Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

My dithering pensioner and I disagree a lot


My dithering pensioner and I disagree a lot. We’re extremely good at it. Naturally, our opposing political views are cause for regular debate, but we agree and disagree on probably an equal split. Appreciating and having patience over our differences rather than condemning them, and being able to argue freely, explains both our spats and our ability to appreciate each other’s principles (hopefully). We disagree, while not being disagreeable. A modern rarity, I feel, and one I consider to be born from mutual respect and empathy for each argument. The common, modernised political debate tactic of our two nations seems to be the tit for tat, entertainment version of pointing out each other’s failings and stupidities, rather than to focus and celebrate why our own principles should be considered – something which projects integrity and respect, and which also enables deliberation over how to handle conflict without throwing toys out the pram. I’m sure our disagreements would end more unsavourily if all KP did was point out how messy I make things, how overly assertive I might be off-road, how extremely patient I am which I know can be infuriating, or if all I did was point out how much exceptional dithering he does.
As with many relationships in closed quarters, it isn’t always an easy ride. Personal and private space can be an issue, as can snoring, odours, living on suspension, midnight bathroom breaks when one of you sleeps across the only exit, letting mosquitos in and falling ill (thankfully on this trip neither of us have…yet). Sometimes though, we just have to agree to stop the discussion, deal with the nuances, accept political and social difference, be easy with the silences, assume that nothing is wrong unless told, change the topic, and make some tea.

KP asked me if I thought (some of) his views were old fashioned and if he was set in his ways. I said yes. I agree he is an old fuddy duddy, but as a natural and obvious result of his upbringing, his experiences and his environment. He isn’t alone in his views, and although fixed and principled on many topics, there is still time for an old dog to learn and experience a few new tricks. He may laugh at this comment, but many could follow by his example. One of the reasons I was invited to join him (so the introverted nerd tells me), was to test himself both socially and adventurously. He knew I would test him beyond his comfort zone, but hopefully do so respectfully and with a mature eye on the results.. Being vulnerable is a difficult and uncomfortable circumstance for anyone, and even as a retiree, KP is attempting to grow and develop by testing his capabilities, developing skills, and making himself vulnerable (at the same time as fulfilling his lifelong dream of exploring Alaska). I hope the adventures don’t stop when he gets home, and that he feels more optimism about being vulnerable. Although some politics may covertly counter the fact that there should not be any reason, nor any action taken, against anyone’s obligation to develop a deeper understanding, no matter how much we may disagree, I will always respect and welcome an optimistic, kind hearted, willing and regularly humbled soul in my company.

Sometimes, I wonder what a road trip would be like for KP if there was a third person with us. I’m sure his answer would firstly and eagerly be – we’d need a bigger truck. Secondly, I think a knee jerk twitch towards a negative experience might be assumed. It might be too difficult to keep everyone happy. There might be a threat of a two against one social split. It could be too noisy, or it might just be too much to think about and therefore cause more dithering… I think the dynamic would be a challenge for anyone, but more so my solace-seeking copilot. He likes his quiet, and to be alone (even more than me), so I do my best to understand that, and wander off regularly knowing that it’s nothing personal. He does seem to recollect that people find it hard to understand his need to often be alone, especially women, and many take it personally. I don’t think it’s an uncommon feeling. I have also wondered if KP would do this trip alone, and the answer is yes, absolutely. Although admittedly, he wouldn’t drive off-road as much, he would use more developed campsites, he’d definitely consume more cookies, and he’d have fewer disagreements. Ultimately though, even as an introverted Cookie Monster, if sharing was not a part of the adventure, I don’t think he’d enjoy it quite as much.

Vulnerability has been a regular topic of conversation. In particularly for KP who has felt the need to be guarded throughout his life. Many who know me are aware that I have a similar streak, and it’s hard to find a door when all I’ve built are walls. Interaction may be the best and only way to find and deal with our vulnerabilities, or at least teach us how to deal with confrontation. Having a friend nearby to realise and accept that we’re only human, while sharing the good and particularly the bad times, is a normal desire and natural support, but I find it is merely a sought comfort that keeps us in our safe zone. In essence, being vulnerable, and often deliberately with people we know will test us, is possibly the only way to mature, no matter how old we are.

I miss many things while away on my often isolated adventures. The hardest part of travel is finding trinkets of joy that remind me of what the people I’m close to are not seeing, and that ultimately, I miss them. My personality battles between social libertine, anthropological creative, shape-thrower in a crowd, and remote-loving roamer. I struggle occasionally to find a balance and I often need to switch from one location or moment in order to calm one creative impulse before another. I sometimes seek the next adventure before the current one is complete, and although I know where I feel most at home, the urge to act on impulse when I am there in my comfort zone, is always at its greatest. No matter what we disagree about, no matter the frustration, when we remove the politics; we’re all just human, and we should learn to appreciate that a little more. While I currently indulge the quiet side of my personality, and before the next adventure can begin, I’m glad I have a friend who has time on his hands to argue with me along the way, and test me from time to time.

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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, most of my time is spent between Malawi and Europe.
Go Untamed Safaris was striding into top gear, but volatile poitics in 2019, Covid in 2020, the impacts of Russia vs the World as well as insesent corruption forced my hand.
The dust is now settling. Everything has changed. New chapters are about to be written.

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