The Afterlife – Life After a Big Trip
You have just seven seconds to make a first impression. Perhaps then it is not surprising that we instantly try to put people into boxes. To compartmentalise them, trying to make sense of who they are, sifting and sorting them to a mould that fits our own thinking.
In recent years, Iâ€™ve been labelled a climber, a runner, a cyclist and more recently an adventurer. A label that frankly makes me cringe.
During my travels in South America I was labelled a gringo, just as often I heard people referred to as fat, skinny, tall, short it’s part of the culture and usually met with a laugh or a smile by both parties. Of course the English are naturally too polite and politically correct (but these labels are still used in hushed tones).
So where am I going with thisâ€¦.
Four years ago, I made a decision which would forever change my life. I decided to go away on the big trip that I had always dreamed of, and pedalled a bike for the best part of two years of my life.
For me that big trip was something deeply personal, it was never done to become publicly known, to carve out a career as an â€˜adventurerâ€™, to write a book, or to grow a huge social media following and become instagram famous.
Despite all of this, over the past year Iâ€™ve stood up in front of audiences to tell my tale, to share photographs and my own experiences, with the hope that it would inspire other people to think differently and follow their own dream; whatever and wherever that may be.
As I come to wrap up my talk, I invite questions and there is always that one question.
So what’s the next big trip?
I normally mumble somewhere remote and dramatic sounding. But quite frankly I havenâ€™t got a clue, the fact is my own plans have been in a constant state flux since I returned home.
You see as much as I dearly loved that trip, those experiences and the memories it has left me with, it never left me thinking of myself as an adventurer. Iâ€™m just an ordinary bloke who decided to take some time out of a conventional life and experience a tiny sliver of planet earth.
Sure Iâ€™d do it all again tomorrow in the blink of an eye. I have no regrets, and would urge anyone with a desire to travel to do the same.
What you are never told is is that setting off is the easy bit, the biggest challenge comes once you return to the place you call home, to the place you nostalgically remember when you felt alone and isolated far away from friends and family and whilst it’s definitely homely and familiar, a fresh perspective begins to reveal the tattered edges that you so happily saw past previously.
As the post trip blues settle in you are left feeling restless. Itâ€™s the easy choice to take off again, to cast aside those feelings of awkwardness and immerse yourself in another trip. In fact its what people have come to expect of you now, you are after all an â€˜adventurerâ€™.
Choosing to stay put, or to even put down some roots feels like you may lose some credibility and risk falling into the trap of becoming â€˜comfortableâ€™, quite possibly you may never depart on another trip, as life begins to wash over you.
To my own mind at least life has seasons, periods of change and growth, periods of consolidation. If you are lucky life will flicker between these polarities in a constant feedback loop carrying you along on the crest of a wave, other times the wave will come crashing down leaving you feeling stale and ready for a change.
At the current moment in time that big trip may seem like the high water mark of life, but there is nothing more certain that as soon as the trip finishes, and the photographs and blog posts dry up it will be tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.
Suck out all the goodness out of the trip, reflect on how it has impacted you, and who it has made you today. But most importantly of all make sure that you retain that adventurous spirit, that inquisitiveness and willingness to take a risk, because you never know where that next idea or dream may take you.
Never be afraid to travel. Never be afraid to remain.
Tread your own path, not one that other people expect of you.