Not your average travel blog
I feel like I should buy a political horse and take it for quite an epic ride for my next adventure (that’s right, there is already a “next one”). So looking ahead, and realising that “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story” (Frank Herbert), this will be the last official update on this year’s adventure.
Essentially, I woke up one morning, decided to drop everything to spend six months trekking across the USA with relatively no money. Was it a good idea? Ya’ll bet your sorry ass it was a good idea!
My last summary concentrated on a bushel of negatives from my trip, but one thing was always clear to me right from when this left field idea presented itself – I had to find positivity in every single experience I might have; from the beginning of planning, through physical training, through sacrificing indulgences, eating solely noodles, fruit, nuts and peanut butter for mostly a year, through hiking six miles home from work each day for nine months in the British winter, and no matter how humiliating, difficult, desperate, or emotionally daggered or alone I might feel (and I was lonely); I wasn’t even going to afford to get on a plane if I couldn’t assertively and stubbornly be enthusiastic about every decision and experience that might present itself.
I am quite a headstrong character when I need to be, and will admit to being an almost impossible nut to emotionally crack, but stepping into a world of unfamiliarity with very few bearings and an empty wallet, weaknesses and vulnerabilities are exposed. When we are tested, physically, pragmatically and emotionally, we either become stronger or slide into a damaging dark place which is often tough to negotiate out of. Thankfully, I rarely go there, and I believe – even more so after my journey – that only through positivity, do fruitful, useful and wonderful opportunities present themselves. I no longer believe in luck, because all opportunities are a result of definite decisions. It’s cliché, but personal positivity only breeds positivity, and it’s contagious.
So with the negatives behind me in my last summary, lets finish on some positives – it really isn’t hard as I seem to have been moulding myself into a silver-lined, red bearded, nomad clown who isn’t afraid to smile, for the last eight months. Despite the fuzzy-rouge slug, camouflaging my baby-face, I think most people this year have witnessed an often emotional chap, but (hopefully) who’s cheeky positivity has influenced and inspired.
To note just a couple of non-political take-aways before I gallop off on my stallion of political pros;
The hardest part of remaining positive, is when other people don’t just fail to acknowledge or encourage a decision, but actively express disdain or discouragement towards what already causes anxiety. Thankfully, negativity became easier to process knowing that people seemed only critical because in their life, they need an amount of comforting certainty – and it’s easier to rely on being let down or failing, than it is to create work and effort for an overwhelming result. My plans were something they couldn’t relate to or empathise with. I came with no promise of what was going to happen or what I might learn; and I had no planned path beyond hopefully ending my trip across the states. To be at peace with myself each day, I only had to accept two possible outcomes from my decisions: 1) I would have to return to a mundane, but still relatively privileged life, where I would be able to reassess again, or 2) I would be dead. Did I mention I can be frustratingly straightforward?
One last emotional realisation was the loss of a supportive friend or two along the way, and even though I was encouraged by them, it is still difficult to often accept that what I have done has changed relationships and friendships with multiple people. It is the hardest feeling to process in my heart, and I find it impossible to really get over a relationship or friendship when I know my curious, nomadic personality and my overwhelming soul-balancing desire to “experience more” are often the catalysts to break a human connection down. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with the results of being quite nonchalantly-moveable, but I know the only way of handling my soul is to treat it like a hot potato… keep it moving with people that can handle it.
I wasn’t seeking a sympathy vote, running away from anything, nor was I depressed. Life was genuinely quite stable and fulfilled by anyone’s standards before embarking on the challenge – but being slightly downtrodden and wanting to avoid another 45 years of repetitive “banalism” in a society that is regularly unappreciative of what they have; The whole point was to do something so different that the mundane couldn’t possibly saturate an opportunity-filled, spontaneous and wonderfully-wandering existence. This drive alone is enough to hopefully keep the all-too-common, credit-controlled lifestyle as far away from my door as possible, and I think more should be done by all to encourage people to positively do the same – however, not necessarily by up rooting and actively seeking nomadism.
There are a multitude of negative things that I could focus on and which I could over-analyse from my American trip: issues around environmental politics, religious extremes, community dysfunction, economic problems, fractured culture, race and sex, opinions on domestic and foreign policy, education gaps, propaganda, food and drug wars, police brutality and abused authoritarianism, benefits issues and housing, social segregation and divisions, the nations overall health, as well as America’s extreme lifestyle extravagances. I could list more but let’s continue to focus on a positive ending.
From all the humanity and varied approaches to the life I experienced in the USA, living (and a philosophy towards it) should be simple. We should be more accepting of the endless ways there are to live a life. We NEED to be sustainable and less reliant (on invented “necessary” monopolised resources or institutions). We should be bound more closely to a moral code, rather than relying on so many fixed regulating laws, which inevitably bring around perverse effects and consequences. No matter how we choose to live, there should be emphasis on educating out ignorance, and having no excuse for arrogance.
