↣ Grey Skies, Green Waves… Tom Anderson’s wanderlust

Squeezing reading into my everyday life was a new years resolution of mine, which hasn’t been kept to that religiously but not too bad. My most recent read was Tom Anderson’s ‘Grey Skies, Green Waves: A Surfer’s Journey around the UK and Ireland’. Maybe I’m sticking too much to all these outdoorsey/watersports type when I read but this book was so brilliant it doens’t matter – so long as I read something different next time!

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Page 9 offered  my first piece of gold-dust opinion in the form of this paragraph: “I’d often wandered why someone concerned only with that quest for adventure hadn’t just emigrated – but things would never be that simple and I knew it. No journey would be a journey, if  you catch my drift, if it didn’t involve returning to a home of some kind, and for a while now I’d been trying to make more of being a surfer in Wales – or rather in Britain. I’d become too much of a snob, though, and it was getting harder to figure out how to turn it around”.

Tom did a lot of international travel after leaving university in the quest of ‘the perfect wave’. He acheieved degree in English at the University of Glamorgan, where he was lucky enough that the Student Loans Company funded a large proportion of the travel which inspired his writing of the Magic Carpet storyline.

(A little off on a tangent now) I googled The Magic Carpet surf story just to find out a bit more about it and on the Amazon review page for the book (which was in essence a story about A Surfer’s Odyssey to Find the Perfect Wave) I found a comment : ‘Surf travel is one of the few ways left where you can be a genuine explorer in this connected world, looking for places and waves never ridden, and Tom has captured the feel of always wondering if there is an undiscovered Kirra just around the next point, and the reality of hardcore surf travel – the hours of slogging away in a menial job just to get money for your next fix, poring over nautical maps and bathymetric charts trying to work out where might be the next undiscovered world-class wave.’. The viewpoint of this person is being even more specific than I have been so far, I have spoken generally about travelling, whereas here specifically surf travel has been pin pointed. And what the comment above is saying is incredibly interesting. It argues that in essence, travel is the only way that you can feel ‘connected’ to the world, by seeing as much as we can of what we live on is the only way we can truly experience the world and be fulfilled by what it offers us. The idea of having a day to day job might only be made bearable because it is being done so that in the future we can do what we want – and isn’t that the same for everyone? Of course we all try to get jobs that we enjoy, but then isn’t the main reason for this so that when we retire we can wade in our pools of hard earned money and finally do all the things that we want to do? But it’s equally important to enjoy the process of this journey to ultimate happiness (in this case, when we retire) and not to just use the dream of future plans as escapsim for the present.

This then in turn reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books ‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green:looking for alaska

 

I agree but also disagree with this, because I think that if you work hard enough and you beleive in the things that you do and they are right for you- then you can achieve anything. Short term escapsim is fine, but not long term, you can’t run from things but you can temporarily (and sometimes permanently) detatch yourself.

Anyway back to Tom Anderson and his quest for waves – He learnt how to stop using escapsim and realise what he really wanted in life, he did this by getting odd jobs to keep financially sound and then travelled his own home country of the UK in his search for the perfect wave.

And this is what is paramountly important – Tom gave up his international wanderlust and exchanged it in order to learn how to love what he had – which was his own country. And by doing this he gained new found freedom and amazement from what ‘home’ has to offer. He learnt that you don’t have to necessarily travel the world to find fulfillment, he just travelled at home instead, but he still travelled. And maybe he was only able to find happiness at home because he had already experienced the rest of the world. This leads me on to a another quote much further on in the book – “travel, it seemed, especially foreign travel, had always been behind all of my best memories, this year I was tempting my dependence on foreign travel atleast…”. So whilst Tom looks back on his fond memories, it was travel that stood out to be the most poignant of them all, but with each day comes a new horizon, and with Tom he found that when his travelling days were over, he was equally happy being at home.

