Closing thoughts

It’s been nine days since I landed back in England, and a lot has happened in that time. I’ve reconnected with loved ones, celebrated and commiserated at the England football team, learned that my Nan is in hospital, traveled to Nottingham and back, started looking at flats to rent, played with my sister’s new kitten, and even had a marriage proposal.

The whole point of leaving a few weeks between getting home and starting work again was to have a rest, to recuperate from my long, tiring experience abroad, and give myself a decent platform from which to build the rest of my life. The problem is, life never seems to slow down enough to allow you to catch up with it.

The word “whirlwind” has been used a lot by and to me recently, and that pretty much sums up what life is, so we may as well just immerse ourselves in it and enjoy it while we can.

Despite all of this, I have had a few tuniopporties to sit back and reflect on what’s happened over the past four months. And, to put it briefly, what’s happened has been a lot of very enjoyable things that I mostly won’t forget until I’m old enough to fall asleep during the Queen’s Christmas speech.

(Close family members will inform you at this juncture that I have fallen asleep at this very point in the recent past, but we’ll gloss over that.)

I didn’t go into this trip with much in the way of expectations. That was a deliberate ploy to avoid the ever-so-simple trap of comparing the experience with what you thought it would be, rather than simply enjoying it for what it was. This approach allowed every destination, every experience, every encounter to be a surprise. Every day was a new adventure, and besides knowing where I should end up by the time I need to refresh my zeds, the journey was always into the relative unknown, and this was a good approach to have.

Finding the right balance between organisation and impulse has been the key to the success of this journey. Well, the amazing New Zealand countryside and mind-blowing new relationship have helped, but being able to enjoy those things – as well as everything else – to the degree that I have has only been possible because of this balance. Too organised and you end up sacrificing incredible experiences for ones you thought you’d like just as much. Too impulsive and you end up with no money and nowhere to sleep. Fortunately, neither of those things happened to me, and I feel like getting this approach right has helped me evolve and mature as a person in some ways (not all of them though, don’t panic).

People often ask me what my favourite thing about traveling is, and the answer is being able to enjoy the little things just as much as the big ones. Yes, snow-capped mountains and neon-swathed boulevards are memorable feasts for the eyes, but then I remember having a joke with a Belgian train conductor because I’d ballsed up my ticket, seeing the hand-written welcome note on my bed in my motel in Ohio, or falling asleep to the sound of waves rolling over the beach just yards away in New Zealand, and I realise that not all of the pieces of this puzzle are the same size, but they’re all just as important and beautiful as each other.

So what happens now? I spoke before this leg started that it probably wouldn’t be the last one, that I had plans to finish off Europe and then make my way to the Far East next year, and so we come to my greatest conflict.

On the one side, I’ve loved travelling the world. I’ve seen so many amazing places and people, done so many amazing things, and there is still so much more that I haven’t explored. Japan, for example, has been #1 on my travelling wishlist since before those blokes sang a song about football coming home, and the thought of visiting it still gives me tingles down to the bottom of my feet.

But on the other side lies stability, structure and responsibility, and I find myself craving those for the first time in a long time. I’ve been incredibly lucky these last couple of years or so to be in a position to be able to do this traveling malarkey. I don’t have a wife, or kids, or a mortgage, my partners were all incredibly supportive, and I work in a career that I have the skill set and availability to dip in and out of. Now, however, I feel a desire to change a couple of those things. No, I don’t mean kids (eww), I mean progressing my career to a level that my typically very high ambitions aspire to, and buying my own property so I can feel like, for the first time in several years, I have somewhere I can truly call home. Doing these things would make taking several months off at a time to gallivant across the world significantly more challenging.

Right now, I’m leaning more towards the side of the coin that provides me the opportunity for stability and progress. Maybe in a few years’ time I’ll be in a position again to take some time off and go on new adventures, but for the time being I feel like it would be (uncharacteristically) more sensible to focus on the bigger picture of my life, and doing what I need to do to get it looking how I want it to look like in five or ten years-ish.

I’ve had my mid-life crisis, and now it’s time to move on and embrace old age with open arms, constantly reminding young people how young they are, and emphatically declaring that there hasn’t been a single decent piece of popular music released in the last ten years. (There hasn’t, by the way)

Oh, and one final thing, I didn’t accept the marriage proposal. Yet.

