(Sorry, I couldn’t resist that title)
So, how are things with you? It’s been a while hasn’t it? So sorry. My bad.
Yet before I resume my usual erratic blogging programme (FYI I have officially given up on ever being the kind of blogger who has, let along sticks to, an ‘editorial calendar’) I just wanted to explain a little about why I took a break from writing on here. Especially as it was mid-trip and I was definitely not short of material!
I’m finding it very hard to write this blog post, mainly I think because in doing so I’m hovering over that big, wide, slip-sided ‘finding yourself’ cliche trap, but this is the sort of writing that I want to do more of on here so I’m going to give it a go. Please bear with me.
The reason I took a break from blogging was because my trip last year was never simply about seeing the world. It was, as I think travel is for so many people, about giving myself the time and space to figure some shit out. Quite a lot of shit, to be honest. Big steaming piles of the stuff.
When I think back to how I was before leaving the UK in February there are two images which pop-up inside my head. The first is that of someone wearing the wrong clothes. That is how I felt about my life. From the outside maybe it looked like I had a good one – sharing a flat in London, plenty of friends to go for dinner and drinks with, and the start of a good career, working at a literary agency. But I was miserable and frustrated, mainly because I felt like I was living a life that I had been randomly allotted rather than one I’d actively gone after, and built for myself.
The second image which pops up is that of a brain full of the voices of other people. In Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (the best book I’ve ever read on writing, creativity and life. I can’t recommend it highly enough) she talks about how we are all, at birth, given “an emotional acre all our own”. And, as long as you don’t hurt anyone you can do with it what you wish. She says that there is a fence around it, and a gate and if people keep coming onto your land you can ask them to leave. My gate was broken, and stuck wide open. I didn’t even know what my pasture looked like because it was so trampled on by other people’s feet, let alone have the opportunity to actually grow and cultivate something there.
So last year for me was about getting everyone else off my bloody grass, and taking off my ill-fitting clothes so that I could start to dress myself again from scratch.
Oh dear, I really have fallen down that trap with those metaphors haven’t I?! Oh well, I’m here now. May as well stick it out.
It was why I knew I had to do the majority of the trip solo, so that the only voice around me was my own.
But as I went about shooing people away and peeling off clothes, I realised there was something from my past life that I was still carrying around with me: This blog.
However particular to me this might seem, I think it is probably similar to something other travellers struggle with and something that is symptomatic of travelling in 2016, around a world covered by the internet. You might be able to physically leave behind your friends and family, and be a new person around those you’ve just met, but your old self still follows you digitally. And it’s hard to shake off.
I found this tricky because I’d defined my trip in a certain way, and said I had certain aspirations for it, on here. I felt like I’d presumptively set things in stone, and as I went about unravelling everything I felt increasingly unsure about what I’d said. And it wasn’t even that I knew I definitely didn’t want to be a travel writer, or take this blog further, it was that I wanted to take away the assumption that I did. I’d made those statements as a very different person and wanted what I ended up doing to come from who I was now, not from who I was then.
The turning point I think for me, and it came around the same time as I stopped blogging, was deciding not to go to TBEX but to come back to Bali for another month instead. It was me deciding to prioritise sorting my head out, over pursuing an ambition I was no longer sure was really my own.
There was also the fact that I label myself as a Londoner on here, and as the trip went on I missed the city less and less, and gradually realised just how bad it had actually been for me. While it might seem to you that it’s just the name of my blog, and not anything to get worked up about, it was also a label I’d used to define myself for quite a while, and while I was trying to work out exactly what it is that I am, I didn’t want an old label hanging around my neck. Oddly enough, it’s taken me returning there for a short time and having it confirm my belief that no, I’m definitely not a Londoner anymore (more on this soon), that’s made me comfortable writing on here again. It is, after all, just a name.
And finally, I just needed to write for myself for a while. I was writing very much with an audience in mind, and while I might have been thinking a lot of this stuff at the time, I was too scared of writing about it on here because of what you might think. And that meant that I wasn’t writing about it at all. By taking away the pressure to publish I let myself just write, and those pages and pages of fragmented, very rough thoughts are part of what eventually cleared all the rubbish out of my brain (well, most of it anyway). And what has now given me the courage to publish this sort of stuff on here.
Towards the end of last year I played around with the idea of setting up a brand new blog, and starting afresh, with no labels or expectations. But I eventually decided that I didn’t want to whitewash my past, and that while I’ve never been proud of this blog as a whole there are actually some pieces on here that I am pleased with. And as fragmented, messy and stitched together as it might be, this blog is a sort of chronicle of my “journey” (I retched as well, don’t worry), and I like that.
I’ve always enjoyed looking at the my favourite bloggers’ older posts and seeing how they’ve changed and grown. And despite the messiness of it all there is perhaps a thin thread through it – that of my following different kinds of hunger. From food in London, to new experiences, faces and views as I travelled around last year, and now to a slightly less identifiable but still very gnawing kind: that of wanting to understand myself and my place in the world.
I’m now back in Bali, and will be here until June, working on quite a few different projects, most of which involve some sort of writing, and slowly beginning to piece together and build a life for myself that feels right. And I want to write about all of that on here, along with some of my best stories and highlights from the last few months of my trip. I’ll probably be taking quite a few tumbles into the ‘finding yourself’ trap, but perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing, after all.