The most vital social, cultural and political life-lesson from my trip, which for some reason nowadays we teach and influence ourselves to forget, is that in order to evolve successfully (as challenged apex predators, along side our natural environment and in harmony with each other), is that WE SHOULD DISAGREE OFTEN….BUT WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE.
My political opinion is just one, and even though it is arguably positive, there are others that work just as well in different places in the world, amongst different cultures in the world, and even in different towns in our own countries.
Granted, approaches fail and have negative knock on effects, but how we drain our resources and fight for immediate financial dominance needs to change, quickly.
Surprisingly on my budget, it was still impossible to avoid many aspects of the American food industry, and seeing as what I put in my mouth each day was the reason I’m still alive, I thought I’d try my hand at positively riding this political pony (mainly towards our “progressive” food industry and environment) prior to my next adventure… Here is a list of “Vote Winston” policies to ponder – and I would work for food, a free ride to somewhere I’ve never been before, and for David Attenborough to join me for a day or two on my next adventure (what? Worth a try).
More important than any other profession or service, farmers keep us alive! Without saturating the world with idol, lazy and over-wealthy landowners, more organic, lesser-legislated and smaller-community farms should be encouraged to supply us with a harvest. Increasing the value of food does not mean to increase the store price, but it does direct a higher percentage of profit back to the food source. Organic farmers are perfectly positioned and aware of environmental concerns, and with better directed cash flow – cutting out the many middle-of-the-chain regulating, profit grabbers – could respectfully increase the amount of money that remains close to home, directing it back into our food education and energy sources that we need – all over the world. With a community focussed farmer (and not a government-contracted organisation to meet a quota for a foreign country), sound, local supply and demand can be healthily managed.
Too many government-influenced, all year round, international food producers ruin the seasonal approach to healthy, wealthy, sustainable, productive farming and ultimately, our lifestyle. over-industrialised farming creates an unnatural diet, a high-taxation economy for consumers, and a high profiteering industry for linked corporations which are barely involved in the production-to-consumer chain. It’s the same for the property industry. The many middle-men that have to be so lucratively involved to simply buy or manage a building is baffling.
As media focuses on the negativity that oozes from the challenged, overly-governed, food and environmental monopolies, the USA doesn’t receive enough credit for many of its community initiatives. It has incredible, localised, important and successful food set-ups all over the country, and it is these kinds of localised approaches that will keep us alive, in touch with our food and engaged with the process in the best possible way.
As a food-positive as I am, and as supportive of farming communities as I would like to be, it is rather easy to focus on the politics and continue to feed an environmentally hungry horse. However, following all my updates and adventures this year, much like the end of 2014, it’s time to wrap things up.
Selfishly, I was sick and tired of reading, watching and hearing about other peoples experiences and adventures around the world, and saw only poor excuses to why I should not be having them myself. “Cancer won’t happen to me”, is most people’s mantra, but what if it does? What if regret is eager to wake you up tomorrow morning (and I don’t mean following a cloudy-headed drunken evening, waking up in the rain, on a ferry to Brugge without your shoes on…ahhh memories).
It is cliché, but when you truly go on an adventure, these realisations and thought processes are very, very real. Let’s pull all the clichés out the bag: Life is too short to only harbour imagination. As awesome as wondering is; we read about tales of hair brain ideas which result in amazing things, and I don’t just want to imagine, I want to live them.
Unfortunately, wealth and war are the epilogues of our human tale, but scientific development, experience and hindsight are our tools to influence not only humanity, but all life as we know it. I only hope our collective realisation is one of responsible obligation towards the future survival of the only home we currently have, and not the gluttony and greed which most of the empowered world is currently interested in. Unlike the squirrel in summer who gorged on his nuts and neglected his winter stores, we don’t have a sympathetic neighbour to help our descendants.
Although it may not be too obvious at first glance, people understand that the survival of humanity is instinctively reliant on surviving together. This realisation puts us at the top of the food chain, and although a honey bee may live by this mantra better than we do, try explaining it to one over afternoon tea.
We remain the apex of predators. We are the guardians and watchmen of Earth. We carry the responsibility of utilising, preserving, developing and replenishing the resources that are not just for ourselves, but for the future needs of all life. Finding alternatives is quickly becoming a harder task.
I have not shared every occurrence or intimate moment which took place on my journey, but with the tidbits that I have rambled over, I hope to have influenced, helped, taught or inspired at least one person, because as humans, feelings of happiness or achievement don’t exist unless they are shared. Even if most people never personally experience a similar adventure, we rely on others for understanding, empathy, encouragement, all the emotions that our stories can conjure, and most importantly, survival.
Survival is one thing, but LIVING is another, and with that, I will see you next year…..for this.
Winston, have a happy New Year, and keep us posted on your plans for next year. Hope to see you on your next adventure. Have surely enjoyed this one! Dick Withington