Day #23 23.01.16

Today was a Ronnies Sex Shop (deliberate no apostrophe) t-shirt day. In between doing BMF, having a haircut and going out with BMF buddies at night I lazed around at home. This t-shirt is from South Africa and I wouldn’t really wear it outside in real life as I’m not that keen on the idea of walking around in public with the word Sex splayed on my right boob. So it’s saved for home use only. Loungewear if you will (ha! Loungewear=all the old/shit clothes that are so comfy they’re nearly falling apart or you wouldn’t be seen dead in public).

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Day #17 17.01.16

Home sweet home. After around 24 hours of travelling, I was finally home. The fire went straight on (my lovely neighbour had already put my heating on about an hour or so before so it wasn’t such a shock, but I was still cold, haha). I wasn’t ready to come home, but I kind of had to, and there is always something really lovely about coming home after being away. And I love my little flat here in Cheltenham, I really do. So it wasn’t so bad.

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End of an era.

It’s an emotional time. The house I called home for over 20 years since I was 6 months old has now been sold. I visited for the last time last weekend, so I’ve said my goodbyes, but I’ve been thinking about it as the parentals move out this week.  You’re probably thinking that it’s just a house. I moved out 12 years ago. Why is it emotional? Because it’s not just a house to us. It’s home. It was built by my parents and we’re the only people to have lived there. Even though I have my own home now, and I’ve lived in 4 different places since I moved out, it will always be home, and was always the place where I could go and raid the cupboards, run up and down the stairs and lounge around no matter how old I was.

I moved there as a 6 month old baby, and we (my parents, me and my brother) lived in a caravan for 4 years while the ‘big house’ was being built. And so began a wonderful childhood which, when it comes down to it, was centred around a couple of houses and an orchard in the middle of nowhere. But it wasn’t just a house. It was the place that may have just had 4 walls and a roof (eventually) but it was what it was filled with, surrounded by and what we did that made it our home.

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Like the orchard and ponds where me and my brother built dens, treehouses, rope swings, jettys, rafts, bmx tracks, and golf courses. Where I climbed trees and picked fruit. Where I fell in the pond (miraculously only once in all those years) after trying to walk on the ice in winter when it had frozen over. No wonder I’m a tomboy when this was my childhood playground.

Or my nan and grandad’s house next to the orchard where we spent many hours playing with marbles, reading Noddy and playing cards or dominoes, listening to the tick tock of the clock rescued from a bonfire that is now underneath my bed waiting to have something done with it.

And the yard where I learnt to ride a bike (after crashing into the hedge a few times) outside all the sheds with helpfully descriptive names; the engine shed, the black shed, the workshop, the rabbit shed/big shed and the shop. Including the shed that my brother climbed on the roof of so we could play a game, only the game ended shortly after because I shoved a drainpipe in his face. Accidentally of course, although I’m sure he loves the scar in his eyebrow he still has now from the stitches he had to have.

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My Dad’s workshop was where I’d go and sit on the black stool and chat to him. Where he’d tell me as a kid I could do anything in life if I wanted it and worked hard enough. And where as a teenager I’d go out and share sneaky cigarettes with him because Mum didn’t know I smoked.

The house for years had pink plaster walls because there were so many rooms to decorate and the parentals couldn’t do it all in one go. It was great though as it meant we could write on the walls, especially around the mirror in the kitchen near the phone (in the days before cordless phones) for phone numbers or doodles.

The flood/leak we had which meant all the furniture in the front room had to be moved into the dining area which I liked because it was all squashed in and I liked small rooms.

The death slide that my Dad made for us from the front bit of a bike and a rope tied from the roof of the rabbit shed to the garage. Between that, all the tree climbing and bike riding I am still amazed I didn’t break any bones. The rusty swing that Dad put up for us which we’d swing round and climb up. The tent he made from bits of wood and a bit of tarpaulin.

The gauntlet runs I’d have to do past the chicken runs to my grandparent’s house where I’d get chased by the mad cockerel. And going over there in the pitch black just with a torch. As a kid it used to shit me up something chronic that I could only see into the trees with a small circle of light. Used to be convinced there might be a axe murderer hiding in the orchard, but only when it was dark.

The fact we had no neighbours meant that we could be as loud as we wanted. And I mean LOUD. I used to have screaming matches with my friends over the fields (fuck knows why). Matthew used to play his rave music as a teenager on full blast through massive speakers outside.

