“Everyday is all there is; in my some kind of bliss” – Kylie Minogue.
The sad reality of this existence is that we will never do everything we want in life. Nobody is complete. We want more. We always want more. What we have is never good enough. Or is that all cow excrement? Are we not just happy how things are? We should be grateful for what we have, shouldn’t we? But the world doesn’t work like that. Now that the world is in crisis and travel has finished (except for idiots that seem to think it is still acceptable to travel and unknowingly kill others without even knowing they are spreaders of the Coronavirus), it is time to reflect. Stay at home of course – don’t be a stupid person like Prince Charles or Boris Johnson who still deem it acceptable to travel and meet other people. Close that avenue, stay home alone, meet nobody else and don’t join the group of morons who go outside when it is not an emergency.
“Some might say you get what you’ve been given. If you don’t get yours, I won’t get mine as well” – Noel Gallagher.
As I sit in my bedroom in the north of Warszawa tonight, I am aware that my thirties have little more than a week left. That baffles me. I still feel 17. I still feel like a 17 old student studying Journalism and Media in Belfast City’s Belvoir Park estate. No doubt that as a 17 year old, I knew less about life. But my emotions and feelings haven’t changed. Not even slightly. Not even slightly. I still feel the same as I did aged 17 back then, on the cusp of my 18th birthday. But life also hasn’t progressed for me, or got any better. It feels like I have wasted the last 23 years of my life. Truly. Sadly. Deeply. And I will never get them back, the past is done. There is both a melancholy and a holy in my daily world.
“Don’t let go ’cause it’s just a step from heaven and the strength of love is on our side” – Eternal.
Grab things now, as the chance may never come again. I am very good at saying yes to things, I am very good at being honest and I despise liars, indifferent people and those who say no. Snooze you lose. Decline an invitation and you decline in life. The chance may never come again. Be the yes man.
“I write this alone on my bed. I’ve poisoned every room in the house” – Richey James Edwards.
The journey has been far from easy. As always, health wins. Mental health tore me apart for most of my exploits. But my work ethic, my motivation and my passion didn’t wane, nor wilt under foreign skies. They blossomed and ballooned, counteracting any blemish or dropped stitch on my particular cut of cloth on my life’s tapestry.
“Everybody needs someone to be there. Everybody needs to be alone” – Noel Gallagher.
Sure the journey has been emotional and heart-breaking. That outweighs the elation in the grand scheme of things. I fell in love with too many girls, diversified too many job opportunities, slept in far too many different beds (averaging 100 different beds a year for the last 10 years) and backpacked too many countries. But deep down, nothing has changed except wasted years. Time is the only change, everything else seems constant.
“Got a love that ain’t got no name. We kiss our love with lips like pain” – Brett Anderson.
I am still that baby faced proud Northern Irish nationalist dreaming of togetherness in my country, of freedom, of love, of peace. I was a writer aged 17 and I am a writer now. Nothing changed. Through my travels I also became a professional teacher and a confident barman. It is my hat-trick niche of work. Write, teach, serve. It’s where I find my heaven. Admittedly I haven’t worked in a bar for years as I kind of sit on the customer side of the bar now. But I still teach and I still write, especially now I am staying at home due to the Coronavirus threat. But my youthful sentiment remains my guiding star. Yesterday, this morning, this afternoon, this evening, the morra.
“We got a glimpse of a forgotten dream and we want it to pass to you” – Cast.
Things I gained? Tricks I learned? To look younger, to buy more moisturiser, to get less sleep, to work EVERY day in some capacity and rarely say no to people. To realise that food is not so important, that real friends will always be there for you. And try not to tell lies. Not to enemies, not to friends, not to lovers, not to family, not to anyone. Try not to tell lies. We all know how you can fuck up other people’s lives with nasty “Sashi Mueller” esque lies. She don’t keep the receipts for the friends that she buys. Unprinted documents and it’s back on the carousel.
“Ain’t it bittersweet? You were only just getting by” – Noel Gallagher.
But I write this as a seventeen year old today, even if my birth certificate shows I am 39 coming 40. We cannot have those wasted years back. The time machine promised in my favourite movie, Back Till Thon Future, never happened…
But at least I did these forty things eh??
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow” – Duran Duran.
Top 40 countdown, a la Tops of the Pops era BBC Radio One.
Being born is the start. Without that one, the other 39 don’t exist. Come out of the womb and live a little. I was born in the Northern Irish town of Newtownards. Mum and Dad gave me the best childhood in a country torn apart by “political violence”. Get through it.
