The Travel – A Guest Post

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Seeing The World: What Better Way To Spend Your Time?

Throughout my teenage years and early twenties, travelling was always something that I felt I probably should do, rather than actually wanted to. Being the painfully OCD freak that I am and so very attached to London’s home comforts, the grim logistics of backpacking oddly never appealed to me. Needless to say, not showering for days on end, scooping dinner out of a tin (if at all), and nursing foreign hair infestations was not on my list of things to do. Regretfully at the ripe old age of 27, I’ll happily say I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s the best thing I’ve ever chosen to do.

Obviously there were holidays over the years: family trips to Spain, boozy city breaks with mates, South Africa with Seany, jollies with the missus and music festivals, all of which I’m hugely fortunate to have enjoyed and loved. This trip, however, is something else entirely. The places, people and cultures have been so dramatically diverse, heart-meltingly humble and astoundingly helpful, to the extent I often believed these encounters were an elaborate scam or robbery. They never were.

Views so beautiful they have literally taken my breath away, surroundings that no iPhone, digital camera or even SLR can truly capture and I can’t even attempt to describe in words the sheer size and scale of these places. And the beer, let’s not forget the beer; at any time of day and more wallet-friendly than water on most occasions; smashing three course lunches for about £1.50 in Bolivia and frankly inhaling the dirt-cheap steaks and red wine of Argentina, as if someone were about to steal them from under our noses. The people we’ve met along the way have also been (for the most part, I’ll get to that) terrific human beings and I wouldn’t think twice about putting any of them up in the big smoke.

But despite those seemingly endless praises, travelling does carry its darker undertones. So’s not to put you off, I’ll try and keep this brief. Here’s what those Lonely Planet books don’t tell you:

The Comfort Zone

Travelling with my girlfriend has been hugely rewarding both on a personal level and in terms of our relationship. We’re now so close, it’s become common place to discuss the consistency, colour and volume of our shit, after EVERY trip to the toilet. Sometimes it’s even reported through the bathroom door, bellowing with sheer joy and relief that it’s a, ‘SOLID ONE!’, having beaten the diarrhoea roulette. Your partner’s face is also seriously important, you better really, really, like it, for the only time you don’t see it, is when you’re asleep or during those brief milliseconds of respite when you blink.

Tossers

I’ve made a point of mentioning how amazing the people we’ve met are, and on the whole, we’ve been very lucky. Of course, as a law of averages, there are going to be exceptions, or, ‘tossers’, as I like to call them. Company so intolerable, that it makes you think perhaps you’re being punished for something in a past life. Wankers so unfathomably annoying, that I frequently found myself pushing an imaginary sock into their mouths, in the hope of putting a plug into the know-it-all, anti-government, anti-commercialism, anti-job, anti-McDonald’s, anti-fucking-anything to be honest chat. One chap in particular spoke at length to us at how large household brands and corporate companies were destroying the world and killing people, as in actually murdering them for land. The same cock sat there telling us all of this in a pair of Nike tracksuit bottoms, guzzling a can of Coke with his Marlborough Lights, showing us ‘proof’, on his sodding iPHONE. We got some comic mileage out of this knob though, so not all bad.

Dormz

Even after nearly thee months, the concept of this still unnerves me. “Hi eight total strangers, so we’re all just going to sleep in this hotbox of a room together, stacked like free prisoners, pretending like this is all completely normal behaviour?”. It has to be done at times and there’ll be a good few more to come I imagine, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. The sound of incessant snoring, persistent crotch scratching, phlegm-hocking and and bilingual sleep talking will always hold a dear place in my heart. As will the Venezuelan girls puking solidly between 3-4am, then ignoring their 5:30am alarm call for what felt like an eternity, until they were literally shaken to consciousness by my main bitch – she can get scarily Belfast when she needs to. Thankfully we’ve not bore witness (that we know of) to any camel-feeding, sausage-eating, todger-pulling or finger blasting. Yet. We did however come across one harrowing account of a dorm experience, where a charming Aussie girl insisted her new love conquest refrained from, “Spitting in her fanny”, at which point the neighbouring bed occupier had enough and threw them both out. Bravo.