Having my wedding reception there was just brill too. OK I know I’m divorced now but it was a cracking day. Really relaxed and chilled. And I still love the fact we had wedding photos taken in the big shed with all my Dad’s crap furniture waiting to be restored. Lasting memories and evidence of how much shit used to be stored in the sheds.

The garden wasn’t always a garden. In fact for years there was a massive hill in the middle of the garden from the earth that was excavated for the footings, which as a kid was great in the winter as we used to sledge down it, and in the summer we’d bike up and down it. After that was cleared it stayed a field for a bit because I had a donkey for a few years. I actually wanted a pony but I looked after a donkey over the winter as Dad wanted to see if I actually would do all the work needed. I didn’t, so I never got one. Clever man. I had so much fun with the donkeys though. And so did Dad, as they were escape artists.

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When we were younger we used to get snowed in properly, and I remember listening to the radio with mum in the morning to see if the little village primary school I went to was closed. And being very excited when it was.

IMG_20150831_112058 IMG_20150831_112048But of course it’s not just the house or the orchard or the trees or any other stuff. Of course there was all of that but what it all comes down to is the people. The people that filled the house. Our family. Small but perfectly formed, I think we’re pretty ace. We were lucky to live next door to one set of grandparents and have the other a few miles down the road and saw them every week, bringing my cousins with them most of the time too. My parents welcomed all our friends and quite often there was a houseful. Or an orchardful. Christmases were especially ace, everyone would come to us and there would be a week or so of mayhem, big trees and cat carnage. Oh, and I can’t forget Dad’s Christmas treasure hunts which would take us all over the house and out to the sheds, mainly to keep us out of the way for a bit and tire us out. I loved these so much I actually made Dad do one only a few years ago, haha. We were very lucky to have my parents around when we were young. Dad worked for himself at home in the workshop and so was always around to take me somewhere or help me with something. Mum was in and out too depending on when she was working.

Everything changes though. There’s been so many changes there, over all the years but especially in the last few years and the last few months. My grandparents house is gone now. The orchard is all but gone. All the sheds are gone. There’s more lawn that you can shake a stick at. Walls were added, fences were taken down. The yard doesn’t exist. The ponds have been filled in. The house was done up and dressed to sell. There’s a stable and a paddock, built years after the pony-mad youngster in me had moved out (thanks Dad).

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Where the orchard and pond used to be

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Where the yard and worksop used to be

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It’s not the same now, and so it makes it easier in some way to say goodbye. It’s not our home any more. But now, it’s real. Those contracts have been signed and I’ve had my last visit. I can’t go back and drive up the driveway any more, or run in and sit on the kitchen worktop. But, the memories will always be there. Many happy memories and that’s what I’ll remember.

There are so many, what’s above is just such a small percentage. And yes I know I’m massively lucky. So thanks Mum and Dad, for creating the best home ever for us. You should be mega proud of yourselves for all you achieved. Look at the pictures above. You took it from an overgrown field back in the 80’s to the home and gardens you’re leaving this week. Well done. That’s all you that is, loads of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Including the bastard job of removing all the stones from the field by hand – still not quite sure I forgive you for making me do that yet.

It’s the end of an era and sad, but also exciting as it’s the start of a new chapter for you. Lots of exciting things coming up, and also time for you to have a rest for a bit.

Jobs, houses and all that jazz.

I think this might be the last post I write on this blog. I started it back in January 2013 after my year in photos finished at the end of 2012. I missed having somewhere to write things down and share my photos. And then shortly after I started it, I decided to go travelling and then figured it was the ideal place to write about my travels, both for me and people at home following me around the world. And it served it’s purpose. But now, now I’m not sure what purpose it has. I’m not sure I feel the need to share things in the same way. Travel’s changed me, I’ve already said that. And I think one of the things that’s changed is that I don’t feel the need to (or don’t want to) live my life so openly any more. Or maybe just not right now. If you want to know what’s going on with me, you can always ask. You can always get in touch with me. You can meet up with me and I’ll tell you what’s new. I’ve spent quite a bit of time catching up with lots of different people over the last few months since I’ve been back (it’s been over 4 months now, yep, can you believe it?). And I’ve loved it. Meeting up with all of you to speak in person. To do stuff in person. So I’d like to carry on with that thank you very much. And if you don’t, well, I guess you’re not that bothered about what I’m up to, which is also always perfectly groovy.

