“Illusion never changed into something real” – Natalie Imbruglia.
8 years ago, August 2015 sits high in my life of memories. After a 3 month detox/retox, I went backpacking in Bangladesh, I was loving it!! I was at an all time high…again.
Malaga, SPAIN (April 2015)
I write “again” because just 3 months before that I had written this Detox Retox post, in the aftermath of a boil, a mental and physical breakdown and unexplained illness that I blamed on travel fatigue, having basically just finished backpacking my first 100 countries and finishing my book Backpacking Centurion – the last penned chapter of that was written in a bar in Malaga in April 2015 just after I finished reading Diego Maradona’s autobiography. Below, the last signs of a happy, wild and healthy backpacker as I headed into Gibraltar and later to Malaga.
Bournemouth and London, ENGLAND (April – May 2015)
Malaga had a direct flight to Bournemouth and that’s why I chose it. I didn’t know I’d finish my book there. It just happened like that. Thanks, Malaga. I went to two of AFC Bournemouth’s last three Championship matches (I was at Sheffield Wednesday home and Charlton Athletic away) and life was great.
Workwise, as well as professional travel blogging on here, I secured a writing contract on the Hipmunk project which also got me a lot of work through Copypress at the time. Incidentally, I worked a lot for Hipmunk but they eventually went bankrupt, they were really good though. Wrong place, wrong time. Copypress filled in the gap as did my advertising and the website I ran in Bournemouth at the time (also now – sunken and ill-fated). Titanic loyal. No doubt, all of that work helped me become a writer on Culture Trip by 2017 and progress into a multi-media writer before delving back into teaching and becoming more creative than ever after I moved to Warszawa. It was a busy working lifestyle. I digressed there in that section however, and after that Charlton Athletic v AFC Bournemouth match, I collapsed, plumped myself onto a mattress on my mates floor and I was done. Knackered, smashed, out of control, lost the plot. I needed a fucking break. My life was a fucking break, yet within that, I worked every day from my laptop. All around the world. Freedom was false, remember…
“The liberty ship disappeared a long long time ago” – Noel Gallagher.
Collapsing After Charlton (May 2015)
Straight after Charlton away, I collapsed and spent a week doing nothing. Below me sleeping on my mates floor in Bournemouth. I’ll recap on that and bring it up today, where I am now, and why this blog must go on and be better than ever…
That time, the photo above sums it all up. Life was simple in May 2015. I had been working as a professional travel blogger for over two years at that point. I knew how to backpack the world, earn from it, live off it and be happy. I was writing 5+ articles a day not just for myself but for Hipmunk and Copypress. Then a week on a floor drinking water and taking pills made me quit alcohol and the life of bars…that was May 2015. Back to Hong Kong I went.
Back to The Kong (May to August 2015)
So I picked a few countries next where alcohol was “limited” (Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE and Bangladesh) and I detoxed completely, moving back in with Panny into our old flat in Hong Kong. We planned to get married and enjoy life in the Kong together. But it felt like it was all filtering out. My relationship with Panny was intense and magical; but it had peaked. We backpacked 44 countries together and ALL 7 continents. Couples don’t do that, and I doubt I’ll do that again with any other girl…no other girl would do that with me again anyway, like that. She’d have to be nuts. We were crazy and it was all so much fun. The Iran visa struggle, backpacking Iraq, hiking Tajamulco, Antarctica away, caves in Australia, whackpacking North Korea. It was nuts with Panny and I and I am sure she loved those days as much as me. So yes – from May 2015 to August 2015, I had a 3 month detox, retox. No alcohol, no bars, no madness. I allowed myself beer for the Blur concert in July 2015 – I disciplined myself that exception in. It really worked. I had two e-Books out, I studied Cantonese and my travel book series Backpacking Centurion was “basically” finished. The detox, retox was perfect and I was back to my normal backpacking soon after that, swallowing a further 15 countries in a short space of time, leading me up to June 2016 where I was with the GAWA again at Euro 2016 – Northern Ireland at a major tournament.
