I dream of another big adventure. Constantly.
This is probably not something that will ever change. I believe that I am forever destined to fantasise about the far side of the bend; the life of pure simplicity engendered by being on the road with the wind at my back and no particular reason to do anything or be anywhere or tell anyone about it.
That is not where I was this time last year.
Another big adventure was long overdue. But there were obstacles.
In particular, I was feeling increasingly trapped by circumstances.
A little over three years before, Tenny and I had made the decision to settle in the UK. This was a big decision for both of us. She grew up within the conservative Armenian community of Tehran and had already defied all of her society’s expectations by marrying me (hell, she’d defied everyone’s expectations by marrying me).
Moving to the UK would be a serious challenge. Not least for me: I had long since abolished my former life there and had no personal desire to return and be reminded of it. I’d have to face a few demons and learn to live again in a society whose ills I’d perceived so strongly that they had been my original motivation to up and leave with no intention of returning.
“It’s amazing how jading modern life can become,” a fellow cycle traveller told me recently, “and it’s only now – having stepped away from a well paying job, rented my house out and whittled down my possessions – that I’ve realised this.”
Guess what? After three and a half years in the UK, I was once again utterly jaded. And I barely realised it. I was feeling increasingly pressured by the demands of modern life – so much so that I had to take a big step back and assess what I was doing. That’s when I realised how jaded I was becoming, how – with all the freedom to do as I pleased – I’d chosen to get myself stuck in another rut, because that was what ‘modern life’ seemed to encourage.
But as for getting out of that rut? I didn’t know where to start.
Beginning my first big trip in 2007 was easy. I had nothing to lose. I’d have left much sooner, too, if I hadn’t been so determined to build a giant institution around my planned trip (which I would later expend great energies dismantling).
This time, though, there was more at stake.
Firstly, I was married. I could no longer justify spending months and months away from the girl I loved in order to attend to some unscratchable itch. So the next big adventure would be a shared one. And that would require compromises, because Tenny was not interested in living on bread and jam, sleeping behind hedges, or riding a bicycle thousands of miles.
Secondly, I had no money, nor (still) any reliable source thereof. By travelling exclusively on a shoestring and avoiding the trappings of modern life, I’d always avoided having to face up to the fact that I am financially illiterate. But over three and a half years in the UK, the trappings had crept back in, and with them the perpetual monetary woes of the modern age. The result was that our financial resources were – well, let’s call it ‘strained’, and hardly compatible with the idea of a big overseas travel binge.
The day-to-day of life on the road didn’t worry me. But there were giant obstacles in the way of this adventurer getting started on his next Big Adventure. (If nothing else, I hope that reminds a few people that they’re not alone.)
At the same time, I realised it was very much worth remembering that every such problem has already been solved by someone. Every obstacle has already been faced and overcome.
So we did our research. And we made a plan to solve these problems.
And, over the course of 2014, we put the plan into action.
Then, at the beginning of 2015, we packed up our life in the UK and departed for the southern hemisphere. I write this today from Sydney, Australia, where I’ve spent the last two months, with a visit to New Zealand thrown in as well.
I’ll be back in the UK this spring, temporarily, in order to produce not one but two new adventure documentaries: the full-length version of Karun, and the documentary about my horseback trip in Patagonia with Leon. But it definitely feels like a short stopover, with none of the previously-attached strings, and we’ll be back on the road in the early summer, and hopefully for the rest of the year.
So, over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be sharing some of what we did to extract ourselves from a settled existence with all its many trappings and liberate ourselves again.
As mentioned, this wasn’t something I had to worry about at the age of 22 when I first decided to hit the road. But now, aged 31, these obstacles of mine are the same ones a great many people are obliged to overcome.
I finally know how to feels to be trapped by them. Yet it turns out they are still escapable.
What big obstacles are standing in the way of your adventures? How do you plan to overcome them?