Tom travelled, yes, and that made him happy. He’s another one of my researched people that has found complete and true happiness at the hands of moving about and travelling, but I stress again, it’s right for him, it’s right for many people, but people with different beliefs and thoughts means it’s not right for them.

It’s a matter of opinion I suppose.

If we were all the same we would be boring.

And now off to analyse another questionnaire that I received from Jorge and Jess Gonzalez!

Clarissa

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↣ Twins that Travel! Q&A

My next wonderful respondent to my Q&A was a set of twins who travel the world part time, I’ve been speaking to one half of the duo, Laura Jopson, when I asked her to describe how they travel, she said ‘at least once a month but can travel from anything from two days (European city breaks) to three or four weeks. It really just depends. We literally try and cram everything in when we can!…We both have careers we really enjoy, outside of travel, so we do both. Which is definitely possible.’ This is such an unusual set up that when I found their Instagram I couldn’t wait to find out more!
So this is Claire and Laura’s set of answers to my Q&A:
Q-    What made you decide to travel? What influenced that decision?
A-     We have always enjoyed travel and fitted it in here and there during school, University and eventually work, but it was never something we focused on completely. But once we reached 26/27 years old, only a few years into our careers, we both realised just how quickly your life can fall into a standard, generally uninspiring, routine of work and home. Time seems to speed up, and weeks and months can easily merge into one! 
 
We realised that we needed to find a way to break the routine and a way to ensure life stayed exciting, different and engaging. Travel was most definitely the answer to this. Experiencing new places, even if it is just a day trip elsewhere, or a weekend break in Europe, seemed to help slow time down, breaking up the routine with new memories, challenges and adventures. It makes life full.
Q-     Were your friends and family supportive of your decision to travel?
A-     Yes, definitely. Our parents worked extremely hard all their lives and realised just how fast life can pass you by. Our travelling has even inspired them to start taking more trips abroad!
Q-     Would you say that you are happier now living life on the road than before, when you lived a more ‘normal’ life?
A-     Absolutely. Perhaps unusually, we maintain quite demanding jobs, whilst juggling travel alongside them. But even this has changed our lives infinitely. We feel more in charge of our lives, rather than trapped in a routine. Our weekends now are spent exploring new places; writing about new places; being more creative with our photography and meeting new friends along the way. Life is richer, more stimulating, challenging and happier.  Travel doesn’t have to always mean a life on the road, it can just mean ensuring you are always seeking out new places, people and things – from a weekend in Paris to four weeks in India! They say ‘a change is as good as a rest’ and this is travel in a nutshell!
 
Q-     What would you say has been the best experience of travelling?
A-     We probably aren’t the most ‘natural’ travellers’. We are natural born worriers and one of us (Laura) has struggled with periods of fairly horrible anxiety. So perhaps travel isn’t the best thing to do? Except it definitely is! Our by far best experience has therefore been learning that travel is something anyone can do, regardless of their fears. Life and the world isn’t just filled with scary people or scary events. But kind, interesting, wonderful people. Travel gives you confidence not only in yourself but in other people, and this is an experience that travel gives us over and over again.
Q-     What has been the worst experience?
A-      Food poisoning. Being sick when you’re away is never fun and always a little tough. I think everyone who is ill when they are abroad will have that ‘pang’ for home and the thought ‘what am I doing here?’ But remember it always passes, however terrible you feel!
Q-      How do you get by financially?
A-      As we mentioned above, we work full-time! Luckily, where we work has very generous holiday allowance, so we can travel almost monthly. But travel doesn’t have to be expensive. With sites like ‘Air BnB’ now offering cheap accommodation in people’s homes, and increasingly beneficial flying reward programmes, travel can be something that you can fit into your life. If travel is what you want to do, then you won’t mind not buying that pair of shoes or spending money on a night out. Put it in your travel pot!
Q-      Do you prefer to go it spontaneously or do you always know where you’re going and what you’re doing?
A-      We are definitely organised travellers. Due to the nature of the way we travel (in between work) we always want to make sure we maximise our time in a place and often this means planning. We love guide books, maps and looking up recommendations. That said, we do enjoy often booking a weekend break at the last minute. You have no time to worry and before you know it you’re up in the air and off to somewhere new! It makes you realise that you always have freedom, however limited you feel, and change is only a plane ride away.
 
