“When are you going to stop travelling?”
“When will you settle down?”
“How long have you been on the road for?”
These are the types of questions that people ask me, day in day out. Everybody assumes (with their own personal justifications) that the journey has to end. The travelling has to stop. The crazy adventure has a logical start and end. But sometimes I sit and ask myself “why does it have to stop?”
“Don’t ever tell me to stop” – Madonna Ciccone
The weirdest thing for me is that in the last year, I have spent more time in Europe than any other continent and this is the first time that I have done that since 2009. At some points, people even thought I was, dare I say it, “settling down again”. But the truth is, I never stopped moving, even in Hong Kong, even In England, even in Northern Ireland. It was an addiction. I had to travel. Even when I stayed in one country for a prolonged period, I was on the move.
On my longest stint back in Northern Ireland in 11 years, back in October 2014, I couldn’t stand still. I stayed in hotels and hostels (including the Europa Hotel and the White Park Inn) and I toured my home country, from Ballintoy to Portbraddon to Newtownards to Tandragee. I was still on the move. I wasn’t “home”, it all felt like I was still travelling.
This is because I didn’t know a different way of life. Being on the move all the time was my release from the horrors of everyday life. It gave me ambition, something to do. I hate the mundane, the banal, the repetitive, the knowing what’s ahead, the routine. My history of Monday to Friday office jobs, irregular shifts on car ferries and late nights manning bars in the land down under were all rock’n’roll but they didn’t inspire me as much as hopping on a bus to an unknown village, in an unknown region of a new country. That was, and that is, the buzz for me.
A very good friend of mine, Austin, who I lived with over a decade ago said that I could stay at his for a while, so I did. He lives in Westbourne in Bournemouth. It was like old times. As people, we hadn’t changed that much, but one thing he will have noticed is that I turned up with a backpack and I live out of it. Everything I have when I’m on the move, fits in that backpack and that is my life. He will also have noticed that being in a flat for 2 days, I got eager to get on the road again. I needed to get out and see the sights. I’d be backpacking through the leafy Bournemouth districts of Alum Chine and Westbourne. I didn’t stand still.
I stayed with Austin on and off, for what seemed like a whopping 5 weeks on this occasion. But did I really? Not really, because in those 5 weeks, I travelled more than any of my English based friends. I got trains and buses all over the country. I went to London three times, I went to Crawley, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Manchester, Liverpool and Wakefield. I also toured two disputed countries – the Lagoan Isles and Adammia. And I also went to Jersey and back on the ferry, so I was still travelling all the time! But I was travelling slower, staying in the same region/area, I was overlanding. I haven’t been on a flight in 5 weeks.
I was all over the place, in five weeks, I travelled as much, if not more than in the previous 6 years. This was proof to me that, even when I try to stay stationary, I can’t. I need to be on the move. I remembered back to my time teaching English in Hong Kong, even then, I’d go to China at weekends to backpack through places like Luoping and Sanqing Shan. It was all crazy.
So the journey still hasn’t ended. I toyed with heading to Africa for 3 months, but I was finding so much fulfilment with my travels in and around England and the nations landlocked within it, that I didn’t get round to booking any flights and I’m still in England now, travelling all over it! I’m spending more time in the same regions than I used to – it used to be bang through a country on 3-4 days (like Swaziland and Andorra).
Despite trying to “settle down” for 5 weeks, I just couldn’t. I was on a train, bus or ferry at least once every 3 days and toured a new village, town or country every 4 days.
When will the journey end?
The answer is, whenever I lose the passion and desire to constantly travel or whenever my body is not fit and healthy enough to backpack the world.
Neither myself, God, or the Power Rangers know when that day will come.
Thanks for reading, safe travels one and all.