Explorer, author, trail prospector & travel writer

Getting Perspective Down Under (Plus, My One Big Resolution For 2015)

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…?!


15 responses to “Getting Perspective Down Under (Plus, My One Big Resolution For 2015)”

  1. Good luck to you and Mrs Allen Tom!
    It is indeed your open mind, kind heart and honesty that keep me coming back.
    The last I saw of Sydney was fluorescent lights from the floor of a doctor’s surgery. An unfortunate consequence of having just hauled my back passage to India. Let’s just say I was bowelled over by the place.
    Stay well,

  2. Good luck in Oz. I hope that you will address your discontent. Mind the sharks.

  3. A thoughtful read – obviously a time of reflection.
    Wishing you health, happiness and contentment in 2015

    1. I highly value your insights, Tom, much more than even the most useful bloggers’ technical and touring tips, because your spirit brings THE most important ingredient: the struck flame of inspiration.

  4. Steve Jones avatar
    Steve Jones

    Best of luck Tom! I just came back to Japan after spending Christmas in Australia on Lord Howe Island (Just a two hour flight from Sydney) Amazing place! When you get settled and have a chance you simply have to check it out! It’s pricey to book a place to stay there but once you get there, you just stock up on provisions at the local store, get around by bike ( like everyone else does) and enjoy the natural beauty of the place.

  5. Good luck in Sydney – it rocks. I moved here with my wife (from Bristol) 14 years ago and have no regrets. I now live in the Sutherland Shire and spend my life in the ocean and the bush. Daily adventure awaits on the outskirts of this amazing metropolis.

  6. Dave Woods avatar
    Dave Woods

    One word. Meditation!

    1. This has come up frequently. I’m definitely going to try it. Do you have a suggested starting point? Thanks!

      1. Hi Tom, you could try Headspace for meditation. There’s a free intro and relatively low cost thereafter. Good luck down under.

      2. kevin burrett avatar
        kevin burrett

        http://www.dhammasukhs.com the website of Bhante Vimalaramsi, American Buddhist monk. Everything you need to get started on this site…it’s the gold standard. PS, are you coming to Adelaide…I’m a friend of Darren Alffs and just got back from cycling in Taiwan with him. If you’re down this way give me a hoy and I’ll shout you a beer.

  7. Pat Head avatar
    Pat Head

    Tom, your blogs continue to inspire me…..I became a friend of your parents when they moved next door to us in Surrey nearly 30 years ago. I remember you coming to our house as a babe in arms, determinedly fascinated by our dimmer switches. I knew then somehow that you were not going to let life be boring! Continue to do what you do….it is so very very refreshing!

  8. Welcome to Sydney! Get in touch if you’d like to get a beer or coffee or go for a ride. And I second the recommendation of Headspace – I read the book before using the app (https://www.headspace.com/).

  9. Tom, love your site, outstanding writing. My cure for 30+ years of discontent and window gazing… have a baby… i’ve never felt so happy and complete. i still window gaze but for different reasons… when can i leave work for play time! My two cents. Keep up the great work, look forward to following your future projects.

  10. Hey Tom.
    I’m riding the Bicentennial National Trail and making my way north from Sydney today ( I started near Melbourne a couple of mnthw back). The BNT is not well known but truly amazing. It’s for adventurous people. I suggest you tide some of it if you are looking for long distance ride in the bush and farmlands. Reach out toe if you need more info! And I would love got you guys to ride along with me. Trying to skill up as a cameraman for possibly making a short video, watching your movie tonight in my tent!

  11. I’ve begun reading yr blog, again, recently, & was worried as I’d heard nothing about yr wife, Tenny. Hoping all is well with the two of you & that you’re well & happy in Oz.

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