Q-      Are yo glad you have company on your travels, do you think it’s doable on your own or is company a complete necessity?
A-      We firmly believe in travelling a way that suits you, in a way that you feel comfortable and happy doing. Social media is full of solo travellers; group travellers; or pairs of travellers and there can be pressure to enjoy and undertake travel in a certain way. But it’s entirely up to you how you do it! We really enjoy travelling together and sharing experiences. But that is just us. Likewise, some people may find travelling with others frustrating and prefer to go it solo. Travel is a unique experience and as much about your personality than anything else. So if you want to brave it alone – go for it! If not, grab your best friend and go. Do it your way.
 
Q-      Do you think there is a certain level of happiness and fulfilment that can only be achieved by travel?
A-      That’s a difficult question! Everyone is different and has different passions, interests and things that make them happy. Travel is most definitely not always the answer to a happy life. So perhaps ‘happy’ isn’t the right word but instead richer? Once you fall into a routine, life can become two-dimensional.  Grey, maybe? They say that the human brain stops noticing ‘new’ things after a couple of days. You don’t notice the paintings in your house or the colour of the walls anymore. You can barely remember what you wore yesterday. But by going to new places, seeing new people and experiencing new food and smells, your making sure you’re always ‘awake’ and experiencing life in an indefinitely richer and fuller way. Life never gets boring when you travel.
It’s the spontaneity vs. planning that’s what I think sets Laura and Claire apart from the usual stereotype of travellers, and is opposite from what Ben said. It just proves that travel is a very personal thing that is very easy thing to manipulate to your own life so that it meets the needs that you have. I mean, these two manage to juggle their unreputed wanderlust as well has having successful careers! It just proves that you really can do anything when you put your mind to it.
Another thing that really stood out for me was their comment about it not being particularly happiness that comes from travel, but a richness instead, that feeling of a more enriched self that can only derive from having seen the wonderful polar opposites in our world. To have experienced the amount of emotions, to have spoken with the amount of people, to have seen the amount of wonders that people who travel have is surely immeasurable next to anything else.
This interview with Claire and Laura has sparked my imagination back to a quote I saw a while back:
epq quote
I think this quote makes me think of them because they are clearly very much in love with not only travel, but also home, and all the things that a conventional home life can give you, and they are even lucky enough to have a job that they love! So this quote sums them up in my opinion, because they are both inpsiring, hard working, free spirited individuals but also have a good sense of knowledge and are sensible in the way that they cater for travel in their lives, they haven’t had to give up home or their happiness for travelling, they’ve just made it work for them.
To follow Claire and Laura, check them out at http://twinsthattravel.com ! They are brilliant!
Much thanks and love to you both,
Clarissa
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↣ My thoughts on Ben Hurst…

Ben Hurst was my very first respondent to my Travel Q&A sent to a handful of nomadic folk that I found on Instagram. He had no particular previous plans to travel and hit the road after having found his job not fulfilling enough. In recent correspondence with him he has said ‘I didn’t feel fulfilled in my career. I didn’t go to bed on Sunday night in excited anticipation of going to work the next morning. But since I’ve been on my trip, I have to admit that the pure freedom associated with not having a job, not having a family, simply not having much “adult” responsibility in the traditional sense is kind of amazing, at least for the time being.’. So Ben has adopted a nomadic lifestyle after having found the more conventional way of life just not quite enough for him.

I stress at this point that it wasn’t enough for him, specifically him.

There are many people who disagree with this, those who say that travelling like this is used purely as a get out of adult responsibilities. And perhaps to a certain level it is, but it’s not a spiteful get out, it’s just taking a step back and a few years out to assess what you want from life, so that you then have a better idea about how to go out and get it.