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Having digested all that, I’m sure you’re busy clicking through Sky Scanner web pages with your calculator, and so you should be, it’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make. You won’t remember that car or designer handbag you bought on your deathbed in years to come, instead it’ll be some naked Slovakian boy on the opposite bunk, who in his sleep-induced state decided he was going to sit on the end of his bed and glare into your soul, while you pretend to be engrossed in the latest free download on your Kindle. Good times.

photoWritten by Alex O’Brien, my real life older brother. No we are not twins, yes I am the better looking one.

If you want to keep updated on his escapades, home or away, follow him on twitter here. He’s kind of funny.

The Timing

I’m forever feeling as though I’m running out of time. And considering how much of my life so far has been determined by phases of time such as going to school, moving onto sixth form and leaving home for university, I’m pretty glad that I have no commitments post graduation. I’m excited to have experiences ahead of me, undefined by Big Ben. However, I’ve begun to question how much timing not only determines our careers and education, but how much it also determines how we feel about people.

Think about it. If you know you’ve only got a matter of weeks to spend with someone before they leave the country or before you move on yourself, the ‘romance’ will be far more intense. It’s like that wonderfully romantic evening spent kissing that mysterious guy on a beach in Thailand. You know that he’ll probably turn out to be some bloke from Watford who isn’t particularly interesting… Sometimes I think it’s the transience of the kiss that makes it special rather than the location or perhaps even the person…

For instance, when you meet a stranger who you connect with, it’s the thought that you might never see them again that makes everything all the more urgent. It’s the ‘what ifs’ that make the whole relationship far more magical and you can forever blame timing for something that potentially wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Despite this cynicism, I do believe that we come across people who we would probably have a life-long friendship with, or perhaps even a long term romance but due to the motion of that little thing we call ‘life’, moments fade and people come and go. However natural it is to form fleeting friendships, I still think it’s a great shame.

Despite my own battle with timing and relationships, I think it has become an overused excuse these days and if you’re really into someone; time, distance and even money won’t be an issue. So if that certain someone who you know will only be around for a brief fifteen minutes, or couple of months, gives you butterflies, maybe it’s worth making sure that your time frame isn’t set in stone. Give them the little time you have and enjoy their company because you don’t know when that next wonderful brief encounter might come knocking…

Tick Tock.

The Gap Yah

When I was in sixth form, I wanted my year at school to be “The Year That Didn’t”… go to university. It obviously didn’t happen and my inner rebel was disappointed. However, I ended up not going myself that year and began an amazing journey with one of my best friends exploring the wonders of colourful Mexico and, well, the redbull of Thailand. It was wild, silly, but most importantly, an experience that taught me there is more to life than my pleasant inner city school and silly boy worries.

As we met various fellow travellers, I began to realise that not everyone takes the same path in life and perhaps the ‘right’ path is actually not so perfect. Everyone seems to think that we should do our A levels, go to university, get a job and build a career. However, my gap year opened my eyes to other options. Some people were travelling post-divorce, others post university, others having lost their jobs and some had always travelled and never even contemplated a 9 to 5. At the time, I didn’t think much about it, but as I embark on my own voyage post graduation, whether that be back to London from Exeter or across the world to the middle east, I cannot help but get a thrill from the freedom that ensues and the importance of having fun. Why waste my time on a job in teaching that I will probably get bored of in five years time? Why get lost in a successful career in publishing that will end up in me working long hours in a stuffy office, for not very much money?  Instead, I want to live life to the full and enjoy myself for a while!

I hate to sound like a gap year tragedy (i.e someone who wears an anklet three years after they’ve arrived home) but I really would urge everyone to take a year out… or three. At the moment, we are all being forced to panic about spending cuts, crime rates and the future. For those of us who have a family who depend on us then perhaps it’s not the best time to up and leave. But for us students, I think we’ve been given a great opportunity to start something positive elsewhere and perhaps we should start thinking about clawing our way through the economy at a later date?

So, with two of my friends globetrotting post graduation and another two of my friends spending their third year of university abroad, I’ve started to think about getting out of London myself. I’m also hoping for there to be an influx in bronzed backpackers to join me with the forthcoming rise in tuition fees.

Put one finger up to the system, save some money and bugger off to India for the year where you can really decide whether a degree is worth £9000 or not, away from the pressures of society. Sound good to you?

… Right, I’ll dig out my back pack and join you.