An Ode to the Road

To feel lonely in your own country is a terrible thing.

To have to stand still, when you want to run.

To have to put yourself out there constantly, when you know you are going to get knocked back.

That’s why I miss the road.

I miss the not knowing.

I miss the freedom.

I miss living out of a backpack, sleeping in airports and train stations, over night buses, the chaos of being lost in a country where the language is not your own, the sand on your feet, the itch of a mosquito bite, wearing shorts day in, day out, sunburn peel, sleeping in a different bed/bus/sofa/floor/tent every night…

I miss labouring in the outback, pulling pints in Perth, kayaking in Sydney, sleeping in a hammock in Cambodia, getting caught in the rain in Bali, riding motorbikes in Vietnam, eating with your hands in India, drinking iced coffee in Canada, swimming in turquoise waters in the Philippines, snowboarding in France, camping in Scotland, walking in Portugal…

But most of all, I miss the people…

oh how I miss the people.

A year back in Ireland and I’ve made four new friends tops, a day on the road and I’d make 15. I have no one to make plans with for the weekend, traipse around the mountains with, no one to surf with, or to fawn over maps with. I have had so many of these people in my life over the years … I needed to know that they were still there, somewhere.

So I decided to touch base with a few. All on one day and see where their lives had taken them, see if some would even respond, just to feel connected once more. I asked them to send me a picture of where they were and what they were doing right now…

And man, the photos flooded in. I was transported around the world, breaking the ice with people I haven’t spoken to in a long time. It wasn’t like on Instagram, the perfectly manicured images, it was real.

I was catching up, seeing the world again, laughing, talking politics, discussing their dreams and adventures, talking about their pain and difficulties. Some were brief conversations, some stayed and we talked for hours.

A constant stream of photos and conversations, people getting up, while I was going to bed, me getting up, while they were going to sleep. People chasing their dreams, travelling, struggling, stuck in an office, working their ass off to get the career. I celebrated with people, tried to help some figure out a problem or make a decision.

I wasn’t jealous when the really good ones came, the ones where people were travelling or doing something really worthwhile. I heard stories of people studying climate change, inspiring a generation of surfers, climbing mountains in South America, working their asses off in offices, preserving history in Virginia, drinking in Melbourne, watching a sunrise in Vancouver…

And I was happy for them, so happy for them all. These people that I get to call my friends, people who too, are just trying to make their way in this fucked up world… and in that moment, I wasn’t lonely anymore.

Take a look at what I got back: 

 

Advertisements
Featured

Being a Grown Up

12167957_10153200770588733_1036276716_n

I have worked hard my whole life, slogged away at it quietly behind closed doors; the junior cert, the leaving cert, my degree, countless unpaid internships, countless shitty part time jobs. All on the basis that once I came out the end of that tunnel, my efforts would be rewarded. I would have the offer of a job, not just any job, but the dream job.

Alas, here I sit, a year on and not only do I not have the offer of thee job, I have no offers for any jobs, not even the ones I once thought beneath me to apply for. What has happened, where have I gone wrong?

I have followed societies orders, I have studied hard, never smoked or taken drugs, been nice to people, rarely fought with my parents, never had ‘issues’, never was demanding, or attention seeking, never built up a credit card debt, never gambled, never did anything illegal, never did anything too reckless. I’ve been a good little girl. Yet it seems, none of that plays a part, none of that counts…

I mustn’t be good enough?

Ouch. Saying it out loud is like getting punched in the gut.

So what do I do, I emigrate of course, like countless Irish before me. So here I sit in Perth, Australia crashing in a cousin’s house. Taking up space. I have announced to the world that I am here, you can employ me now, and once again I am met with stony silence. Moving was meant to solve the problem, a bigger marketplace, a better chance… instead just more people to reject my resume.

It has been suggested to me that I should think about retraining? One year after graduating, I should admit defeat and choose a more sensible option. To give up on Journalism, to give up on the dream before I’ve even given it a chance to take off.

No, I can’t do that, not yet. Shall I slug away once more, working bar jobs, scraping by, living the student life, waiting for the opportunity that might never arrive?

Or do I take the less sensible option and gather together the scrapings of my bank account to explore Australia, in the hope that while I shuffle through the outback, someone will reach out and take a chance on me? With the knowledge ever weighing on my shoulders that if they don’t, I’ll have to crawl back home with my tail between my legs, my confidence in shatters, and ask Mammy and Daddy to support their failing 24 year old once more.