“They can come true yeah. They can come true” – Gabrielle.
Post Euro Gdańsk, POLAND (July 2016)
“I want to dance with somebody” – Whitney Houston.
After those Euros, unexpectedly, I was in love with a girl again. Panny and I had fizzled out in late 2015, and as I write this in August 2023, I still haven’t seen her since that day I left for Bangladesh (via Singapore). The new love was nothing on Panny though. I can’t mention her on here, and actually I rarely did as it pained me. She lied, she got scared and she couldn’t handle hardcore backpacking like Panny could. The strong woman. I toyed with that new love, dating her, romancing with flowers and surprise gifts in a spiral which sent me into a deep depression and loneliness. She was a weak woman. Yet, when that all began I just happened to be in a city I felt finally at home. Gdańsk, Poland. I’m synonymous with Gdańsk now, despite relocating to Warszawa after it.
“I Went to Gdańsk With Somebody” – Jonny Blair.
As I write this today, I’ve spent so much time there in Gdańsk in the last 7 years. The activity has been wild! I’ve written a book about how I ended up in Gdańsk (I Went To Gdańsk With Somebody), the local council featured me in their annual marathon, Gdańsk High and Primary schools had me as a speaker to talk about my travels and I taught professional Business and Travel English there too.
Return to Gdańsk, POLAND (August 2023)
Oops…then another girl came into the fray (around 2019)…and she could never replace the void. Sorry. In August 2023, I was back in Gdańsk 7 years later. This time, I expected to have matured and been more discplined and calm. But I wasn’t. I went wild. I went back into all those bars and cafes I frequented before – Jozef K, LaBEERynt, Red Light, No To CYK, Pijalnia, Pyra Bar, Blues Brothers. I was sitting writing, drinking and talking to everyone. One more please…
It’s my favourite city in the world and my final nail on the Backpacking Centurion coffin was done – The Black Volume. But I had lost myself, again.
All must be good then?
Wrong. I over-dosed on alcohol, and in those bars, and I collapsed and wanted to die. Over a gin and tonic, and some shit poetry I had just written, I decided to quit alcohol and bars AGAIN. This time, I made the decision whilst in Jozef K, my favourite bar in the world. I loved the decision and I headed back to Northern Ireland to see my Mum, Dad, brother Marko and nephew George. More stuff happened in between, but that’s the jist of it. I had a breakdown again.
“We all invent ourselves. And you know me” – Michael Stipe.
I had let myself down, I have recently let my friends down – mostly Millwall Neil and Gemma, both of whom I skipped a meeting with due to my life spiralling out of control. Sorry to you both, we’ll meet soon. I just need time.
Sweet Ports of Northern Ireland (August 2023)
Whilst in Northern Ireland, I did four things I hadn’t done there in about 20 years. Including the “Port Hat-trick”.
1.I played crazy golf – we went to The Lost City in Yorkgate, Belfast.
2.I ate ice cream at Morelli’s in Portstewart.
3.I went on the Ghost Train with George at Barry’s (now called Curry’s) in Portrush.
4.I caught crabs with Dad and George on Portballintrae Beach.
It’s not a design for life but it’s a start of something newer and calmer. The madness of Don’t Stop Living and the bar life drove me mad.
“Your loneliness like a heartbeat drives you mad” – Fleetwood Mac.
“But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend” – Jimmy Barnes.
It has only been 7 days now without alcohol and bars but it’s a fresh start. I have about 1,000 unwritten posts to write for this blog and I’ll be trawling through them to push them out. Also, I’m planning on going backpacking to a new country soon, but it all depends if I can get the visa or not. These are still struggles.
From a Sunday evening, from my desklamp, live on this quote for now.
“I want it now, I want it now. Not the promises of what tomorrow brings. I need to live in dreams today; I’m tired of the song that sorrow sings” – Echo And The Bunnymen.
Gdansk and Portstewart both share that beautiful thing: The SEA-WIND air. It’s unbeatable, baby.