I backpacked around the world for 20 years, constantly on the move looking for new beginnings, adventure and excitement. Yet no matter how many times I packed that bag the nerves and uncertainty would come sneaking in—a nagging little voice that buzzed around my head like a mosquito.
“Why are you leaving, it’s alright here, you know where everything is, can you be bothered with the hassle?”
I would continuously swat it away as I carried on rolling up my clothes and stuffing them tightly into every clevis of my backpack.
“You’ve got all mod cons, a job, money and friends? Life is easy, Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” It would nag.
“Yeah yeah, it’s all easy. But, same-same day in, day out, where only drugs, alcohol and men can bring me a taste of something different, is boring” I would answer it.
“Where are you going to stay? You don’t know anybody or anything about the place, food, culture, you don’t even know the language. Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!”
“That is true you irritating little shit, but that’s why I’m going! to explore and try something new, an adventure,” I’d zapped at that annoying pest.
I guess the uncertainty, fear and freedom all mixed up together, was part of the excitement. I loved the sensation that I would get when I put that backpack on and headed to the airport. That thrill of adventure, which tingled all over my body that I couldn’t find in anything else I tried. No drugs, no alcohol or man could beat the high of exploring a new place.
I preferred a medium-sized backpack, so I could only fit in practical, essential stuff. I liked to keep my pack or my house as I called it, light. It made moving around and getting on and off of transport easier but the main reason was that my disabled right knee struggled with the extra weight. So if it didn’t fit in my pack, it didn’t come and if I bought something new on the road, I would throw something out or give it away, if I thought it would be of use to someone.
Bag packed, money belt on and steaming hangover from my leaving party I would still hear that nagging mosquito all the way to the airport.
“Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” all around my head, but I would battle on regardless, thinking of the freedom that awaited me. All through the airport rigmarole, it would still be niggling and stabbing at me with little stings.
“You can still back out and go back to your nice, cosy, safe, predictable life, it wasn’t that bad, was it…… Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!”
But as soon as I squeezed into my economy seat by the little oval plastic window and the pilot announced for the cabin crew to prepare for take-off, the adrenaline and excitement that filled my body would be intoxicating, and that fucking mosquito would start to slowly disappear like the land below me, as we reached high into the sky.
“A spicy bloody Mary, please.” I would ask the flight attendant who stood beside me with a tin trolley—my favourite in-flight drink.
“Cheers” I would announce to the space around me and enjoy its tomatoey, spicy taste. Placing my plastic glass down on the pull-down table in front of me in victory, I’d squashed that buzzing little fucker dead!
“Yay! Now it’s happening.” I could finally relax and let all the past tensions fall away as I kicked back to watch the shitty movie on the tiny screen on the back of the seat in front of me.
~ ~ ~
As soon as we landed my seventh sense for survival would rise from its dormant corner of my body like a long lost friend, and that misplaced smile that came from the depth of my heart would crack my face open, as I stepped back into the life that I loved with a dance.
At the baggage claim, I would always check for other travellers to see who wanted to share a taxi to the city/town or beach and usually found one or two, who like me had never been here before. Often we would become friends, share a room to cut the cost, do the sights and play out.
Sometimes even travel together, if we were going the same way. I preferred these casual friends for travelling because it was easier to move on from them if it didn’t work out or if I wanted to be alone.
As soon as I booked into a room I would always check for a place to hide my money belt, I never left it in my bag, which was too obverse and easy. But would slip it under the wardrobe or bedside cabinet, pull out a draw and fit it behind then push it back in, unscrew the electricity board and stick it in there and screw it back on, even burying it under my beach hut.
Once my stuff was stashed safely, party dress and makeup on I would go out and get as fucked up as I liked knowing that if my roommate had sticky fingers or forgot to lock the door, or we were broken into or I bought a random man home, they would not find my stash.
Ripping out the map from my guidebook, I would hit the streets and explore my new environment where everything was fresh and exciting. It was exhilarating not knowing what was around the next corner, who I would meet, or what I would get up to. Oh, and the food—all the different smells, delicious new tastes and combinations—I loved snacking at the street food stalls.
But the best bit was if I fucked up—which I usually did due to excessive partying— I could just pack up, move on and start again.
If I resonated with a place I would always find a casual job, so I could become part of it, rather than just a drifter passing through. You can always get a job if you don’t mind what you do, be it handing out flyers, dishwashing, bar, waitress or picking fruits or vegetables.
More about this later.