“Finding ways to stay sober” – Damon Albarn.
Yesterday hit the ten week mark since I last had an alcoholic drink. It was Saturday 3rd May 2015, the day that AFC Bournemouth won the Championship at Charlton Athletic in London, England. On the bus on the way back to my mate Austin’s flat in Bournemouth, I just didn’t feel good. We had a champagne breakfast, we won the league, we won 3-0 away from home and my football team, AFC Bournemouth were in the Premier League! This should have been one of the best moments of my life as Ulster Cherry. But it wasn’t.
I suffered the worst illness of my life so far and had no idea what was wrong with me or the future held. I was screaming the place down at my mate’s flat in Westbourne. I realised I had burnt myself out. 100 countries had taken their toll on me. I had a massive red lump on my forehead and was screaming. This scar came from nowhere. I hadn’t fallen over, I hadn’t bumped my head. Nothing could explain it. I was scared. I must admit I am a bit of a “drama King” and I want to be centre of attention sometimes, but this was painful, scary and serious. The photo below is the scar 5-6 days later when the swelling had gone down.
It was a Sunday morning so no Doctor’s surgeries were open. Even worse, the next day was a Bank Holiday in England so they were closed then too. I’d have had to wait until 8am Tuesday morning to even phone to get an appointment on the NHS. So I called the emergency NHS (registering for the NHS is highly recommended by the way) and a doctor on the phone took me through my symptoms. Having been in Algeria and Tunisia in the past month, it meant that they did suspect Ebola at one point as though probably not affected, they are both in Africa, but they kept asking if I was bleeding and I wasn’t. My head was killing. I was drinking tea, water and orange juice and only eating yoghurts and ice cream.
In the meantime before my emergency appointment, Austin had given me some tablets and we had the football on the TV. I really feared the worst and having just celebrated my 100th country I’d had three major lows since – Tunis Air being assholes losing my bag, the Algerian Embassy refusing my tourist visa twice despite the fact that I’d spent £1500 on my visit to their country and now this. I spent a full week in Austin’s flat just resting. I couldn’t blog. I couldn’t write.
Austin was working of course but after work, we watched quiz shows and random comedies on TV and it was great to catch up with Austin again – the longest time I’d spent with him in over 6 years. So that was a plus.
I didn’t leave the house (apart from the 2 doctor’s visits) because I couldn’t get the energy. This meant I was Lackpacking in England for a week. I watched AFC Bournemouth DVDs, which my mate Dan brought round. It was the week of the UK General Elections so I got well into politics again despite my pain. British TV show Big Brother relaunched which came as a surprise – I thought it had long since been stopped so we watched that and I reminisced on the Lock In, the spoof Big Brother that Lee and I were in.
I visited the doctor twice that week in the end. The first time, he passed it off as a boil on my head and a sinus problem and I was on quite a few tablets. But the condition worsened and I couldn’t even muster the strength to turn on my computer and blog about it. Pressing the TV remote was a struggle.
I couldn’t sleep. I never ever have a problem sleeping. Ever. Now I couldn’t sleep for more than 1-2 hours without waking up in agony. What was this? My second visit to the doctor in 3 days had me prescribed on hardcore antibiotics called Flucloxacillin to try and numb the pain. It took 4 more days to numb the pain, swelling and screaming.
The swelling of this spot on my head decreased and suddenly, 8 days later I was up, out and about and ready to head on my journey again. It was bizarre. I even made it to my friends wedding!! Yes, Austin lent me a suit and shoes, I got on a bus, bought a quick present, and I attended Ben and Maria’s wedding in Poole Guildhall! I went to the wedding and left quickly after – really hope they didn’t think I was being rude, it was only my second time to see them in 5 years. I was simply knackered and feeling a lot of pain.
It was the worst illness I’ve ever had and I still don’t know what it was. Incidentally I still have the scar on my forehead from the pain, albeit a minor one, but I assume it will always be there. If anyone actually notices and asks me about it, I’ll probably just class it as my scar from backpacking through 100 countries. It must have been caused by stress and rushing around too much. Life had to change and while lying on Austin’s floor watching Countdown on Channel 4, a subliminal message came up in the Countdown Conundrum:
So it was time to change. Quitting cider would become quitting alcohol. I typed up 8 back dated blog posts in the space of 10 hours to make it look like I wasn’t ill. I booked a flight to Kuwait as you do and onwards to Hong Kong and decided life had to change for me again. It was travel burnout and despite the fact that in 2014 I headed to Caldea in Andorra for a night in the spas, this time I made some stronger decisions, and over the past 10 weeks my life has been different. Here are the top 5 Things I have done since that unexplainable illness:
1. Given up Alcohol
You might have read about the day I went backpacking round Camden Town. It was great – I stayed sober, had some alcohol free beer and enjoyed my time with the lads without drinking. Step in Alcohol Free Becks!
I gave up alcohol and it is now 10 weeks since I touched a drop of it. That is my longest abstention from alcohol since 2009 when I quit for that Hungarian dancing wannabe. I’ve only ever been tempted to drink when I was out in two bars in Hong Kong during this time but there was no point. I haven’t missed alcohol. But when I have a pint of Guinness again, I will enjoy it, believe me.
2. Released Another e-Book
I released another e-Book, a long awaited one on the Inca Trail in Peru. It took me almost 5 years to write and release but it was worth it. You can buy my Backpackers Guide to the Inca Trail here, and for fellow website owners you can become an affiliate so I can help others earn money from it too and help fellow travellers do the real Inca Trail.
3. Back at University
I am back at University! You might have read that I am now studying Cantonese in Tsim Sha Tsui at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It’s only part time and I’m just doing part of Module 1 but it’s a new start and a new challenge I’m relishing and enjoying.
4. Working on New Projects
Aside from the blogging, I earn my money in lots of other ways (planning apps, affiliate marketing, copywriting, selling ad space etc.) you probably know I also run multiple websites in the football, sport and lifestyle niche. I’ve been working on these over the last few months and earning more money than ever before. I also wanted to get back into the life I once had in England, so I got involved with the Community Website in Southbourne in England and am now the editor of it. Of course these extra projects drain my time somewhat, but I’m building things up to the level I craved now I have more time for it.
I aim to pay off all my debts and finally start to save money. I’ve never saved a penny in my life. All the money I earn, I spend immediately on travel. Expect a switch to sensible banking head. I also just bought a new laptop – my 6th in 8 years of backpacking. My laptops just kept breaking – technology has never been my friend and hopefully this time, this laptop will last me a long time!! I’ve gone for a Fujitsu fresh white LIFEBOOK.
5. Planning My Travels
Just because I burned myself out, doesn’t mean that my travels have to stop and you know they won’t. I’ll have to just keep an eye on my health a bit more now and perhaps slow it down a notch. I’m off to China again in a few weeks, then heading to Denmark for a few days before my first ever trip to the Faroe Islands to backpack round it and watch the Northern Ireland football match. So I am hotly looking forward to that.
I still get bored of staying in the same place and I detest routines, so I’ll be out backpacking properly again in early September. That should give me a chance to have some more of my book and blogs typed up before then.
I’ll see you around – chill out. Relax!