I woke this morning, miraculously hangover-free and in a great mood, and decided to shut down the blog.
Because for a travelling writer, I’ve been remarkably static since 2013. And I plan on being so for at least one more year, until I’m officially invited to join this funny little island as a citizen, or I beg pardon and flee for Europe. There is little purpose in playing the gonzo journalist traveller without the traveling part. Grad school shenanigans aren’t particularly thrilling, and ensconced as they are within the cozy confines of my city life, a real element of the blog has been abandoned. Priorities change. People grow.
When I most recently left home in early 2011, barely three months after I’d landed from a previous year chasing skirts and rum bottles around central and south America, I decided to commit to a grand plan: go around the world, without utilizing flights, before my 30th birthday. And yet, here we are. One week ago, I left my 20s in the past, a gonzo period the likes of which my teenage self, I think, would have been excited to experience. A brutally beaten passport. A few shin-kicks to the gut. Rampant misuse of alcohol. A transpacific crossing. An ocean race. It was a good laugh.
Even the notion of such adventure is enough to raise my heart rate and relegate my feeble attempts to study at this university pub to the background. And it’s on the horizon, to be sure. But I’m going on three years of life in this Australian continent, and couldn’t help but notice that I kept sabotaging my efforts at escape. One year of working holiday became two, which I chalked up to irritation at my broken finances, and a desire for revenge. Then two years became three, when I chose Melbourne as the port-of-call to chase down a postgraduate degree.
So, as my good friend and roommate would say, it all went pear-shaped. The plan was gone. The wheels came off.
As both of my loyal readers would know, as any proponent of solo travel will tell you, the biggest advantage of traveling sans-timeline is the looseness of the game plan. Being young and chasing experience, you are free to follow your heart, brain, or dick around as long as you like, so long as it floats your proverbial boat or tickles your loins. And I like it here. After so long living out of a backpack, I wanted one thing: a queen-sized bed, in my own room, and I got it. Glamorous it wasn’t but I didn’t care. I fell in with this amazing group of musos who liked good tunes and the grog as much as I do, admiring the sexy accents of the females and the fierce independence which characterized this country.
The cost did hold me hostage for some time. Casual escape is a non-entity when you’re this isolated. I could have escaped after two years; however, an MA had been calling my name for too long to ignore, and deserved my undivided attention, somewhere I wouldn’t need to adjust to. It is a mark of how well I vibe with this city that I already felt very much at home.
I still plan on continuing the journey in Bangladesh, west across India and Pakistan to Iran through to Turkey and Europe. But I stopped deceiving myself that I didn’t grow tired of the constant poverty. I resisted it for ages, but there must be a balance struck between the freedom to travel and the freedom to live a decently-funded life with the odd perk. At 30, I still have never owned a car. I lost four kilograms in New Zealand, too broke to eat. In Wellington, I watched a pair of filthy hippies intentionally make a huge scene about a roommate coming in late and waking them up, in order to get a refund on their bed. That’s no way for a man to live.
‘Ah, but not all treasure is silver and gold, traitor pirate’. You’re not wrong. But that includes the enjoyment of a solid crew of like-minded people intent on world domination, to share triumphs and failures, to grow together and have a laugh. I didn’t even realize I’d missed it, it had been so long. So it made little sense to run off to the subcontinent, just yet.
There was more. The traveling blogosphere seems to have lost some of its soul as the march towards online gratification reaches the youthy hordes. The clickbait-rules mentality of the common tumblr fiend has begun to infect us more and more. Everyone wants to be the next Naughty Nomad or Somen Chebnath. The biggest-dick contest of who can do the craziest shit has gone haywire, and the real motif of the trip – of the slow, deliberate pace, of the gradual acclimatization to something new and awesome, of learning new skills and languages along the way – has been dislodged. The new traveling blogger is an internet marketer, flashing a side panel about their amazing lifestyle.
This misses the point completely.
I remember coming across a certain backpacker’s blog a number of months ago when he describes his life on the go. He made it sound like he was at the head of a camel train with an opium pipe and a slave feeding him grapes. I get that people are attempting SME creation through the written word. I understand that the new marketplace for clicks is a competitive place. What I cannot fathom why anyone would want to start a writing career on such a foot. It’s not honest. If you’re attempting to go the route of the scribe, starting off selling your soul to the clickbait machine speaks more to your own integrity than your entrepreneurial spirit.
It sells falls hope. Recently, a cyclist told the world that he has some ‘clarify how to travel’, that ‘you can leave with no more than $1000’. Never mind this fails to apply to areas which require flights. That, in order to live aboard your bicycle, you may need to be relatively fit. That traveling in such an arduous manner would take a fair bit of the fun out of it, and that not everyone is hardy enough to weather months on the road with a sore ass. It did, however, drive a heap of traffic to his site purporting ‘everyman’s’ travel advice through a Reddit link peddling false hope.
To each their own, I suppose. Long-term travel isn’t really meant to be an easy or casual business. It’s a changing background, something to do while discovering who you really are, embracing the hardships and frustrations in order to reap the rewards. It’s not something to be won. But evidently it’s one more thing to aggressively, and deceptively, market.
But enough about that. It’s nine in the morning in Melbourne, and time to get started.