I’ve been back from my epic travels almost as long as I was away for, but somehow I haven’t been able to write a ‘closing’ post, until now. Like so many things in the last 25 years it came to me while I was out running. The autumn leaves crunching under my feet I couldn’t ignore how much time had elapsed and the words began to take shape with each ragged breath (I’m not a natural runner!).
I knew I had experiences and observations to share from my trip but where the real magic has happened is in the space since I got back.
So, my 5000 mile solo journey. Firstly I only clocked up about 4,350 miles. I would have an exact figure but one of the things I learned about myself is that I’m not good at details and I forgot to write it down. Secondly, the last four weeks were crammed with visits from friends, family and lover (just the one, obvs). So I guess I kind of failed there, but the beauty of the whole experience is that it was fluid, unhurried, changeable. A babbling brook skipping over stones, allowing itself to be diverted by sticks and stones, sometimes little more than a trickle, sometimes swollen and fast flowing. And that gentle journey, that space to think and just be, happy in my own company is what has let me, since I’ve been back, flourish.
The words that came to me while I was running were these: If you can think it, and in doing so feel a tingle in your tummy, a weakness in your knees and a whirring in your brain that sends you into an internet deep-dive of research, then you can do it. I truly believe that. Now reread what I just wrote. Honestly, if you hear yourself say to people ‘I’d love to do xxx but I can’t afford it/I’m scared/I’m too busy/I’m Not clever enough/I’m too old/too unfit etc’ but the idea stays with you, burns like a little fire behind your belly button, you should do it, you can do it. What’s that saying? Life’s something that happens while your busy making plans. Stop planning, stop dreaming and start doing, because we only get one go at this. One fucking go people, don’t go at it half arsed!
When I left my job in December to finish my PhD and travel I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards, when the money ran out (which it does in 16 days!). I kept thinking ‘it’ll come, a light will go on and I’ll know what I should do’. But it didn’t, I didn’t. And then today I was blinded by 5000 watts of light. I’d been asking myself the wrong question. It’s not what I want to do that matters, It’s how. How do I want to live? Once I know that all I have to do is facilitate making it happen. And what I learned from my trip is I want to live with less, and that’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been back.
I work less, I consume less. I spend less (sorry Uber), I worry less, I wear less make up, I watch less TV, slowly I have less things around me, less stuff to maintain. And in having less I have more.
More time with the people I love, more sleep, more candle lit evenings, more time outdoors, more freshly cooked food, more thinking, more living.
I’ve never been particularly materialistic but now I want less ‘stuff’ than ever. Which is good because I don’t have much money. But that’s ok because living in a converted Berlingo for 9 weeks taught me a lot about frugality and streamline living. I took a lodger in April to help fund the travel and now I’m thinking of renting my room out too, and moving a single bed into my little office. After all, what do any of us do with the 20 square metres of room that surrounds our bed?! I’ve been lucky enough to get 3 months of freelance work, which, with my new cheapskate ways will give me enough money to live for six months. Plans for next year’s adventures are already taking shape in my head and I can’t wait to step into the unknown again.
I know for a lot of people financial and family commitments mean this kind of living is impossible (and for many more undesirable), but when I started saving in 2014 to make this year happen I would never have believed I’d be able to live on so much less, to be able to use my resources like this.
So, what am I saying? (Even I’m not 100% sure, it all seemed so pertinent when I was running) I think I’m saying if you have any doubt about the way you’re living or how you are spending these galloping hours, weeks, years, then know there is always another way, another ‘how’.
The last eight weeks have been a blast, I’ve been to a festival, had a rave in an art gallery, caught up with friends and family, written some new work, learned to cook in a clay oven, met some gorgeous newly-born humans, driven a powerboat and a narrow boat, put my fingers back in the work pie, passed my PhD (It’s Dr Rach now!) and fitted (with some help) a kitchen. It may not be everyone’s idea of a good life but I have never felt so content, so energised and so excited for the future.
Finally, before I sign off, I want to thank my mum, my son, my daughter and my boyfriend for letting me abandon them all summer to do what I needed to do. Thanks to to the Berlingo, who I’m a little bit in love with. Nearly 5000 miles with not so much as an oil top up needed. She is so reliable and comfy to sleep in to boot! And thanks to you for reading my ramblings. I think my blogging skills could use some work but I’ve decided to carry on and will start a new blog (mostly about how bloody great it is being old and wise) very soon, watch this space and make those dreams come true peeps