2.Learn the offside rule
It goes without saying. If you don’t know the offside rule, you’re finished. Forget VAR and modern day football, buy a pair of shinpads and head down the park for a game of football. Your life will never be the same again.
Playing football down Bangor’s Linear Park as a kid was another of my guiding stars. You win the world cup in your own back garden. So till spake. But learn the offside rule.
3.Finish first in something /Win a tournament
Whether it is chess, Subbuteo, darts, football or stamp collecting, you need to win something. First is everything, second is nothing.
“We are the champions my friends” – Freddie Mercury.
4.Finish last in something/ Lose a tournament
You also need to suffer defeat. Know the lows so try something you are excremental at, and finish last. Today’s loser can be tomorrow’s winner. It’s okay to give up when you are clearly shit at something. I’ve lost Dracula how many times I have done that.
“This is a low, but it won’t hurt you” – Damon Albarn.
5.Be a tourist in a warzone
I grew up in Northern Ireland and I class myself as a tourist every day so this was a given. Later in life I ended up in both Iraq and Afghanistan when both were still classed as war zones. Tourism should never be about beaches and cocktails – that portrays a falsity and I despise such everyday sunset bloggers with the same passion that Toto Schillachi once shew (showed). Tourism needs to represent all of life, the good and bad.
“With their tanks, and their guns, and their bombs, we are dying” – Dolores O’Riordan.
6.Visit all seven (or ten or even eleven) continents
Depending on your quareception (perception) on life, you might have whackpacked your way to all seven continents. As a nationalist and separatist, for me I recognise 10 (or even 11) continents and so I managed to whackpack 8 of them all by the age of thirty. Later I added Middle East and Pacific Islands, but for the record my 10/11 continents are in order of visited:
10.The Middle East
It is a fair crack to nab the decathlon by 40, and slap the football team of 11 into the mix, averaging one new continent every four years for 44 years. We can do it.
“Take all I have, I’ve no secrets left to steal” – Louise Wener.
My dream in life was always to get married and it remains the one thing I want as well as having children. Those are the only two dreams in reality. However, if marriage doesn’t happen, at least get engaged. I was engaged aged 31 but we had split up by the age of 35 so no wedding ever happened or was planned. Love passed away…
“It’s easy to think of all of this as bittersweet me” – Rapid Eye Movement.
Marriage remains the dream for all of us. Nobody ever wants to be alone.
8.(Try to) Learn A Foreign Language
I’m dressed in failure. I have studied FIVE (count them) languages other than English and have so far failed at all of them, but I still persist. I still study Polish. Sadly though, as a Northern Irish nationalist, I have to class English as my third language which means my first two languages are Ulster Scots and Irish Gaelic and sorry to say I don’t speak or know either of them. If I ruled Northern ireland, I’d scrap the imported English language (which is easy to pick up later in life) and focus our education on the two local languages. I studied French and German in Northern Ireland, Spanish in Uruguay, Cantonese in Hong Kong and Polish in Poland. One day maybe…
“If you want more, shout it out louder” – Usher.
9. Have proper sexual intercourse
People are too shy about sexual intercourse, even in the modern world. As a man, get your willy in at least once. For the lady have it in you at least once. Rock the cucumber until the mayonnaise comes out. Have fun along the way and don’t hurt each other. You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals…
“So let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel” – The Bloodhound Gang.
10.Live with your partner
If you are not going to marry or get engaged, at least move in with your other half. Yes it is fun to travel with them but living together is the deal clincher. Panny and I managed to visit all seven continents together, 44 countries and lived together. It is important to share your wonderful life with someone you love.
“Movin on up, movin on out” – M.People.
11.Watch your team in an big tournament
Whatever hobby you are into, support your local team. Be it Eurovision, cycling, football, chess or the firefighting olympics! I watched Northern Ireland play internationally many times in multiple sports and passions, but it is the real tournament that counts. June 2016 was a high moment for myself supporting Northern Ireland at the football Euros in France.
“Pucker up for heaven’s sake, there’s never been so much at stake” – Placebo.
12.Represent your country globally
Don’t just sit back and watch, take part in it. I feel like I represent Northern Ireland every day of my life and I want to. Whether it is flying my flag around the world, partaking in competitions or just nationalistic promotion, I love to flaunt and shout it out loud.
“We need something to shout about and we need it now” – Ben Paulley.
13.Watch Oasis Live
I often quote Noel Gallagher as he is a personal hero and a writing genius. I have been to see Oasis live 13 times, and Noel solo once. That’s enough for any lifetime, once would have sufficed. The first gig in Cork in August 1996 still sits on top of the pile.