But, right now, I’ll write one last blog post. After my last slightly rambly post, I thought it might be good to do an update. There’s lots of you that were waiting to see what kind of job I would get, or what kind of life I’d settle back into. I’m pleased to report I feel a bit less fluffy and indecisive now. Things are falling into place day by day and it’s all a bit clearer.

So, I’ve been employed for nearly two months now. Yes, two months. Blink and you’d miss it. When I went travelling I said I wanted to do something different. Not in an office, or not in front of a computer screen. I didn’t know what, and had hoped I would figure it out by the time I got back. I didn’t. I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do, although, I have a better idea. And I do kind of know what I want to do in about 10 years time, just not right now. And the couple of things I do want to do, I don’t have the experience for. Even the entry level jobs, because I tried. Quite a few times, with quite a few companies. So, I need to get that experience, which I aim to do over the next year or so through volunteering in a few different forms.

But that doesn’t help me right now.

Right now, I had to get a job. To get some cash, but also to do something. To get my brain working again, and to give me some kind of purpose. Because you see, as much as it sounds wonderful to now have to work, it’s not all that. Especially without much cash. Because you can’t do that much. And all your mates are at work. I felt a bit purposeless, and like I wasn’t really contributing to anything or anyone. To live here, in my world, there isn’t an option of ‘not getting a job’. I can’t really live without one. So, I figured that if I couldn’t get into the area that I wanted to, because I didn’t have that experience, I’d get a job and work on the experience bit. So, what job to get? I could have just gone and got any old job, but I decided to look along the same kind of lines as what I did before. Yes, it went against what I had been thinking before. But, I have to also be realistic. I need cash, and what I used to do pays a decent wage. I’m on my own, so need to be able to support myself with everything. For that, I need to be earning a fair amount. And, it’s maybe not forever, it’s part of a plan and I’m always in control of what I do. Even if I am a bit of a corporate slave again. That’s cool, I’m OK with that right now.

You see, no matter what you do in life, you’ve always got the power to change it whenever you want. So, if I want to change jobs, then I can change it. If I’m unhappy, then I’ll change it. You don’t have to get stuck in a job and feel there’s no alternative. There’s always an alternative. Or a future plan. You’re in charge.

But, I have chosen a bit of a different job. I’ve chosen a good compromise. I’m now a HR consultant for a computer software company. It’s an office job but not based in one office. It’s in front of a computer screen, but a different one every day. I’m not a project manager any more, I’m a resource that reports to a project manager. I’m back to my ‘home’ of HR systems work. I’ll be travelling around the country. It fits in so many ways with where I am right now. Keeps my itchy feet in check with a bit of travel in the UK. OK, so it’s not the same kind of travel, but it gets me out and about to explore places and make the most of it. Releases me from the office politics and never ending issues management that is the life of a PM. And gives me a bit of stability and cash to be able to start working towards whatever I want to do next. And in the meantime, gives me something new to get my teeth stuck into and enjoy the next adventure of finding somewhere to live again and building my new life.

Because that’s the next bit. I’ve got (and will hopefully keep!) the job, so next is somewhere to live. Basic stuff, but basic stuff is exciting when you’ve not had it for a while. It’s been over 18 months since I lived in my own house. And boy do I miss it. Right now I’m staying with my parents, which I never thought I’d be doing, let alone for this long (they’re probably thinking exactly the same thing). But it’s not too bad, because it’s not indefinite, I know I’ll be moving sometime soon, and can’t wait (no offence Mum/Dad, but you know what I mean).

I’m pretty much decided that I’m not going to settle back in Lincoln (To be fair, I’d already decided that before I got back, and I’ve not changed my mind), the question is just when I go. I haven’t moved yet as I’m using my first few pay packets to pay for the car I bought, and right now I’m just pondering whether to move before or after Christmas. The sensible part of me says move after Christmas and use the pay packets in between to just build up the pot a bit again. But if I do that, ideally I’d want to stay in or nearer to Lincoln for the next few months, to be closer to a bit of action and easier to get about if I’m travelling around. So, if anyone has a spare bedroom that they have going for reasonable rates I’d be interested 😉

You’re probably wondering where I’m going? The good thing about my new job is that because it is based all over the UK I’m fairly free to live where I want (within reason). Another reason I went for it. But when there’s that much choice, where do you go? Tricky one really. Well, it was pretty easy to know to head South, as I seem to have more friends and people I know down there than up North. So, that made it a bit easier. London is just too ridiculously expensive and I really, really want to live alone again. And I also realised that I didn’t really fancy living in a massive city. I absolutely love Lincoln, it’s just the right size and love the different areas and all the history stuff. It’s pretty. So somewhere a bit like that, just somewhere else.

