Working with new travel companies, staying in some cool hotels and hostels. As the year began, I had more clients than ever before, 2 brand new travel sites ready to launch, a book I featured in was released, my new book was well underway and people actually read some of the stuff on DSL. Sounds amazing.
“It’s all about to change” – Neil Finn
Then my website was stolen on a big scale, every post copied, my name changed and I thanked myself for the fact that I hate fakes and that my own photo of my face and Northern Ireland football shirt appears in almost every photo of the copied site. So I won. Google removed the fake wannabe site. Just after that I had a hat trick of bank accounts blocked for numerous reasons that even a bank manager would struggle to believe. 3 banks in a week, a stolen website. Someone then hacked into my YouTube account and changed my face to a monster and I was like “what the f*ck is going on?”
“Breathe the pressure, come play my game I’ll test you” – Prodigy
The next morning while I was in Estonia, my main hard drive stopped working. I’d lost all my photos from the last 7 years of travels. (some of these are backed up in Hong Kong). At least I have a working computer I thought as I decided to spend an entire day in Riga and Tallinn in my hotel room cursing other people. It was just one thing after another. Then in Finland, my Apple computer broke again (which I stupidly paid Apple for the 10th time to fix it two months before). Yes the computer which cost me thousands over a two year period. Of course I had a spare computer by now, but it has no internet access for some reason. Add to this two computers completely broken lying around in Hong Kong somewhere and the day after my other hard drive with all my documents breaks.
“Going nowhere” _ Therapy?
As I held a camera and my wallet, I felt it was all I had left. I had promised tour companies to do reviews for them – I now couldn’t. I had clients wanting posts across my various websites. Without the help of Panny’s laptop in Sweden, I couldn’t answer emails or trust logging into private accounts on public PCs. Each time I tried to type a short blog post on Panny’s computer the Chinese keypad got on my nerves. I’d reached breaking point. A 20 minute article was taking me 5 hours to type up. I hardly did any sightseeing in Helsinki, Stockholm, Malmo or Copenhagen. I just broke down, trying to salvage what is actually an online business all through a laptop. I’d been through this shit before a ton of times, but this time, everything had gone wrong. I cried, I broke down, I smashed things and I went to rest and sleep my head in a quiet corner of the room. 6 laptops in 8 years all now broken, 8 hard drives broken in the same timeframe and all 47 chapters I’d written for my new book were gone. So that’s why I quit. I couldn’t handle it. I can’t handle technology.
“You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry.” – Thom Yorke, 2014
After a sleep, positive messages flooded in from my friends (my top mates like Dan, Lee, Austin, Neil, Daniel), my backpacking buddies and those I’ve met on the journey (Nina, Corinne, Yoni, Arnie) and of course family. Tellingly then, some travel bloggers and writers got in touch. This mattered more as they knew about running businesses on the road and I was happy to hear from them (Johnny, Danny, Haley, Carlo, Audrey). It was an unexpected reaction. I was seriously down that night. Thanks to everyone who read my post and wrote to me – I really appreciated it. I was surprised. But aside from that I was just offline making promises I couldn’t keep. I did complete my tours in Stockholm but cancelled ones after that. And then this crazy journey took me to the town of Angelholm in Sweden.
“Where the fu*k is Angelholm?” – Me, before reading a map
We’ll find out won’t we?
“Oh Melbourne it’s going to be a loooonnnnggg night” – Karaoke DJ in Bridie O Reillys, 2010 and it was a crazy night back then in early February 2010 when Neil, Daniel, Paul and a load of hostel crew partied in the Victorian capital. A few days later and Daniel and I said our goodbyes in Tasmania and that was that. I got a train from Malmo to Angelholm and this was the most perfect full circle of this journey so far.
Introducing Daniel Evans again. I met Dan on the first night in Australia in October 2009 in the Chilli Blue hostel in Sydney. He was travelling with 2 girls and finding it tough – while Natalja and I weren’t really getting on and I’d found a new best mate now.
We went down the pub, watched footy, acted stupid and hung out. We spent a week hiking the Blue Mountains then moved into a flat with a few others in Parramatta. 4 months of living, travelling and partying together as well as my job in the local Irish Pub and we had some good times. Epic times. I was happy again in life when earlier in the year Hungarian dancer Noemi had me on the brink of suicide.
The crazy times in Australia backpacking with Daniel contain some truly epic tales, some of which I’ve told on here before, such as the Getting Pissed at a Gay Rights Lecture, the meeting Roger Federer, the Neighbours Tour, the Wolverine Nutcase in Canberra and that wild night on the piss in Melbourne. However on the 4th February 2010, Daniel decides to fly back to mainland Australia with the lads Neil and Paul and I ended up staying in Tasmania. All the decisions were obvious and easy at the time.
I shed more than a tear, got a job on a broccoli farm, booked an Antarctica trip and preceeded to fire 99 countries into my backpack. If life had changed significantly for me with that decision, it did even moreso for Daniel. As he met Sofia. As Daniel backpacked up the East Coast with Swedish traveller Sofia, I was cutting broccoli and the memories of laughing at Wolverine in Canberra were all but gone. His life changed. Each event in our lives from October 2009 – February 2010 unnoticeably adding turning points to our respective destinies. Life for either of us would never be the same again.
“It’s useless to dwell” – Neil Finn
Yeah so after all the fuck ups in my life in January 2015, I had remembered it was reunion time. And even more bizarre to the exact day, 5 years on. We met up at Angelholm station in Sweden, where Daniel has moved to now. I hadn’t seen him in 5 years but yet those 4 months we hung out together in Australia were pure bliss. And he got to meet Sofia because of the turn of events. That journey has inspired me.
And for me, Don’t Stop Living has always been about the journey. The journey. It’s not about “top 19 sights in a city nobody has heard of”, it’s only about the real life journey.
I write this with pen and paper on a train in Norway. It’s my 99th real country here and I’m writing a load of stuff in my notebook since I have no laptop that works anymore.
I mentioned before that I had 1,000 unwritten travel stories. I lied. It’s about 2,000. I’ll never stop writing about travel. I can’t. Even if I try. I’ll go to a new city tomorrow and blast out a Top 5 Bars That I Drank In type article. Writing about the journey is something I have a passion for and that’s why I’m here doing this. I won’t lose.
As the sun sinks over this unknown Norwegian town, I know I’ll be back. You can bet your bottom Kroner on it.
Don’t Stop Living will return. Don’t Stop Now.
** This post is dedicated in equal measures to Daniel Evans and Neil Finn. Without Dan and those crazy moments we shared in Australia, this journey wouldn’t be happening in the same way and the wackiness of DSL would be diluted somewhat. Neil Finn, thanks for the song “Don’t Stop Now” and inspiring me on.