Oh, Canada

I’m coming home! Eventually.

I have good news and bad news, and more good news, and even more good news.

The good news is that, due to spending an unfathomable amount of time gawping at mountains and/or having afternoon naps, you guys are in for a multi-episodic blogging bonanza as I catch up sharing my musings on what is officially the most beautiful part of the world (that’s an actual fact).

The bad news comes as a result of some careful consideration and calendar coordination. To summarise, I’m not going to Canada this year.

When considering how to traverse from LA to NY, I had two main options. Either head up the West Coast, across Canada, and hurtle down the East Coast to the finish line, or skip the land of big farms and jolly hockey sticks entirely by travelling right through the middle of the US of A.

Both options have their perks. Going across Canada would give me the opportunity to explore a country that I’ve only scratched the surface of thus far, whilst popping in and saying hello to a branch of my family that I only found out the existence of last year thanks to this very blog. However, a road trip across the US has been on my bucket list since I figured out that bucket lists weren’t actually lists of buckets, and there are plenty of people and places that I want to see/see again along the way.

On balance, and taking my time frame into account, I’ve decided to fulfill my boyhood dream of cruising along great American highways in a ’50s convertible with a girl I picked up in Vegas for company*

*in a ’90s Ford Fiesta or similar with an extended overdraft I picked up in Vegas for necessity.

I’m the kind of guy that never says never (except when it comes to brussel sprouts), so this doesn’t mean I won’t have another opportunity to sample maple leaves and moose in the future, but for this year at least, the highest North I’ll be venturing is Chicago.

The more good news is that I’ve just spent a handsome sum of money in order to satisfy a man in a uniform. Yes, that’s right, I’ve just booked my flight home, so that US Customs are happy to let me in on the basis that I will be buggering off again at some point. Touch-down is due to take place at 11am on the 3rd of July, with the reality shock and itchiness to get back on the road again occurring at approximately 11:06.

So get the sausage rolls and party hats ready, because I’m coming home, eventually.

The even more good news is that I have a much better idea of what I want my life to look like once this mid-life crisis is done and dusted. However, since the word count in the bottom corner of this page is fast approaching my average across the site, I think I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to bore you all with extra-long posts now, do I.

A Delicious Mixture

I’m not really sure of how I expected to feel after 24 hours on the other side of the world. I guess I hadn’t paid much attention to it, given all the logistical planning and aforementioned goodbye-ing that has been occupying my mind recently. However, now I’m actually in this position, it’s fair to say that my emotions are somewhat mixed.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of my famously limited emotional range is akin to a medium-sized child who’s just eaten his first white mouse in a sweet shop and who can’t wait to try EVERYTHING else all in one go. But, there is a tinge of weirdness thrown in for good measure.

Now, when I say weirdness, I don’t mean that in a negative way. Yes, the prospect of spending longer than ever before away from family, friends and loved ones is a daunting one, but this unusual feeling is more to do with my geographical location.

I’ve always been fascinated with media that deals with some sort of alternative world. Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, The Elder Scrolls/Fallout video games, these are all examples of my favourite things to watch/play because they give me the opportunity to immerse myself in a different world or version of this world. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting to bump into any dragons or super mutants down under, but there was a natural assumption that, being so far away, it would be something quite different.

In a way, I’m right. I’ve only been here a day and already I’ve seen camels, road trains and drive-through off-licences. The latter of these things is definitely something I’ll be suggesting Britain introduces should I ever have the pleasure(?) of meeting Mrs. May, in a “what could possibly go wrong?” kind of way. I’m sure there will be plenty more weird and wonderful things that I’m not used to (such as people talking to me on the bus, I genuinely don’t know how to handle that) whilst I’m traversing this part of the world (did I mention Australia is fecking big?), but in all honesty, there’s a large dollop of familiarity here that leads me nicely onto a well-used cliche (without an accent on the e because I’m still jet-lagged and can’t be arsed to work out how to do it).

The world is a much smaller place than it used to be. In just one day I was able to travel from one side of it to the other (take that, Mr. Fogg). Furthermore, it doesn’t feel like I’m very far away at all. Last year, I wrote a blog post whilst sat in someone else’s garden, enjoying the sunshine and pondering what to do next in my new surroundings. Today, I’m doing the exact same thing, and my mind is struggling to comprehend the fact that I’m tens of thousands of miles away from where I was whilst hot-footing around Europe 12 months ago.