Do I gamble in the hope that this may actually happen for me, or do I settle down to a reality that I’ve never wanted?

The time has come to make a decison.

Go on, roll the dice. Decide my fate.

Cambodia – a brief respite from my life in Vietnam

We stepped foot into Cambodia. Five of us, the original five, all such different people forced together through circumstance and found that we fit together. Three Canadians, one South African and me. The first night we partied hard, free of Vietnam, of work. We were young and reckless once more. In the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, here for one night only to gulp long island ice teas and one dollar beers. To sway to the music underneath a canopy of fairy lights on a roof top bar.

A six hour bus to Sihanoukville, to the beach. I gazed out the dusty pane with heavy eyelids… and it was there that I fell in love with a country for the first time since my own beloved Eire. Head resting against the window I watched the world go by, watching the landscape morph from flat plains to towering hills, from dessert to jungle, from turquoise bath water to open sewers. I saw the blood orange moon, the houses built on stilts, the red dirt paths, the kids running and laughing, playing barefoot soccer… young and wild and free.

Such a simple life. A hard but happy life.

I am jealous of them , they are jealous of me.

How can such polar opposite worlds exist simultaneously? The Western world and the developing world, seemingly oblivious to one another’s woes.

Could I live this life, after growing up on the privileged side? Could I really be poor, not the kind of poor that we already say we are, but real poverty. Could I give up all my possessions, relinquish the internet and work as a labourer?  Eat slower, live slower, appreciate the little things in life once more. Family, the beauty of a sunrise, the texture of the ground beneath your bare feet.  Laugh sporadically and cathartically, work with my hands, draw sweat. Find joy in the feeling of a shower after a hard day’s work, the feeling of calluses forming on your hands and feet, in the satisfying but relentless itch of a mosquito bite, the peel of a sunburn. Every second playing out as if in slow motion.

We escaped to the island of Koh Rong, to Long Beach a forty-five minute climb over a vertical collage of rocks and then a straight drop back down the other side. Sweat pumping and heart pulsing between my ears I progressed slowly, the effort cleansing me of my over indulgent past few days… to emerge onto paradise. No postcards, no film, no tourist advertisement could do this justice. It was like being high, all your senses attuned to the magic unfolding around you, high on life. The sand like fluffy flour sifting between our toes, the water rippling clear and turquoise. We wrapped hammocks around spare trees to camp for the night. Another first for me, but encompassing everything I have ever dreamed up of for myself. Only other youthful hippies to share its floured shores for the night, all packing for one night, but staying forever.

Watching the magic of bioluminescence explode around me during a late night swim, sparkling plankton lighting up the dark waters beneath my hands. Gathering wood, lighting a campfire and dozing off beside it. Fleeing to our hammocks when the buckets of rain and lighting start hailing down upon us. Rising and stretching in the morning air, gathering our belongings swiftly and power walking back along the beach to catch a boat to reality in a typhoon. Laughing out loud at my luck, it hasn’t rained in four months here, but the day I come, typically the tarp is yanked free and the water unleashed. Wading out to the old wooden boat, body fully submerged in the rocking tide, bags held high over our heads. Tossing them carelessly on board and scrambling awkwardly in after them for a bumpy ride back to the central hub.

The days blurring together, a mash up of bed bugs and insect bites, we looked like we had chicken pox. Chronic diarrhoea and vomiting for three days in squat toilets with no flush and no toilet roll, “character building” my Ma and Da would say.  I can’t shave my legs because it’s like a cacophony of sores  kissing my skin. I can’t shower too often because the communal ones are usually covered in shit and when I do its under cold spurts of water that I have to psych myself up to put my head under. Highs and lows. Cambodia you have not been kind to my body but you have freed my mind. I think if I shimmy a few steps left of paradise I could find an oasis of real life that is more my style and while away my days here contently.

But I can’t stay in paradise forever. A trip to The Killing Fields see’s to that, pulling us back to reality, shaking us into the present after one by one we succumbed to tiredness and grumpiness with the passing days, with the constant company. Opening our eyes to real suffering, real problems. What Cambodia went through, genocide and now poverty and my utter inadequacy or inability to do something about it. Am I who I want to be yet? Still I disappoint myself. It’s all so fake, white people’s paradise, the white’s working the easy jobs in the bars etc, while the local people unclog the booze and drug induced puke smeared toilets, clean the rooms, man the boats, collect the rubbish left behind by the white partiers as they continue to blaze a trail of destruction though their chosen holiday destinations.