So I’ve decided on Cheltenham. Why? Well, why not? I’ve been a couple of times, know someone there and it seems a nice place. Pretty, surrounded by the Cotswolds and hills, about the same size population as Lincoln, nice bars, restaurants and parks. Plenty to do, it has crossfit and a few running clubs. I don’t need much more really.

Very exciting, and I swing between being impatient and wanting to get on with it and being lazy and not being bothered because it means having to do stuff. At the minute, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, getting stuck into a new job without any other stuff to think about. But I also know I want to crack on and get started, as I still feel in limbo, like I don’t belong anywhere and like I can’t get involved in anything because things will all change in a few months. Either way, I’d like to have made some decisions in the next few weeks so I know what I’m doing, I’ve been floating around for a bit too long I think.

And in the meantime I’ve been upping the running and cycling. It’s been wonderful. Enjoying the countryside and feeling like me again. I’m running Nottingham half marathon in a couple of weeks and really looking forward to it. Enjoying those long runs with nothing but fresh air and Spotify. Good for the soul, although I have to say (as much as I hate running up them) it would be nice if there were a few hills. That’s what Cheltenham’s for though, right? And if you’ve never been there, then there’s the perfect excuse to come visit me. Not that you need one, right?

So there you have it. From deciding to go travelling to getting back into ‘normal’ life and everything in between, that’s my life over the last 18 months. It’s been an absolute blast, and I only know that whatever happens next will be even better. What will happen, I’ve got no idea. That’s the fun part.

And don’t forget, your life is YOUR life. Live it how you want to. If you’re not happy, then change it. If you want to do something, do it. It really is that simple, even if you think it’s not. There are always excuses, reasons or barriers to doing something, but they’re not really solid. Nothing is impossible. So you have a mortgage and a job and can’t go travelling? Bollocks. I had both and I did it. And have come back to a better/different job and my mortgage is still getting paid. Scared of doing something? Doing it and getting out of your comfort zone will only develop you in ways you might not even realise. There’s no success or failure, just different ways of dealing with things. That’s the important thing – not the outcome, but how you deal with it. I’m actually only just realising the things I’ve learnt while I’ve been away and how it’s changed me. In the little every day things I do or the situations I face. And do you know what? There’s been so many things, I can’t keep up. Sticking with the familiar may be great. it might be easy, but damn me I wouldn’t be the person I am now without the things I’ve done over the last year. And for that, I wouldn’t trade all the tea in China. I can’t put a price on it. For me, I’m just realising it’s been probably the single most important thing I’ve done in my life. Travelling isn’t for everyone, but this isn’t really about travelling, it’s about living your dreams, whatever they are. It’s about taking chances and risks and seeing what happens. It’s about challenging yourself and living for the moment. It’s about cherishing life and exploring and making the most of it. It’s about finding out who you are and what you’re made of. It’s about life beyond boundaries. Life outside those four walls.

So what are you waiting for? Every day is an adventure. Go explore.

Thanks for following. Adios.

Back in the UK.

I’ve been back for nearly 4 weeks now. I’ve no idea where that’s gone, it’s just been one massive whirlwind. I’ve been meaning to blog before now, but I’ve just not really had the chance, or known what to write. I still don’t, so until I do, this is just a little post to say hello, yes, I’m back, it’s weird but not weird, normal but totally different and if I’m honest, I’ve found it all a little bit overwhelming. I’m not quite sure I’ve processed much in the last few weeks (although, my liver has processed quite a bit of alcohol), and it’s probably going to catch up with me soon. At the minute I’m sat in Southampton having a little bit of a holiday, and am heading to London next week to spend some time with Alex. I’m looking forward to just having a bit of downtime. You maybe can’t understand that, or think I’ve just had a year off, or four weeks of not working but, well, trust me, I need a break. I’ll try and explain it more in another post, once I get it all straight in my head.

