It’s beginning to get very real. All the little plans Navi and I started to put into place years ago are nearing their conclusion. Moments we have talked about for so long are marked in the calendar just a few flips away. I have a new passport with 40 empty pages. In two weeks time it will have an India visa inside.
There’s a Goa guide book on my bedside table and I can’t seem to walk anywhere without diverting past an outdoor shop.
Travel Time Is Nearly Here
I said in my first post over a year ago that I didn’t know my quit date yet and that was the truth. I did however have some ideas of possible dates, each one some financial or personal milestone and all of them, depressingly far away. Now that our dream is just around the corner, a strange thing is happening.
Instead of excitement and nervous anticipation, I feel conflicted and depressed.
The gravity of the decision I’m about to make is starting to dawn on me. I want to think about travel but I can’t.
I want to devote my free energies to trip planning and celebrating my approaching adventure but all I can think about is the life I’m about to give up.
This life I’ve been trying so hard to escape from, suddenly doesn’t look so bad.
My Resolve Is Wobbling
Leaving my comfortable London existence to go and be a full time backpacker is obviously a huge decision. But is it the right one? The goal of perpetual travel has been a part of my life for so long now but it’s always been off in the distance. Never close up before, so I’ve never had to face it in the raw. Now that I˜m staring it straight in the eye. It frightens me. A lot.
There’s an old quote that goes something like; It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. I like this travel quote and it certainly applies right now.
I’ve been so heavily focused on my journey that I never stopped to consider how I might feel when it was over.
Now that the years of hard saving, going without and calendar watching are almost up, a looming sense of uncertainty is supplanting my usual stern resolution.
What have I done? Have I wasted the last 8 years on this goal? Am I running out of time to change my mind? Or am I running out of excuses not to follow my dreams and swap the rat race for something new.
The Emotional Wall
This experience is unsettling. I wanted so badly to enjoy these final sunny months in London but I’m walking through my life like a ghost. Could this be some kind of emotional wall I have to break through?
Perhaps this feeling is the reason most people never take the plunge and do something truly life changing.
I can absolutely sympathise with that. It would be much easier to do nothing.
I know I could end this distress in an instant just by deciding not to go. A single calm considered conversation with my wife and all the problems would be over. We’d be free of the burden of this momentous decision forever. It’s extremely tempting.
Too Old to Tango
Is it possible that these emotions are just normal pre-trip anxieties? Or could they be something else? Something more serious. I don’t remember experiencing feelings like this before previous trips.
Am I just old and frightened of change? Set in my ways, too comfortable to risk anything?
Would backpacking still be the same as I remember? Or is the banana pancake trail gone for good? I cringe when it say it but, might long term independent travel be strictly for the young?
There’s a feeling that I carried with me in the background on previous backpacking trips. I’ve heard it described by others many times, in many different ways. It’s a kind of like hope. A feeling of infinite possibilities. As if the path of your life isn’t set yet and there’s still time to change your mind or do anything you want.
A sense that everything is ahead of you.
It enabled me to act without thinking too much because inside, I half believed that this is all just practice. The serious part of my life hadn’t begun yet. My date with destiny that was going to change everything was just around the next corner.
Sometime in the last 8 years that golden feeling has left me. I’m not sure when it happened precisely but it’s gone and it has had a profound effect on my state of being ever since.
Before this becomes too dispiriting though let me be clear. There’s still a huge amount to live for. There will be many happy moments in the future, there will be surprises and hopefully great achievements. The childhood daydreams, infinite possibilities and the unfettered hope however, are gone.
Surely that has to change the next backpacking experience a little. Doesn’t it?
This time around I’m not going to feel like someone young, destined for greatness. Greatness isn’t coming. I realise that now. I’m just going to feel like someone. I’m not sure I’ll like that as much.
Pete the IT Guy
Another aspect that’s bothering me is leaving my job. My job has become my identity. For the past 8 years I’ve been Pete the IT guy and I’ve kind of gotten comfortable with that.
Back in 2006 when I went backpacking last time, I didn’t really care about my career and I wasn’t close with my colleagues. That’s changed now.
The people I work with are my friends and I love the work I do.
Far from wanting to escape, I actually feel quite content. But am I really am happy, or am I just beat down. Indoctrinated into this existence.
Perhaps I’ve talked myself into loving my job because there was no other option.
Nevertheless, my job is disincentivizing me to leave. This is the exact opposite of what I expected.
You Are What You Do
Furthermore, it’s not the thought of being unemployed or walking out on my colleagues that upsets me. I’m mostly worried that without this job I’ll lose a part of myself. I’ll no longer be a respected professional who can speak with authority on his subject. In a few years’ time I might just be that boring bloke in the bar that prattles on about computers.
It sounds harsh and if you know me it’s easy to read those words and laugh, but the world is unforgiving. It’s full of stereotypes and hypocrisies and all the while we’d like to believe that we are more than just a label, are we really?
Without a career, how do we easily identify someone?
What we do is kind of what makes us who we are? Who will I be if I’m not Pete the IT guy? I really don’t know the answer.
Ever sat back in a big comfy sofa with your shoes off and not wanted to move? That’s what my life is like.
I don’t pretend that we all have the same standards, especially when it comes to money but, by my standards, right here right now I’m doing fine. I would never describe myself as rich but I live in a nice part of town. I have enough money to own a car if I choose, buy clothes, take holidays and still save a bit each month. By western world standards this is what working class people like me strive for. OK, I don’t have any children and I live quite frugally but,
if I stay here, keep working and live as I have been living, I will have zero financial worries for the rest of my days.
That’s tempting but I’m not sure it’s enough to make me stay. Losing my income is certainly alarming but that’s only a small part of it too.
The real elephant in the room is something much more profound. It’s the thought of going against dogma. Rebelling against the strictly observed social values of the masses.
That thought is eating at me. If my plan is so bloody great, why isn’t everyone doing it? If it genuinely is a rational choice. Why does the whole world think it’s crazy?
After all, if so many people think what I’m doing is wrong, it must be mustn’t it? Besides, even if I’m making the right choice – mightn’t it be preferable to be wrong with everyone else than vindicated and alone?
Obligatory Matrix Reference
Worries and hang-ups aside, the time is rapidly approaching when I’m going to have to cross a line. I’m going to have to make my choice and live with any consequences. I think I’m still going to choose travel but I can’t be 100% sure. My emotions are swinging wildly back and forth on a daily basis now.
I just hope I can hold it together for a few more months. I hope I can be brave and resolute when that vital moment arrives.
Far from being on easy street, the final few months of life here in the UK are going to be some of the most emotionally draining so far.
I’m starting to see why this isn’t a well-trodden path. I’m also learning a new found respect for all those that have gone before me.
When all is said and done it comes down to this. Do I take the red pill or the blue pill?
Take the blue pill and this travel story ends. I wake up tomorrow in my comfy life and believe whatever I want to believe. Take the red pill, I stay in wonderland and see exactly how deep this rabbit hole goes.