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As travel fades into the memory..


I work in Sales. Technically, I sell people. I work in recruitment; the latest in a long line of professions in which no formal qualifications are needed but the rewards are reasonable. Like so many other people with the BA (Hons) qualification I left university with no idea where I wanted my life to go or how it was going to get there. I knew I didn’t want to work in an office, no way. I was far too much of a free-spirited leftie to line the man’s pockets with the fruits of my labour. I was a sociology graduate for crying out loud. In order to break all stereotypes of sociology graduates I went travelling. To Thailand. Even the path of enlightenment in Asia was a well-trodden path, where one can stop for a Pizza Hut after a long days driving in a comfortable bus watching Jim Carrey’s latest blockbuster on a DVD player. I’d already experienced ‘travelling’ a few years prior when I backpacked around Australia with a fellow temporary university drop-out. Again, we followed the migrating herds of Europeans that were treading their way up and down the East coast. Every conversation starting with ‘Are you going North or South?’ Should they be travelling in the same direction then you swap stories of which hostels you stayed in, often the same one. There should be a check list of things to do on these trips: Fraser Island? Check. Moheno shipwreck? Check. Photo of a dingo yawning on the beach? Check. Opera house? Check. ‘crazy’ experience in Nimbin? Check. Rather than people lugging expensive digital camera’s with them they should simply buy a ready made photo album of your trip at Sydney airport. Everyone ends up with the same photo’s, the same experiences, the same pretension of having done something totally unique with their lives. Not that it isn’t an amazing experience. It was certainly some of the happiest months of my life, and many of the happiest moments I’ve ever experienced were on that trip. Chucking a Frisbee around on the beach at Byron Bay as the sun set over the eastern horizon will probably stay with me until I die.

I grew up hearing stories of backpacking round Europe and Central America, not quite knowing where you were going or how you were going to get there. Australia offered a much safer, steadier, more reliable option. No language barrier, no real cultural differences, and literally thousands of people doing exactly the same thing as you if you need to ask for help. Internet café’s on every street to email home, and cheap phone calls in case you miss your mum and dad. Can this really be described as travel? Can it? I was 19 years old when I made this trip, and thought I’d seen it all. I still yearn for real travel, but am trapped in a web of working for the man. I sit at my desk for 55 hours each and every week, looking at the same old ugly colleagues, making the same old bull shit small talk. Dreaming at every spare moment of wandering down a noisy smelly street, where traders sell me vastly overpriced local goods and I justify being fleeced by ‘giving something back’ to the local community. Mostly, I want that feeling of waking up and knowing I have no real responsibilities. My only task is to decide whether to stay where I am for a few more days or move onto somewhere else. When my mind wanders down this cul-de-sac of escapism, my stomach follows. The butterflies in your stomach when you set off for new destinations are there. 10% of the quantity that would make you sick with anticipation on a real trip, but enough to give you a taster. A free hit of the rush that gets you going, that sends you dizzy with anticipation. Do I want to simply shirk the rigours of modern life? Do I need to snap out of it and work harder, commit myself to my career, settle down and buy a house. Get married and have kids, all the time wondering what might have been. Or do I need to do something that would actually count as interesting, selfish, exciting, dangerous and FUN. How many people are there like me who dream of walking out of work, going to the travel agent and buying a one-way ticket to Brazil? How many people actually do it? I’ve been blessed with the ability to justify pretty much any act with the phrase ‘fuck it’. My working life and totally uneven work-life balance is there to be fucked. <!-page–>

It seems to me that the facts of the matter are actually quite simple. People should be able to do what they think will make them happy. But that just isn’t the case. When did everything become so complicated? Suddenly, I’m worrying about my parents while I’d be away. Isn’t that meant to be the other way round?  What about my financial obligations? My loan repayments won’t go away. Shouldn’t I buy a house before they get even more over priced? Property is better than pensions I’m told. I know people who have worked their whole lives, kept their nose clean, have created a lovely family environment, for it simply to fall apart. Bankruptcies, suicidal tendencies, redundancies all suddenly swoop in and show how pathetically insignificant all they have worked for really are. Are we really supposed to graft for 40 years just to watch it slip through our fingers as our priorities change and it suddenly dawns on us that we should have spent more time slowing down and looking out the window, enjoying what we see, and reaping the personal rewards of seeing something for the very first time. In my current life I gain satisfaction from doing my job well. Completing a deal, getting my commission are good things. Will I remember them in 20 years time? Will I bollocks. Will I remember the week when I arranged more interviews than anyone else? See previous answer. In fact, last week is already a bit of a blur, fading into absolute nothingness. Little achieved, little recognition, little satisfaction, little point.

So what is the answer? I guess I should really try and define the question. I suppose what I want to do is to drop out of life. Not on a gap year, not on a 12 month TEFL placement, not on a multi-stop round the world ticket from STA travel making where you are deposited in the same destinations as countless other people who think they are doing something unique. Ultimately, I don’t give a toss whether it looks good on my CV or not. I want it to be about truly seeing parts of the world that are not often seen by people like me. As a caveat, it needs to be warm (when did I say this was a deep and meaningful desire?). Maybe doing this will show me that I want to work for the man, that there is a lot to be said for a regular income, a regular routine and, well, regularity. Without trying the other side how can I be happy with the choice I’ve made?

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