“Tonight I’m a rock’n’roll star” – Noel Gallagher.
14.Meet Your Heroes
I feel quite blessed here in this regard. Aside from our parents, it might be an impossible dream to meet our heroes. I did it a few times. James Hayter, Eddie Howe, David Healy, Teddy Sheringham, Tim Wheeler, Billy Hamilton, Gerry Armstrong…
“Back home everyone is saying there are only three players in this World Cup – Zico, Maradona and me!” – Gerry “Arconada…” Armstrong.
15.Do a Shit That Blocks The Toilet
Controversial one perhaps but an absolute classic. Backpacking in Bali in Indonesia I sadly succeeded in not just blocking the toilet but a network of toilets. I flooded the floor after my large brown excrement. The place had to be evacuated. Sorry kids…
16.Appear on Television
Don’t be shy, get yer bake ontill television. Whether it is making a pie on a cookery show, appearing on Big Brother or doing an interview about George Best. Say something to others, and listen to something from others. Communication is two way, so without you making your voice heard, it’s all one way in. Go let it out.
“I play football for fun now” – George Best.
17.Appear in a Newspaper
Print is the best medium. Blogs are run by modern day keyboard wizards, anyone with a laptop. Television is for posers and radio for people who love to talk shite. So get into the newspaper. That is where it is at. That is where it always has been at. Let’s hope the traditional newspaper never fades away.
“I read the news today oh boy” – The Beatles.
18.Start A Blog
Well I am a blogger, I love to blog and it keeps me alive. I recommend blogging to EVERYONE of you! It’s a super medium to send your message out to the world. Contradiction to point 17? Of course, but do it well. Don’t write 5 posts then give up. Longevity counts, I’m 13 years deep as a blogger now, a third of my life has been spent blogging. Start a blog, you never know where it will take you. Be it amateur blogging, community blogging, volunteer blogging or professional blogging, it is the contemporary platform to share your honest opinions with the world. And no, fake wannabe Instagrammers who don’t have a website, are NOT bloggers, and “Influencers” are excrement exits. 😉
“The lonesome hum from my desklamp is where I find my heaven” – Gigolo Aunts.
If blogging isn’t for you, then be even more simple. Just write something. I write everyday and I love it. It’s natural, easy and beautiful. I plan to release all my poetry, lyrics and books at some point. But I’ve already relased a hat-trick of mediocre e-Books, 19 football fanzines and 5,000 blog posts. Next up will be the book launch of Backpacking Centurion. Don’t expect roses.
“You’re turning every modern theory on its head” – Super Furry Animals.
19.Attend the World Cup Final
Personally I had to do this once, no need to do it again unless Northern Ireland are in it. I watched two boring teams, Messi’s Argentina Nil against Mu,e,ller’s Germany Nil in the 2014 final. Okay so Mario Goetze’s goal made it all worth it, but make a big dream for a goal you want to achieve and do it. This was my childhood dream – to attend a World Cup Final. Done and dusted. Locked in a box.
“They can come true. They can can come true” – Gabrielle.
20.Apologise for your lies
Unless you are a totally invincible human being, you must have told lies. Lies can hurt, maim amd kill others whether mentally or physically. Consider who you hurt. You can really affect their life forever. I have been on the dishing out and the receiving end so I know how both feel. Admit you are wrong, give a reason for your lies, apologise and MEAN it. It takes a man.
“I can see a liar sitting by the fire” – Noel Gallagher.
21.Take Part in a Reality TV Show/Get Away From Your Regular Life
Escape the real world for a while, to ironically live in a shell pretending to be the real world. I did this twice, long before my current self-chosen isolation due to the Coronavirus crisis. In 2004, I entered “The Lock In” where I was locked in a custom built “house” for a weekend with 5 other students (strangers) as an online experiment at Bournemouth University. In 2005, I entered “Locked Out” where I spent a weekend in a challenge with the British army in a forest in Dorset, also at University. Being away from people you know, technology, television, telephones, internet etc. is a great challenge for the mind. Of course, I grew up in an era where Facebook and mobile phones didn’t exist. We had teletext, pagers, and house phones. But I love the idea of cutting off and felt I learned a lot those days, about life, survival and myself. We can survive on bread and water.
“My milkshake brings all the boys to the bar” – Kelis.