Something Ben has highlighted to me is in a book called ‘The New American Road Trip Mixtape’, in which Ben tells me ‘the author explained the concept of “The Grand Tour,” which was a tradition for younger, upper-class Europeans a few centuries ago wherein they would take a year or so to travel the continent and experience different music, language, art, politics, etc. It was considered an essential component of their education, in a way tying together everything they had learned up until that point.’. Now this is just an extremely and pleasantly civilised way of telling your loved ones that you want to take a bit of time out to travel and figure life out along the way. I have just bought the book myself and hope to get to read it soon. The point about these Europeans is a good one, the reasons that they had behind their travels are clearly well thought out and manageable to them. Perhaps I could find one of these people and have a talk with them!

What I admire most about Ben is how he clearly has his head screwed on, he has direction without the need to literally know the direction in which he is going in next. He is proof that you can be spontaneous but also sensible at the same time. And he atleast has said that travel has made him a happier, more outgoing, more aware, and fulfilled person. Which is important for all of us I think. Travel isn’t the answer to everything of course, but it was the answer to a lot of things in Ben’s case.

Another Q&A to come now!

Cheers,

Clarissa

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↣ My First Q&A!

I’ve been writing to people who I’ve found through Instagram that lead a nomadic lifestyle and posed them with the idea of answering my Q&A, the first person to get back to me was a lovely man called Ben Hurst, he is currently touring America in his VW, and here is what he had to say…

Q-    What made you decide to travel? What influenced that decision?

A-   I grew up the son of a US Air Force pilot. By the time I was your age, my family had moved about ten times. I think moving so often instilled in me a sort of restlessness. Even when I joined the Air Force myself after college, I noticed a sense of anxiety after living in a place for a year or so, like I was ready for something new. Last year, when I decided to separate from the military after eight years of service, I started throwing around the idea of a big road trip around the western United States and Canada based on places I’d always wanted to see and friends and family I had along the way. Another factor in the decision was that I had just finished installing a new engine in my VW campervan, and I could hear it begging to be taken on a road trip. Lastly and perhaps most importantly… I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I figured that traveling would lend a good opportunity for me to reflect and reassess my priorities.

Q-    Were your family and friends supportive in the decision that you made?

A-    My friends were definitely supportive, most of them even jealous. On the other hand, my parents and my former co-workers are very career-oriented. I wouldn’t say they were unsupportive, but I definitely got some funny looks when I told them my plan, which was effectively that I didn’t have a plan. At the time I left the Air Force, I was working in the front office of a large research organization where I supported the senior leadership, most of whom had spent over 30 years working for the government. The desire to drive around the country living out of a van wasn’t something they could easily relate to.

But there was this one guy I worked with – an older civilian advisor who had a love of nature and photography. He was fascinated when I told him what I intended to do. He would take me out to lunch during the days leading up to my departure and pick my brain and ask about my plans and give me suggestions for places to see and books to read. It was really encouraging. More than anyone, he made me feel at ease with my decision to leave a stable career for unknown adventures that may lie ahead.

Q-    Would you say that you are happier now living life on the road than before when you lived a more ‘normal’ life?

A-   It might sound cheesy, but since I’ve been on the road I’ve never felt more consistently excited to be alive. I honestly didn’t expect to derive so much value and fulfillment from traveling, but I’m hooked now. I do sometimes feel a bit of anxiety from the lack of industriousness (that is, being unemployed and not contributing to society in any tangible way), but I know that I’ll probably return to a ‘normal’ life at some point down the road when I either run out of money, lose inspiration, meet a girl, etc.

Q-    What would you say has been the best experience of traveling?

