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 Shakabuku:
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 1am 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 note book 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 Shakabuku this year as well.