Staying in one country shows your limitations as a human. At least try a month somewhere else. It was an easy decision for me to leave my home country, Northern Ireland in 2003. Since then, I have spent a month in over 15 other countries, living around the world, trying to explore and find my place. While I am now settled in Poland and happy here with my new project, the option to live somewhere else is always on the horizon. And it’s easy to relocate. Very easy. Routine and one-town boys are as dull as white walls.
“It’s better to leave than to be left behind” – Rapid Eye Movement.
23.Get A Tattoo
I have four tattoos and that is probably enough. It just feels like one of those things you need to do in life. It’s not that I don’t love my body, quite the opposite. It is that the things I love, I wanted to add them to my body so that my body further represents me. Yes, two of my tattoos are football related…
“A change would do you good” – Sheryl Crow.
24.Get A Piercing
I have two piercings, both left ear. It wasn’t like a rebellious youth thing. It’s just that I like to try things once and do them. My lower left ear piercing oddly became as much of my personality as my traits and ways. In my groups of friends, I think I am the only lad with a pierced ear. And it’s going nowhere.
“Everything in its right place” – Radiohead.
25.Feed A Hyena Mouth to Mouth
Back in 2013 while backpacking in Ethiopia, I made the wacaday decision to take a death minibus from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa. It was from Dire Dawa that I took a connection to Harar for the sole wacaday purpose of feeding hyenas. Harar was actually a cool city to backpack in anyway but the real thrill came at dusk with the hyena feeding.
“My smile as real as a hyena’s” – Nicky Wire.
26.Break Your Arm
Sadly I managed to break my arm, and on my 24th birthday night out too. It took me 6 weeks to recover and my first day back at work was in a new job serving ice cream with my right arm to make it stronger. Those days were a little wild, off the scale, I recall spending a lot of time at home, reading, drinking and watching football. Writing was off the agenda for 6 weeks and that hit me hard.
“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” – Cinderella.
27.Break Your Leg
Sadly I made it a double whammy in 2007 and broke my leg. The irony? It was also my right leg, and it was also in a bar/club on Old Christchurch Road in Bournemouth…this time it took me almost a hat-trick of months to recover. However, as I was housebound I was writing and reading more than ever and every cloud has a silver lining. It made me stronger and for sure I don’t regret that. I cherished my moments more after that. Don’t take walking for granted.
“On the eve of a golden age I’m told. At the end of the rainbow there’s no gold” – Jonny Blair.
28.Get a degree
I actually have quite a lot of adult certificates and qualifications, two of them from Universities. Although I firmly believe that experience and real life wisdom and knowledge is infinitely better than a piece of paper, I am proud of my degree in Public Relations (Bournemouth University), my Foundation Studies certificate (Queen’s University, Belfast) and the passing of cross media journalism including radio production.
“I’m seeing a tunnel at the end of all these lights” – Fran Healy.
29.Date A Nasty Girl
Part of me wanted to leave this disaster out of the top 40 countdown but in essence, it’s arguably the most important moment on my whole journey. I never thought anyone could be so nasty or dishonest to me. But this is an honest travel blog where I share everything. This particular dating affair was a life changing moment of jealousy, despair, romance, love, lust, hate, bitterness, lies, selfishness, secrecy, honesty, confidence, raunchiness and emotional baggage all in one. In a moment, my world was torn apart. As infamous Polish-Russian translator No Name Allowed herself once admitted to me “that’s my dream, you are my motivation”. From the words “yes we can meet. Not everyone will get the chance to date me, looking forward to seeing you then”, sadly she was right. Only a few idiots said yes to her and fatefully I had to be one.
“I was dosed by you” – Red Hot Chili Peppers.
So for one last time, I took her out for dinner at the oldest restaurant in the gorgeous seaside city of Gdańsk. We drank, ate, kissed, raunched and chatted (for one last time) before her nasty process of lies spiralled my life out of control and into sure depression. Somedays I don’t know whether she really meant to cause such depression. Somedays I wonder what she is doing now whether in Russia, Bulgaria, Poland or Germany. Whatever way I look back on it, she was mine and me hers, but she ruined it all with her lies. Dating had changed for me, I didn’t enjoy that luggage conveyor belt any more.
“She comes to speak to me, I freeze immediately” – Kurt Nilsen.
30.Learn To Drive
Although I am not a car freak, I must admit I do like driving and I do miss it a little bit. These days, I generally only drive about once a year. But I owned two cars before and often hire cars on my travels.
“Take me to the place where you go where nobody knows if it’s night or day” – Noel Gallagher.
31.Do a Bungy Jump
Encounter your fears. I had been in New Zealand for less than 24 hours in 2007 when I had already jumped off Auckland harbour bridge.