And in the meantime, here’s a few things that I’ve noticed since I’ve been back:

  • I’ve had cold feet for the first time in a year. Even in Zambia, New Zealand and San Francisco, where it got cold at night, I never remember having cold feet like I do here. It must be that damp UK cold. Don’t particularly like it.
  • I miss plugs in bathrooms. Why don’t we have them here? Other countries manage perfectly fine and don’t seem to electrocute themselves.
  • I’m still finding it a bit weird, 4 weeks on, using plugs without an adaptor. Every plug seems tiny. I miss adaptors that hang out the wall and I had to balance on something to get to work, and that used to spark when I plugged something in.
  • The smell of oilseed rape is just so Lincolnshire. The first time I got back to my parents and got out the car I smelt it. And so, I was home.

And yep, as I (and maybe some of you) suspected, I’ve now got itchy feet. Not necessarily to go travelling again, but just to DO something. To start my life. And yep, this means getting a job (I’ve not got a bottomless bank account) and finding somewhere to live. And itchy feet means it’s probably not going to be Lincolnshire. But, I have no idea where I want it to be. And there is also a small part of me that misses travelling. That feeling of getting up and being able to do what you want. To go wherever you want, and wake up somewhere new every few days or weeks. But, I know I don’t really want to travel again. Not yet. And I don’t really know what I want to do. Not yet. So, I’ve got a few ideas in the meantime. But, at the minute, I’m going to enjoy this little holiday. And try to relax.

Home.

I’ve been thinking about home a bit recently. Not in any particular way, but just thinking about it. Thinking about where actually is home. Especially at the moment. You’d probably say Lincolnshire but it’s not really any more. I haven’t got my house or job there any more, and who’s to say I’ll settle back there anyway when I do return to the UK? What’s to keep me there? My old life doesn’t exist any more, and if I tried to recreate it, that’s all I’d be doing, trying to recreate something that’s gone. I’ve moved on. My life can never be the same, and I don’t want it to be. Things change, that’s just a fact of life.

I’m into my 6th month of travelling, so getting on for half way, so I’m not really surprised I’m thinking about home. I’m missing some home comforts, people and a normal way of life. I’m getting a bit weary of travelling so much. So many new countries, new languages, new currencies, new traditions to figure out. Like I mentioned in my The little things post, it’s those things that start to make a difference. When I leave for Australia on 11th December I’ll have been in Asia for nearly 6 months, and I think that’s about right for me. In Australia I will stay with some friends for a while and then look after their house for them while they are away over Christmas and New Year, and I can’t TELL you how excited about this I am. It feels a bit like I’ll be going home for a bit of a rest and a recharge before starting the next part of the adventure, without actually going back to the UK. A chance to be in one place for longer than a few days. A chance to eat proper food* and get some good running** in. A chance to get some new clothes. A chance to get my hair cut. To catch up with some familiar faces. A chance, if you like, to live a normal life for a bit without actually going home, which feels like something I need to do.

It will be strange to be in a country where everyone speaks the same language as me. I’ve got so used to not really knowing what anyone is talking about, and not being able to understand any conversations overheard on buses or trains.

I’ve got a few exciting plans for Australia, all of which are being shaped by the travelling I’ve done so far, which I am probably FAR too excited about. I’m expecting this next part of my journey to be a completely different experience to what I’ve already done. Like a trip of two halves, which for me just adds to the need-to-sit-on-my-hands-excitement.

I also reckon that this next part of my trip will help me figure out what I want my future home and life to look like, and maybe where it might be, or at least will help give me some pointers on what kind of things I want to be in my life. I know I don’t want to be a permanent traveller, although I do wonder how I will feel when I am in one place for longer than a few weeks now.

Through my travels so far, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had, I’ve got some ideas and a much better idea of who I am and what I enjoy to do, and a hugely renewed excitement for my life when I finish this lot of travel. My life, wherever I end up calling home, or whatever I end up doing will be another new start, another new adventure, and I’m already getting pretty stoked about that. I just have to remember to not try to get ahead of myself. Enjoy the here and now first. Plenty of time for that next year. So much more to come before that.

*fishfinger sandwiches

**longer than 4 miles and more than once a week

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