In 2005, at the age of 29, I took my gap year. I had been working up until that point and had never been able to afford to travel. A disastrous attempt to start my own business in Leeds a few years earlier had left me in crippling debt, so I moved to London and worked hard, paid off the debt, and saved up enough for a round the world ticket.
Digging myself out of that particular hole is something I’m very proud of.
I went seeking Shockabuku:
From Grosse Pointe Blank (1987):
Debi: You’re pathetic. You know what you need?
Marty: You wanna tell me what that means?
Debi: It’s a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.
Marty: Oh, that’d be good. I think.
My first flight from the UK was to India. I landed at Mumbai in the middle of the night. The plane door opened and the hot smell of Mumbai Airport at 1 am hit me in the face like opening an oven door. Flowers. Spices. Fuel. Filth. I stayed awake in the airport all night waiting for a connecting flight. The next morning I flew on to Kerala. I went for a walk in Trivandrum and encountered people, trucks, cows, dust, stink, noise. I walked calmly back to my hotel, sat in the restaurant, ordered two boiled eggs and a pot of tea and burst into tears.
The whole time I was away, I was experiencing new things. I blogged prodigiously. I had blogged before I travelled. I remember when I started writing I used to use a lot more exclamation marks. I’ve noticed others doing it. I think it’s nervousness, seeking approval. If you’re really nervous you use lots of exclamation marks.
As I travelled, I wrote. I wrote in a notebook as well as blogging. Whether it was good or not, I was at least writing. It frequently wasn’t good, but good grief I meant every word of it. Looking back I realise that I was processing my experiences. I was experiencing so much new stuff, I had to write. And I loved doing it.
Over the twelve years since that trip, I continued to blog, but a lot of it was mundane. I’d try ranting at the news. For a while I wrote recipes. I felt like writing less all the time. Social media often scratched any itch I had to get something out, the irony being that everyone on social media had something to say so I couldn’t see the point in adding to the noise, someone else had already said what I was going to, or what I had to say wasn’t worth writing in the first place.
In 2016, I undertook career coaching. I’d been in a funk about work and needed to move forward. When I’d had the opportunity to work out what I was looking for from my coaching sessions, I realised that it was this: I wanted to get back to being a version of me that I remembered and liked, and that I had felt I hadn’t been for some time. And just one of the things that this version of me did was write.
Reflecting on my travels, I wrote then because I had to. When I wrote, I was writing to my mother (who was vicariously travelling through me) and to my friends, but I was writing mainly for myself. Social media didn’t come into it. What everyone else was doing didn’t come into it.
I don’t have any resolutions for 2018, but I do have a good long to-do list, and writing is on there. And part of writing means having experiences to write about. So I’m looking for a little Shockabuku this year as well.