But as surprisingly small as it might be, it is full of mystery and wonder. Just like my…oh wait, my Mum reads this.

Goodbyeee

There are numerous benefits to having four partners. Most of these benefits I can’t go into detail about in a family-friendly blog, but receiving love and warmth in different ways from different people is a fantastically fulfilling experience that I wouldn’t change for all the chips in Las Vegas.

Sadly, however, with such a sizeable and well-oiled swing, comes an equally large and very daunting roundabout, a subject that I had been subconsciously ignoring until recently. Now I have no choice.

As I write this unusually emotional extract of waffle, I’m sat on a train (I still don’t understand why we don’t say in a train), zipping through the English countryside, returning home from an all-too-few glorious days with one of my minions in Edinburgh. It has been a typically wonderful experience, but only now is it really dawning on me that – assuming everything goes to plan – I won’t be seeing her again for several months.

When I trekked around Western Europe last year, I was gone for seven weeks, and by the end of it I was ready to be reunited with those that I love, and those daft enough to love me. In 2007 when I gallivanted the length and breadth of North America, I was away from Blighty for three months. The last couple of weeks were hard, I missed home, I missed my family, and at that point I hadn’t even touched any boobs, let alone had four partners.

So one can understand the level of trepidation that is coming across me faster than a kangaroo’s right hook, as I face the imminent prospect of approximately five months (mostly) by myself.

It is a tremendous juxtaposition how a guy who has multiple partners can be so fiercely independent, but that life-long trait of mine will undoubtedly serve me well, particularly in the latter stages of my journey. I know, however, that I’m going to struggle, and that’s something I’m just going to have to deal with, somehow.

Saying goodbye today was hard, and I still have three loved ones, my family, and a mildly-alcoholic, potty-mouthed best friend to go.

Don’t panic though, I’m not crying.

Yet.

That Monday Morning Feeling

Ok I’ll admit it, I told a teeny tiny fib. I signed off my last entry promising a swift return, and it’s been a whole month before you hear any squeak of news from me again. To both of my adoring fans, I’m sorry.

The good news is, I have more than just a squeak of news, I have a humongous, fantastical, plane-shaped piece of news. That’s right people, I’ve booked my plane tickets.

The actual booking process followed an all-too-familiar pattern of things I do with my life – I spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking and planning and coming up with the best way of doing things, and then changed my mind at the last minute and hoped for the best. In this case I’m referring to what is apparently a hot topic within travelling circles, the debate that has far too many hyphens for its own good, round-the-world ticket vs buy-as-you-go.

You see, having been told I can fly around the world basically creating my own stops for little more than a bag of sand (that’s a grand for all my non-London friends), I blindly accepted that as the best possible option and never even considered to look into individual prices. However, having recently been told by the same company that such a ticket doesn’t exist (which was weird), and subsequently been given a quote for £1700 to do the four major stops I’m planning to do (London-Perth, Sydney-Auckland, Auckland-LA, New York-London), I dusted off my sensible hat and sought a cheaper alternative.

As it turns out, booking these flights individually will probably turn out to be a similar price to doing it all in one go, and this raises an important point – money is not the biggest factor that determines how far in advance I commit to plans.

I’m in an extremely fortuitous position to be able to afford this trip, and probably next year’s as well, and so I’d rather spend just a tiny bit more to give myself as much flexibility as possible with regards to my timings. Yes, I can spend £1700 and commit to a flight from New York to London in July, but what happens if I want to spend longer exploring Mordor? Or I fall in love with the freezing temperatures in Canada? Or I get abducted by a moose in Montana? It’s important to me to keep my options as open as possible, and based on my current calculations (which aren’t necessarily accurate given that I’ve had less than 12 hours sleep), buying tickets as I go isn’t necessarily going to be any more expensive anyway.

So I’ve booked my flight to Australia on March 12th (which is actually the 13th down there because they live in the future), more precisely I’ve booked a direct flight to Perth. I’ve also booked a flight out of Oz to Auckland, New Zealand, on April 23rd – six weeks later – so that I can show the nice customs person that I do indeed intend on leaving the country again at some point. Luckily, flights between these two countries are as cheap as a second-hand lego set, so having to cancel/move it won’t be too much of a pain in the unmentionables.