The world is a funny place. It both baffles  and awes me frequently.

So much still to do. So much still to learn.

But I’m starting to grow weary, I’m starting to miss home. My family, my old friends. I have turned the final corner in my journey, but I can’t pack it in yet, I’m so close. Home is in sight, three more months, three months brimming with so much potential. The preparations are under way, two more weeks of work, of selling the last of my possessions, of having a routine, of lie ins and a steady income.

Da is coming… two more weeks until we cycle the length of Vietnam…

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb, but there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” – Unknown.

IMG_0485

Interview with Dave Cornthwaite

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Cornthwaite is a British adventurer, author and motivational speaker.

1.Does the job of an adventurer/author and motivational speaker go hand in hand? Was this your childhood dream job?

It definitely wasn’t something I considered doing when I was younger, I just didn’t know it was possible. I don’t really see it as a job because I’m passionate about everything I do and it’s too much fun to be work! The speaking is a part of any professional adventurer’s life, especially if like me you’re not regularly on TV. All of this stems from my love of writing, it’s so nice to have stories to turn into books these days.

2. What was your very first adventure?

In April 2006 I skateboarded 896 miles from John O’Groats to Lands End, I was the first person to skate the length of Britain but that was just a warm-up for Australia!

3. The sheer scale of your adventures seem daunting, are they daunting to you or just the rest of us?

I understand how they might appear daunting, but having done a few I now realise that dealing with the distance is just a state of mind. However slow you go, if you keep going you’ll make it to the end if you want to – and that’s the key, I’ll only do these journeys if I really really want to, otherwise when it gets hard I’d give up.

4. I see you travelled while at university, how did you balance both lives, not just work but friends and a part time job?

I think travel is the best education we can get. We can’t understand our place in the world without seeing it from the outside, so I made the most of my time at uni, worked hard and travelled in my holidays. Good friends don’t mind if you go away, they’ll be waiting when you come back!

5.When you have to stay put for a set period of time, how do you satisfy the travelling bug or the urge to keep going?

The hardest bit about what I do is in between adventures. It’s easy to be motivated when I’m on a journey, I’m focussed on reaching my goal and also sharing my trip. But in between I need to write books, do a lot of talks and earn some money for the next trip and it takes a lot of dedication. Usually I need a while to let my body recuperate after a big trip so it’s a natural process leading up to the next one.

6. You make it all sound so easy; you graduated, founded your own newspaper and became a graphic designer. They are three different jobs that people study their whole lives to become, yet you seem to have managed to excel at all three. Props to you but how?

Simply, I just did it. I had the idea and rather than talk about it I just put the wheels into action. I taught myself new skills as quickly as I could – everything is based on common sense so I listed the things I needed to do to achieve my goals and then started ticking them off until I’d done it. It wasn’t simple and took some hard work, but I made it happen pretty quickly. Anyone could do it!

7. When you decided to commit fully to adventuring as a career, was there a fear of failure, of giving up an easy life? Or do you even believe in fear?

I believe that we’re fearful of change and difference, and the reason we’re so scared of it is because deep down we’re considering that change, and it’s a good thing, but for a while it might not be easy. People love comfort but comfort kills ambition, so I keep generating new ideas everyday to avoid getting in a rut. All I ever wanted to do was make a living from something I’m truly passionate about, I didn’t have a specific aim or goal but I knew it was possible if I worked hard. I’m still learning and figuring things out, but I’ve not considered dropping adventure. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, that’s the key to finding your true vocation.

8.Your a long boarder right, what is it like having one leg permanently more muscley than the other?

Haha, I don’t skate much anymore but after my journeys my right calf was huge! It was my party trick!

9.Why did you start it all, were you just bored?

I was boring! I’d followed everything that’s expected of all of us. Schools, Uni, Degree, Job, Mortgage, Partner, Pet. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realised I was unhappy. I ditched everything and started afresh. I’d been depressed, living the same life everyday, I needed change.

10. How do you think of new adventures?

If I try something new that’s fun I’ll instantly start think about travel. Each method of transport I use exercises me somehow, add that healthy activity to travel and suddenly Im going to see a new part of the world and get fit at the same time. It’s a beautiful process.

11. Is a life of exploration not a lonely one?

I rarely feel lonely on my adventures. I meet a lot of people on my way, although it’s hard saying goodbye to new friends constantly. Honestly, I find it lonelier coming home. Sure, I see my friends and family, but nobody truly understands what you’ve been through, no matter how much you talk about it.

