Of the many reasons I came to Australia, the most fundamental was a growing need to let go of the habits and routines I’d fallen into.
Tenny and I officially migrated to the UK in 2011 as a married couple, driven largely by the idea that two British citizens would be better than one when it came to our future together, whatever it might hold. The bureaucracy involved would tie us here for a minimum of three years. Inevitably, the original reasons were smothered as reality took over, and after experimenting with a year in London and a year in the Lake District we finally found a place that felt like home: Bristol.
Given that I’d left the UK in 2007 with no intention to return, it truly surprised me how much I came to enjoy life in Bristol. Consequently it was more of a wrench than I was expecting when it came to packing away our possessions — a few boxes of records, some cookware, a couple of suitcases and sizable amount of outdoor and cycling gear — handing back the keys to the flat, and boarding an early-morning flight out of Heathrow on New Year’s Day; final destination Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
A couple of nights previously I’d been sitting in the pub with a couple of Bristolian friends, and we’d been talking about the conflicting sensation of nostalgia, in which the joy of happy rose-tinted memories gets all churned up with the horrifying realisation that the present will never, ever, be quite as good as we remember the past having been.
Then, suddenly, an even more disturbing sensation came over me: pre-emptive nostalgia, the realisation that it was in fact this very moment — perched on a rickety wooden chair, struggling to hear what my mates were saying over the din of west-country-tinged merrymaking, clutching a pint of obscure ale whose name I will not remember — that will become one of those moments I’ll later feel nostalgic about, even though right now it doesn’t feel in the slightest bit abnormal or unusual. A question surfaced: why change anything if it’s the normal and the usual that I will end up remembering most fondly?
Then my friend suggested it was time I took one of the pills she’d invented, which if it existed would be called a ‘nostalgesic’. Clever. I lightened up considerably.
Yet despite winding up 2014 in the first place in England I’ve ever felt at home, and despite a number of hugely satisfying and significant adventures (including an Iranian river descent, a moneyless bike tour and a horseback expedition in Patagonia), the year has also been characterised by feelings of discontent, and even of anxiety. A few negative emotions are normal, of course, because that’s life, but this year the regularity of these feelings and their impact upon my day-to-day activities has actually become a concern. When anxiety manifests as a physical sensation, it’s hard to ignore it.
And so, at a time of trite and whimsical resolution-making, I’ve resolved to spend 2015 looking methodically at the causes of these feelings, and re-prioritising health and happiness (as if anything else matters without these two things!). Welling up in the pub because my best days are gone strikes me as a warning sign. I don’t want to be someone who blames society or circumstance for my woes, either, so taking action on what I find will be crucial.
To Sydney, then, where Tenny and I will be based while this process begins. What happens thereafter remains entirely open. Which is pretty damn exciting.
Why bore you, dear TomsBikeTrip.com reader, with details of my inner life? Well, as long-term readers will know, I’ve never restricted my blogging to the ins and outs of cycle touring alone. Indeed, this site has variously been an outlet, a sounding board, a confession box, and an open-hearted narrative for the majority of my adult life. I blog in order to entertain, educate and inspire, yes, but also to connect and discuss life as something impossible to separate from travel and adventure, and to do so with like-minded people all over the world. I’ve never cast myself as a flawless hero, glossed over my feelings, or hidden away my personal life. And being open like this has enriched my life in countless ways.
That said, the year to come is likely to feature a number of dramatic changes to the way in which I do my writing and publishing. To keep you informed about what to expect, I’ll be reviewing the year just gone and projecting a few plans ahead over the next couple of posts.
If you’ve been following for a while, there are likely to be a few surprises in store. But they’ll be surprises of the good sort. Promise.
Here’s to happiness and contentment in 2015! Now, where’s my surfboard…?!