Hello from Montenegro. I am sitting in my amazing hotel room after having a huge day by most peoples standards and trying to digest the mountain of meat I just ate, which is even more difficult because for the last week I have been eating almost nothing, I think because my outer turmoil created an inner turmoil. Which is a part of what this post is about.
This is not the post about travelling in Croatia and Montenegro which is what I am currently doing, that’ll come along with a little video and many many pics and I hope many witty anecdotes. This is a more philosophical post about what I am learning, and the unexpected direction such a short, out of the blue, almost unplanned trip has taken. I took this trip because I needed to get away. I needed breathing room from a life which I was kind of living in but also kind of not. I don’t live in London, I am not English, I don’t have a proper job or a group of pals I’ve been catching up with for years, or even an address other than my mums house, which for a 34 year old is less than empowering.
I needed to do something because although I had some fun and had met some really cool people, I kind of felt like I was living a temporary solution built on the existence of those with more permanent solutions. I was stagnating, and procrastinating, and I needed space to clear my head. And for some reason that ended up being in Croatia and Montenegro.
So far it has been nothing like what I expected, more than I hoped it would be, eye opening, and has made me question who I am and what I thought I knew about myself and my role in this life. All of that in the space of about 4 days so far!
At some point near the beginning of this trip I made the decision to say yes to the things I would usually say no to, and to become bolder in my approach to things. I decided to acknowledge that I have lived with an illogical fear which has no purpose in my life other than to diminish possibilities, and I decided to begin circumventing what has become an instinctual reaction to the things which I usually react negatively to.
So when my connecting flight from London to Dubrovnik was missed because the plane left late from Heathrow, instead of standing around idly until someone found me and ushered me into a corner to wait out the next 6 hours, I walked up to the nearest person and asked what was up. When that person who happened to be a beautiful woman started speaking to me and asked if I would like to come into Zagreb and hang out with her and her friends, instead of mumbling an excuse and spending the time alone regretting it, I said yes, and ended up meeting someone who I have now met up with a few times and had some damn good conversations with.
Plus I got to hang out with her mates in the capital. Although for them I am sure it was no big deal, for me it was an eye opener and one of the best nights I have had in a very long time. Which made me realize how far I have drifted from the person who I should or could be.
Since that first anti-me response, I have tried to carry on in the way I began, and had a fair bit of success with it. I have said yes to almost everything. When someone has suggested something I have just gone and done it. “Go see this” they say, and I get on a bus after walking up and down a mountain for 4 hours and go and see it, no excuses. “Go eat here” they say, and I do, and end up having a great chat with the owner who gives me a shot of a local drink and chats to me through my mountain of meat extravaganza.
Even with my own thoughts, when I have questioned if I should speak to someone, I make sure I do it. And end up going to have a pizza with Joel the Aussie psychologist and we have a remarkably in depth chat instead of me sitting in my room watching TV alone. When the girl at the reception desk was friendly, I started a conversation with her and asked genuine questions which I was genuinely interested in hearing the answer to.
When a group of Russians on holiday showed interest in talking to me, I had a conversation with them and in the little time we spent together, felt like we became good friends and so ended up swapping contact details and taking pictures together before shaking hands and having a goodbye hug or two.
None of this comes naturally to me, it never did as a youngster and I guess I just cultivated that notion ever since. But now I have to give it a shot, and I don’t know if this is the me I want to be or become, but that isn’t really the most relevant part. The most relevant part of this whole 4 days (only 4 days!), is that I am figuring out what I do and don’t want from not only my travels, but my life in general.
I was sitting on the top of the old wall in Dubrovnik, no one else around and gazing down at this ancient city with the sea and sun breaking through clouds as a backdrop. And instead of “Wow”, I kinda thought, “eh…”. My first reaction to that was, oh shit, if I say “Eh…” to this what the hell am I doing travelling?! But then something which has popped up in my thoughts before and was brought to the fore by Franka, was the notion of it not being about where you are, but your frame of mind wherever you are. You could be sitting in front of one of the 7 wonders of the world, but if you are not happy, it is not going to make you happy.
I already know this, but it is not something which I have ever really had to put any emphasis on since I hit the road a few years ago, because I was having fun. But it has now become a major thing to acknowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel, I love to see new things, but more than I ever expected it to, the relationships and encounters that come from travel have become more important, and actually, essential to my enjoying things.
I want to be around people, I want to meet new people, men and women, and I want to share the experiences I have with someone, or with groups of someones. Travel is enlightening for me, it has the power to shape my frame of mind in ways which the normal world never did, but only if done the right way for me.
I am enjoying myself on this sojourn from a reality which was not mine. I am grateful to be free enough to jump on a plane at the last second and explore parts of the world I had not yet seen. I am grateful for having met some great people already and for all the chance encounters I have had. I am thrilled and excited to have the life and the opportunities I do.
My life is astounding, my days and nights have the potential to be Earth shattering, almost every single one of them because of the lifestyle I have created for myself, and I am grateful that I am starting to figure that out, and even figure out what that might look like for me in the future.
I am grateful to see through my own bullshit and realize that my complaints are the creation of an untamed mind in the throes of an almighty upheavel, but that that upheaval is a progression to new and amazing things. Change is never easy, in our modern day lives, and in particular my own, the plethora of options which are available to us, to me, can sometimes seem like an oppressive force vying for my attention and making me question the choices I do make.
For years I fought this, or at the very least created a world which let me remain in an illusory form of stasis, which is an unnatural way of being in a universe governed by entropy, our minds are matter and matter must change, to fight that inalienable truth is to fight the laws of nature themselves.
So now I am changing, and although sometimes exhausting, it is liberating, I feel more confident and in control of my future than I ever have before. I feel more in tune with the person I am to become and have a clearer view of where that will lead me, even if the end result remains shrouded.
Travelling on my own is OK, it leads me to opportunities and people like the ones which have been happening on this trip, but I would like to make sure that future travels have a higher chance of interaction, which is something that just a few days ago was the complete opposite of who I thought I was.
Another big change; I am not going to book things unless absolutely necessary because it makes it hard to roll with any spontaneous encounters or plans which might pop up on your journey. Finally, I am going to look at spending longer in the places I go, so that I can build relationships with the people I will inevitably meet there.
The very foundation of who I am has been rocked and this is all very new to me, but for the first time in a long time, I feel stronger, more capable, and in charge of the life I will lead. I know now that I will form stronger bonds and be better at maintaining them than I have been in the past, and that those bonds will have new meaning for me.
I still do not know exactly what the future holds for a man like me, and if this week has shown me anything, it is that this epiphany could be usurped by another epiphany in an instant. I still have no home base, no view to wanting one and nothing holding me to anywhere in the world. I don’t know what a relationship in this life of mine might look like, or friendships for that matter. I still have no idea what my life looks like past the 2nd of April, 2016.
Everything after that date is a complete mystery. More than ever though, I now know that whatever the future holds, whatever unexpected twists it might take I will be able to embrace it and change accordingly. Because if I can suddenly eschew a lifetime of being an introvert to become a social person, any fucking thing is possible.