 

12.When in all this chaos did you have time to write a book?

It takes dedication. I need to give myself time and rid myself of all distractions. Not easy when the book-writing time is also money-making time. I’ve taught myself to believe that one day my books will be my income, my pension even. That way I survive on very little in order to finish a book.

13. What is your all time favourite book?

I don’t have one. Depending on my mood I’ll flit from one style to another. I love writers like Bill Bryson for their humour and wit. Reading Hemingway makes me want to write. I just love books, they’re a sign of hard work and dedication, nothing like walking into a bookshop and thinking about everything that went into the books – so many stories, just brilliant. It’s inspiring. If they can do it, I can! You can!

14.You found a purpose pretty early in life compared to most people, I bet that feels nice?

Sure it feels nice. It saddens me when people go their whole lives without finding a purpose, we’ve all got talents, every one of us. Sometimes we’re not lucky enough to have someone else to nurture our talent so we have to be prepared to nurture ourselves.

15. This question may seem rude but that is not my intention. It is just a challenge I am constantly facing and am wondering if you too have ever struggled with it? I am twenty years old and want to get into adventure sports journalism, but I am constantly confronted with people’s scepticism that this is a career that cannot bring about change. That as a smart girl, I should go into politics or war reporting. Change the world. Subsequently I am left feeling guilty about doing something I love? Any thoughts?

Here’s the crux of my answer: If we are passionate about something we can enact change. There’s nothing like passion to inspire. If I was a chicken farmer and LOVED it, found beauty in the science and biology and the life and the eggs and the EVERYTHING, then my articulation of that would inspire people. I’m not, obviously, but adventure sports journalism can inspire in so many ways! Forget the doubters, what do they know? Is the funny kid at school ever encouraged to be a stand up comedian? No, because it doesn’t fit in the typical box. Trust your gut, if it’s what you want, go for it. You’ll never regret a decision like that.

16. Do you ever worry about money ?

Rarely. I’ve survived on very little – incredibly little – for five years and everything I earn is ploughed back into my adventures. Wealth isn’t finance, it’s experience and the ability to use your time well. I’m pretty wealthy right now, without having a penny 😉

17.Do you ever worry about settling down?

It’s probably my only concern at the moment. I’ve chosen a lifestyle that isn’t typical, it sends me away and fulfils me but doesn’t make it easy for me to find a long-time partner. I’m not sure I’m the type of person to ever settle down, but a more settled base would probably complete the missing link in my life. That’s okay though, it’ll come, in time.

18. Do you ever get frustrated with people and the world?

Endlessly. Realistically though we can only do our best in everything. We have political and environmental problems that are juggernaughts, I can’t stop them so I won’t dedicate my life to a lost cause. BUT, what frustrates me most is people who have potential and don’t take advantage of it. Such a waste. Anyone I meet who moans about their job, I’m at them immediately, trying to work out how they’ve let it get to the stage where the one thing that takes up the majority of their waking hours isn’t pleasing. It’s a waste! We’ve only got so much time, why would anyone choose to waste it!

19.Was there a defining moment that made you leave a world of comfort behind?

I’d been aware that I needed a change for a few weeks but there was one catalyst that kicked everything into gear: my first ride downhill on a longboard. Riding a hill that I thought I knew gave me a whole new perspective. I was bursting with passion and joy. It was incredible, to be struck with the realisation that something so normal and ordinary to me could be shown in a new light. Two weeks later I quit my job.

20. How do you entertain yourself while on route?

Usually my surroundings are more than entertaining. But I’ll listen to an ipod, practice a brand new talk out loud – shouting and singing into the wilderness sometimes! – think of new journeys and projects. I can’t remember the last time I was bored!

21.What is your favourite sport and why?

My first passion was football, it’s a true international language – you can go anywhere in the world and make friends with a football.

22. Which has been your favourite adventure and why?

My latest one, Stand Up Paddling the Mississippi. SUP is a beautiful way to travel, it’s great for fitness and you can see so much standing on a board. It’s such a simple way to travel, too. Board. Paddle. Bags on top. And that’s it.

23.Whats next?

I’m writing my next book, it’s called Stand Up Huck, about the Mississippi paddle. In a few weeks, when I’m nearing the end of the book, I’ll settle on my next adventure. It might be a swim down a river, a sail journey, a unicycle…who knows?!

 

For information on Dave, here’s his website http://www.davecornthwaite.com/ , take a luck, trust me, the man is a legend.