“The less you know the more you believe, the more you have the more it takes today” – Paul Hewson.
32.Fall in Love
Falling in love is easy but knowing that the other person is in love with you is harder to know. I’ve been in love too many times now and I know that my teenage crushes on Vicky Everitt, my childhood sweetheart Claire and those lovers in my twenties were something very real but very one way. My long term relationship with Panny felt like real love, but when it ended, sorrow had been and gone and I moved on quicker than the love of Noemi. I did fall in love again after that and right now, I am single and alone and that is not a good place to be in. It’s harder to find a person who wants you as you get older.
“All the lovers that have gone before, they don’t compare to you” – Kylie Minogue.
It is our duty as humans to contribute to others lives, so work in some capacity EVERY day. No exceptions. Even in illness, I still found a way to work, write or inform others about it. Everything is work. While I have had over fifty different proper jobs along the way, for me it is keeping my brain motivated that is the real work. I just don’t want to ever stop working. I am a workaholic. Ask those who travel with me, or go to football or down the pub. All of it is work and education. Taking a photo of my lunch and putting it on Instagram? That is some form of work, so is telling people about the football result. If we keep this work ethic of always being busy, we always have enough money to live on. I hate capitalism and global money grabbers, so all the work that I do, I hope it contributes to society in a way that equalises people, but of course that I can still pay my rent and have enough food and drink to survive. I’ll eat bread and drink water if that all fails. Whether it’s those amazing 12 hour days, 7 days a week on the broccoli farms of Tasmania, the late nights serving Guinness in Hong Kong, teaching businesses in Warszawa about phrasal verb use and idioms, or just photos from being a tourist that can enhance other people’s lives. We have a duty to work. I love that. I won’t get lazy and I won’t go hungry. Work, educate, listen, teach, learn, inspire. Keep working.
“Libraries gave us power. Then work came and made us free” – Manic Street Preachers.
New Zealand is guilty again. I sky dove (dived) over gorgeous Lake Taupo as a younger man.
“Breathe the pressure, come play my game I’ll test ya” – The Prodigy.
To keep with the adrenalin flowing activities, I tried under water diving / scuba diving/deep sea diving. I did my PADI course in Utila in Honduras, with Panny. It wasn’t all it cracked up to be. I counted International Waters as a new country, as nobody owns it but I never felt any need to backpack water regions staring at fish any more.
“I hear you knocking down my door and I can’t sleep at night” – Stone Roses.
As humans we can be very selfish, myself included as I eat animals and I have killed spiders and flies before. So to compensate it is nice to do animal tours and visit the real wildlife out there. Own a dog, do a safari, tour a well-protected zoo and love the animals. Here are my favourite animal experiences from my life.
“The lion sleeps tonight” – The Tokens.
37.Get naked in nature
Too many people are scared of or ashamed of their bodies. Outrageous decision. Show it to everyone, it’s your ultimate beauty in life. I have got naked on the Inca Trail, done nude yoga, went to nudist beaches, nudist parks and enjoyed being wild and free in Antarctica.
“You make me feel naked, undressing me with your eyes” – Louise Nurding.
38.Embrace the nature
Away from animals, enjoy the planet. I have loved my hikes, forest tours, beaches. The natural beauty we often forget about. It is a beautiful world, it is us humans, and the animals that ruin it, sadly. That is the hard truth.
“The oceans are wide and the mountains are high, it’s a small world after all” – Disney song.
39.Forgive an old friend
We have time to forgive and forget. No matter what we have done right or wrong or who we have hurt. While we are all still alive, we can still forgive people and it should be both ways. It’s never too late. Paddy Campbell remains a hero of mine, from my teenage years and we finally met again, in 2014, after 20 years. That felt life changing.
“It’s never too late to make a brand new start” – Paul Weller.
40.Backpack Through 186 Countries
My plan was and is to backpack through 200 real countries that I recognise at the age of forty, so I guess that leaves me with 12 months to complete that. It’s not really that important anymore. Survival is enough. I’ll stay at home for six months if it means others stay alive. I can survive on bread, or pasta, or rice and water. Maybe one day I will backpack again. But I’m glad I have seen 186 countries already with my own eyes, and blogged about them all.
This is the first of a two part series. The second part will be 40 things I didn’t do by the age of 40.
“No regrets, they don’t work” – Robbie Williams.
Welcome to the 40 club.
It feels like being seventeen, with 23 years of time added on for stoppages.
How many did you do by the age of forty?
Stay at home, stay safe.