“I’m too busy raising cane. I’m back on the street again. I’m… back on the top again” – Van Morrison.
We join fads. We cling to the popular. We need to belong and we need to be like everybody else, we want to be the same as everyone. It’s human nature. Nobody likes to be the odd one out. It’s why we jump on bandwagons. And today, I’m jumping on the “10 year challenge bandwagon”. Yep, I’m joining the popular crew for once. Everybody and their cat is doing a 10 year challenge on Social Media, so I thought why not? I’ll do it too. Here is a story in high speed of the last 10 years of this blog, and of course, my lifestyle. Hold on tight…
“You’ll never change what’s been and gone” – Noel Gallagher.
Before the 2009 start of the 10 year challenge began, there was a lot of water under the bridge. I followed the crazy shit from the word go. I didn’t obey norms at my ill-fated Grammar School in the seaside resort of Bangor, Northern Ireland, we broke the rules there, we stole an exam paper. We loved that. We later regretted it and moved on. The story finally saw its presence felt on global media in 2014.
“Teenage angst has paid off well; now I’m bored and old” – Kurt Kobain (WAY before his time).
Backpacking the world didn’t hinder, help nor nurture it. I broke both my arm and leg while trying to get a degree at university! I was a master in failed exams. I don’t even remember being at university, that much. FACT.
But 10 years ago today, 20th January 2009 I was working in Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre selling beer at a comedy show (or a music show, or a play). For the life in me, I can’t remember the event. But this was what I looked like and did: (the photo is NOT exactly 10 years old, it could be slightly more, or slightly less, I don’t know when it was taken).
Life moved on. I was happy that day, incidentally. Later, after a failed romance, I found a home in the land down under. I lived in Australia from October 2009.
“I want to fly and run, until it hurts. Sleep for a while and I’ll speak no words. In Australia” – Manic Street Preachers.
Australia was a game changer money wise. I was earning lots of money in PJs Irish Pub in Parramatta and again in my farming jobs in Tasmania, where I:
- harvested broccoli in East Sassafras
- planted pyrethrum in Devonport
- weeded cabbage paddocks in Bishopsbourne
- purified echinacea at Lillico
- weeded beans in Carrick
- cut cabbage at Squeaking Point
I travelled through 20 more countries on that cash, ended back in Australia then I fell in love with Panny Yu. I was destined to stay in the Kong with her. Truly, madly, deeply in love.
We backpacked most of Asia together. We visited 44 countries and saw ALL SEVEN continents together. Noel Gallagher said it better than I ever could, read it as it is… “A dream, a dream we asked her why, to dream a dream she never died. Wipe that tear away now from your eye”.
“This; a present from Stalin’s reign” – Artur Gorecki.
What followed was lunacy. I taught English in Hong Kong again, I worked in pubs, this travel blog made money and I lost the plot.
Those days spent backpacking East Timor, Philippines, Bangladesh and Brunei Darussalam only to be asked by fellow tourists “you support AFC Bournemouth, but why?”, “you need to try the local beer instead of a Carlsberg but why?”, “you went to Mexico and skipped Chichen Itza but why?”. “Because I want to, it’s my team”, “because I can get Carlsberg everywhere”, “Because I have seen many Aztec ruins”.
“Super, super Fletch” – AFC Bournemouth fans.
I hated the norm.
We broke the rules. We backpacked places in China I had never heard of, nor will ever be again…
…we went backpacking in Iraq.
I hate joining popular movements and fads. I need to belong in somewhere I don’t belong. But I’m a huge hypocrite, aren’t we all? I still whack Oasis on my ghetto blaster every day, the most popular British rock band of my generation on album sales. I love it. I still drink Guinness and eat pizzas and kebabs weekly. It’s all popular stuff. Most popular Irish drink, most popular international foods. Jurastic blueberry chickenhead.
But sometimes, my journey was absurd. Ten years drifted aimlessly by…and here are some cool adjectives and photos…
“sink is full of fishes. she got dirty dishes on the brain” – Noel Gallagher.
“You’re turning every modern theory on its head” – Gruff Rhys.
“I’m what you found, I’m upside down. You’re in the air” – R.E.M.
“Arconada…Armstrong!” – John Motson.
“I don’t want to be a consumer” – Julio Felipe.
“Wacaday” – Timmy Mallett.
“The streets and the thousands of colours all bleed into one” – NG.
The crazy mistakes we make…I am so crazy and stupid that I once agreed to “date” a serial liar. She was a serial liar 🙂 Weird as she still claims “we are friends” (yes, her words).
“The days are long and the nights will throw you, away because the sun don’t shine” – Noel Gallagher.
So my 10 year journey has been “waction” packed. I didn’t expect it. As I write this from my new flat in the Srodmiescie of Warszawa city (which capitals Poland), it’s hard to contemplate all of this, what’s in my head.
“in your head” – Dolores.
So, a 10 year challenge, a bit harsh, but…I know who my friends are, I know where I’m from and I won’t hesitate to tell anyone that. I am from Bangor in Northern Ireland. I grew up there and daily I still love it. Oh, come and see me smile….
And so, here is a photo from 2009 of what I looked like:
And where I had travelled to…as a novice.
I DID NOT visit South America, Central America, Africa, Antarctica, Middle East, Pacific, Caribbean – they were all unbackpacked back then…
Here’s the list in countries in order of visits since 2009.
2.Republic of Ireland
11.United States of America
And tonight in 2019, here is what I look like…
And here is where I have been now.
2.Republic of Ireland
20.New Zealand (14)
33.San Marino (26)
55.Trinidad and Tobago (41)
57.South Africa (43)
62.South Korea (47)
63.North Korea (48)
66.United Arab Emirates (51)
73.Sri Lanka (57)
90.East Timor (69)
95.El Salvador (73)
99.Costa Rica (77)
106.FYR Macedonia / Northern Macedonia
128.Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
138.Don’t Stop Living
149. International Waters
151. Krolestwo Dreamlandu
152. San Escobar
155. Sovereign Military Order of Malta
156. Kingdom of Romkerhall
158. Western Sahara
161. Northern Cyprus
162. Ivory Coast
163. Saudi Arabia
171.Democratic Republic of Congo
(174. – Visa Declined) Guam
(175. – Visa Declined) Federated States of Micronesia
174. Marshall Islands
(175. Unrecognised) Enenkio Island
177. Solomon Islands
178.Papua New Guinea
- I didn’t include United Kingdom, Ireland or China in this list as I don’t recognise them the way the UN does. And I forgot about some of them so the order is wrong and Kurdistan, which overlapped with Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
Countries I am not going to count yet but I have officially stepped in:
(airport – Mauritania)
(region – Republic of Srpska)
(I am their general but I have never stepped foot in – Nedland)
(TV – Donkey Kong Country)
My target is to visit 200 countries (as defined by me) by the age of 40, from this list:
The Ultimate List of Every Country (all 627 of them)
I don’t care so much any more. I wrote this after a few Guinnesses. 😉
I might update tomorrow, if I feel up to it. This is my journey, it’s never EVER yours and I don’t care who reads it 😉 That much is true, baby baby baby….