In other news, I also have my Australian visa, meaning I can pop in and out of its enormous borders as much as I like over the next twelve months, and as I don’t need a visa to visit New Zealand, I’m pretty much all set to go.

All that’s left to do is to spend the next three weeks saying my tearful goodbyes to everyone who loves me (not sure that will be enough time), and try to squeeze several months worth of stuff into something I can carry on my back, and then it’s Heathrow here I come! At 7am in the morning. On a Monday.

I do love it…

I’ve spent a frustratingly long time thinking to myself, and saying to other people, that I’ll be “making plans soon”, and “putting dates to things before long”. It feels like an age since my breath was physically taken away from me by the view on top of an Italian mountain, and the itch to go explore the world again is well and truly back.

The good news is that we’ve now reached the stage where talking about plans is turning into actually getting off my lazy arse and making some (disclaimer, as I write this blog I’m sat on my lazy arse in bed in my dressing gown), and the first domino to fall is me quitting my job. Again.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to the people at the G Piccadilly casino for not only allowing me to come back and grace them with my ugly mug for five months, but for once again providing a wonderful, friendly, excellent working environment to operate in. No place has ever made me feel quite as home whilst not at home as there, and I’ll miss you all terribly (except that annoying waiter who hogs the TV remote in the staff room, nobody wants to watch those films).

My last shift will be February 3rd, conveniently timed to be the night before two large groups of Americans run around chasing a ball and falling over a lot, and three nights before a planned celebration of one of my partners officially becoming more intelligent than me.

Perhaps more relevantly to this blog, it gives me roughly a few weeks to relax, plan, and get waaaaay over-excited at my next global adventure, which I’m aiming to commence at the beginning of March.

The next step is to come up with a rough plan for the route I’m taking, and a more specific plan for the initial stages of it. As things stand, the rough plan is:

March/April – Australia
April – New Zealand
May – USA
June – Canada

However, there are several factors that can and will influence this itinerary between now and me trying to keep my lunch where it should be during take off, the biggest of which being how I book my plane tickets.

I have a few alternative ideas up my sleeve, some include bringing forward my trip to Japan – one of the countries I’m planning to visit in 2019 and the country I want to see more than any other – to this year, others include Hong Kong, or Dubai, or even skipping Australia altogether.

To make sense of all of these plans, and work out which one I want/is best for my wallet, I need to make a phone call. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll return shortly with more news.

A Sweet Solution

I thought I’d give it a few weeks before I wrote this post so everyone has the opportunity to finish reeling from my recent revelation that I’m actually capable of having feelings.

In the mean time, I’ve been brainstorming so many different scenarios for the next few years in my head, the cogs upstairs now look more like wheels. But, finally, one idea in particular is starting to stick. Well, when I say stick, I mean cling on for dear life like the hair on top of my head, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

The basic idea is this – next year I’ll spend roughly four months, from March to June, exploring Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada. Then, in 2019, I’ll take a few more months to enjoy the delights of Eastern Europe and South-East Asia.

The advantages of this plan are obvious. I’ll still get to see all the bits and bobs of the world that I want to see, but don’t have to worry so much about spending too long away from the people (and kittens) that I love back home. Plus it means I can keep a grasp of my youth and go another couple of years without needing to worry about growing old and sensible and settling down somewhere, which is definitely a win.

The astute among you will notice that there are a couple of time periods that I’d need to think about if this plan is to go ahead, more specifically with regards to employment, and topping up the travel fund coffers. Firstly, the idea was that my current part-time work at the casino would end in December, giving me Christmas and New Year to relax, and January to finalise my travel arrangements, but if I’m delaying the sending-off party until March, that gives me an extra couple of months of twiddling my thumbs and not earning any money – should I extend my current employment longer, at the risk of sacrificing my festive holiday? I haven’t decided yet.

The more important phase though is the one between the two intended excursions, from summer 2018 until whenever I head off again in 2019. Obviously I’m going to need to find work, but the nature and location of that work is still very much up in the air. I’ll always have casino-related options available, but I want to be careful not to burn any bridges I may want to walk across when I start thinking about my longer-term future once all this travelling nonsense has escaped my system.

Maybe I’ll find a sugar daddy to pay me for everything, I’ve heard that’s a thing, I’m sure it can’t be that hard…