I got bullied a lot when I was at primary school and when I started secondary school I felt like I had to prove a point to prevent this from happening again. I spent the first year picking fights with people for no reason and acting like someone that was literally the opposite of who I was. The way this usually ended up was by someone’s older brother strangling me or worse 8 lads in their 20’s stamping on my head and hitting me with a baseball bat.
This is really not what you want!
If you know me then you will know that I am not hard and that I am the opposite of a fighter. If I’m honest fighting and physical confrontation is one of my fears. My ego was in the driving seat fuelled by my insecurities. Thankfully I have managed to restore a healthy relationship with most of these people, but I found myself unpopular with a lot of people during the time I was at school.
When I was 19, a couple of friends asked me if I wanted to go to Thailand. My passport was out of date so I had to apply for a new one. A couple of weeks went by and still, it had not arrived. It was the morning that they were due to fly and by some miracle, my new passport arrived in the post. My mother the poor saint took me to the travel agents to book my flight, we then sprinted to the doctors where I got one of the three hepatitis shots that you are supposed to have. I had no idea how I was going to get to the airport. On the way back from the doctors I spotted my friend sat in his little green Vauxhall Corsa in the marketplace. I proceeded to ask him if he could give me a lift to Heathrow airport a mere 3 and a half hour drive, “no problem” he said, so off we set. Somehow I made it on to my flight, which was not a strong point back in those days, and 16 hours later I landed in Thailand.
Straight out of the airport it was non-stop hustle and bustle. The traffic didn’t seem to have any rules, no helmets on motorbikes and the majority of taxis were tuk tuks. They are more or less a moped with two seats and a canopy attached to the back and they are driven by loonatics that swerve in and out of every nook and cranny possible. Everywhere you looked was madness. Nothing seemed familiar apart from the odd Mcdonalds which just looked misplaced. It was a new world and it seemed as if it had no rules. I remember thinking to myself, “I could be completely naked right now and no one that I know would know”. It was the first time that I realised how much I cared about what people thought of me. It was such a relief to not have to care about that. It was as if you could relax for the first time and begin to see who you are without so many external influences. Almost everything that we do within our own status quo has been created relatively including what’s attractive, what’s cool and what’s fashionable. In my new environment, the shoes that I was wearing were no longer cool, my skin colour and language made me the minority and my hair still looked shit. But regardless it didn’t matter because I didn’t know these people. Each and every time I travelled, the way I acted, dressed and thought about myself changed. It felt more comfortable. We make so many decisions based upon what other people think about us in search of external validation. With this time and space away from old influence and without so many distractions I got a new perspective and waves of self-realisation flooded in. Without travelling I may never have got that perspective.
I still had a long path ahead of me. This seemingly lawless place did not come without consequence when combined with my 19-year-old hedonism. One night on Koh Pangang we met some girls from Manchester that were a good laugh. It is common for idiots from the UK to be drinking alcohol from a bucket. We were all head to toe in UV paint when someone asked us if we would like to enter Mr and Miss Koh Pangang. Being incredibly drunk we agreed. I felt like I was in a good frame of mind to put the island to rights. I don’t remember much after that. I vaguely remember being in a hammock and my friend Paul, who looks polish and you wouldn’t want to come across him down a dark alley charging towards a large group of people shouting profanities. The next thing I remember it was pitch black and I had fallen asleep in the middle of a swimming pool on a small concrete ledge. Paul had grabbed my feet and pulled me away from the water shouting “Dear you’re going to drown”. We walked back to our hotel and I had shower because I was head to toe in dirt. I came out of the shower and the first thing Paul said to me was, “let’s go on the roof”. This seemed like an excellent idea. I grabbed my phone and went out to the balcony. I placed both hands on the handrail and I pole vaulted. I don’t remember my feet hitting the roof, I just saw a blue flash and then it was dark. I was more confused than usual. I wondered if I had died. Then heard Paul… “Dear are you dead?!?!” I started feeling my body to see if I was injured. Everything seemed to be fine. I looked up and as my eyes adjusted I could see a very naked Paul in the middle of the road. I had just had a shower so obviously I was naked. Why Paul was naked I will never know. That was enough for one day. We went upstairs and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning to the sound of laughing. My other friend had come home with one of the girls that night and they had thrown me into Pauls bed. Easily one of the most disturbing things I’ve woken up to. This was only the start of it. I had completely forgotten about the roof incident. It was our last night so we went to the reception to pay our bill. One of the Thai workers pointed at me and shouted “it him he the one!”. I had no idea what she was on about. It turns out that she was the manager and she had seen a pale ass white guy fall through the roof and land on the pavement in front of her office window. They charged me £120 to fix the roof and including our bar tab, rent and the electric keys, that operated the Air-con that I had lost, the total was £600. At that point, I realised why I had ripped my way into my bag the night before. I also realised that I had lost my bank card. Oh yeah and smashed my phone. With getting a backpack stolen and crashing a motorbike I managed to turn 3 months in Thailand into 3 weeks. Not ideal but I am lucky to be alive and get my passport back from the bike rental place. Is there any point to this anecdote? All I can say is that I hope that you don’t need to learn the way I did!
…They still haven’t fixed the roof.
Since then I have done two snowboarding seasons, been to Australia twice and now I am living in New Zealand. Each time I moved I realised that I got a reset and it gave me the opportunity to shake off a bad habit. The first time I went to Australia it was self-rehabilitation for my drug addiction. I realised that if I did not take action towards getting off drugs then my health could be affected permanently! I did not have the strength to quit nor did I want to. It was my answer to an existential crisis and the reality of sobriety was not a kind or easy place. Removing myself from the environment was one of the best decisions that I ever made and it may have saved my life. It gave me another chance. Whilst I had escaped temptation, I had not escaped the prison of my mind, but it did give me a platform to start working towards a meaningful and fulfilling life. I have been home many times between adventures and every time I have fallen back into bad habits. Each time, however, there is always a significant improvement. Travelling has really allowed me to focus on my mental and physical health whilst doing some challenging internal work and developing a spiritual understanding, which has brought meaning to my life and for the first time given me hope of beating my addiction.
Most recent was my move to New Zealand just 9 months ago. It was upon this move that I decided to completely change my surroundings, carefully hand-picking my accommodation, workplace and acquaintances. For three months I was living in a hostel in poor conditions. I had various offers for accommodation but each time there was going to be some sort of drama, parties or intoxication. With this move, I had decided that it was time to start taking life seriously. I had set my expectations so much higher and I knew that if I wanted to be able to meet them that I would need a constructive environment and focus. I held off for a few months and in a moment of serendipity, I met my now good friend at an outdoor gym. He went on the be my personal trainer and I moved into the house with him and some other great guys. Most importantly for me, no one was using drugs or alcohol and everyone was going to the gym and eating well. If I had not said ‘no’ so many times, this would not have been possible. Because there is no temptation around, my mind is so much more relaxed and I am able to focus on what is important to me. I have since discovered that the only way to find peace in chaos is to make the mind still. You have more chance of controlling the wind than you do the mind. If you really want to know who you are then you must make the mind still and there in the silence, with the correct focus and patience, you will find the answer.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. “
T. S. Eliot
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Strength and love