A-    Hands down, it’s the people I’ve met. I’ve mentioned it a few times on my Instagram posts, but the generosity of strangers has consistently blown me away. Traveling alone, I was a bit apprehensive going into the legs of the trip where I didn’t know anyone. But I’ve found that more times than not, simply going into a bar or restaurant and asking the bartender or waitress for suggestions on what to do or see in the area ends up leading to good conversation with them and other patrons, some of whom have ended up becoming actual friends.

Also, Instagram has been a surprisingly valuable tool for connecting with people. There’s a sort of unofficial sub-community on Instagram based on VW campervans. Many of these users have offered to meet up for a beer or coffee, give me a driveway to sleep in, or even go camping together. A common criticism of social media is that it results in people being less social, interacting more with their electronic devices than with other humans. Overall that may be true, but for me it’s facilitated some awesome real-life interactions, and I’m grateful for that.

Q-    What has been the worst experience?

A-   Surprisingly, I’ve had very few negative experiences. I’ve had no encounters with sketchy people that I can recall. There have been a few times when weather has prevented me from getting to a place I’d wanted to see, but these typically came right after spending time in some other amazing place, so it was pretty easy to get over it and move on. There was a time when I got caught in a snowstorm while on a hike in Canada and had to rush back to my van before the trail got snowed out. There was a time when I got charged by an elk in Yellowstone because I was dumb and didn’t keep enough distance while trying to get around it. I still wouldn’t call these bad experiences.

 
I think since I began traveling I’ve stopped perceiving adversity in a negative way, but rather as small adventures and learning opportunities that often end up as good stories to tell. That doesn’t mean that bad experiences don’t exist for me, but so far I just can’t think of anything that I really wish didn’t happen to me.
Q-     How do you get by financially, is it tough to get enough money? Or did you save up enough before leaving?
A-     I was fortunate enough to have a job that paid well and I had a decent amount of money stowed away. Additionally, the Air Force was doing a reduction in personnel at the time I left so I was given a separation bonus, which also helped fund my travels. If I decide to keep this going for a while, I plan to pick up some odd jobs along the way to make some extra money, and hopefully acquire some new skills and meet some cool people while doing so.
Q-     Do you prefer to go it spontaneously or do you always know what you’re doing and where you’re going?

A-     This is actually a conversation I had with a friend recently. She’s big on planning, while I prefer to take a more spontaneous approach. At the time, I had just read an article summarizing a psychology study on the secret to happiness. You can check it out yourself, but the gist was that the secret to happiness is to lower your expectations. My opinion is that if you meticulously plan activities in advance, the best that can happen is that your expectations are simply met, but nothing more. It can be frustrating if your plans go astray and focusing on those plans may preclude you from being open to meeting new people or discovering places off the beaten path.

On the other hand, if you have flexible plans and limited expectations, these expectations are more likely to be exceeded. I should acknowledge that not having a job affords me the luxury of time and flexibility, but regardless, some of my most memorable experiences have come from changing what I thought I wanted to do based on suggestions from local residents, or finding places to park my van in the dark and waking up to unexpectedly amazing views, or as I mentioned before, chance encounters with strangers who have ended up becoming friends. It’s probably cliche, but all this just reminded me of that John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Maybe there’s something to that.

Q-    Do you think that there is a certain level of happiness and fulfilment that can only be achieved by travelling?

A-   That’s an interesting question and a tough one. I personally take issue with what I call “travel elitism” – the notion that travel is inherently good for you, that everyone should feel obligated to see the world, and those who don’t are less cultured. To me, traveling is generally a privilege. Sure you can do it on the cheap, but I don’t know of many low-income, inner-city youths who are planning backpacking trips to Europe. I’ve never heard of third-world country residents saving up for leisure travel. So then the question becomes: If you are in fact privileged enough to travel, should you feel compelled to do so? Is there inherent value to travel? Even then, I think about some of my friends and past co-workers who have had no desire for the outdoors or for traveling. But that doesn’t mean they’re not curious or inspired individuals.

With that being said, I’ve personally found a previously unattained level of personal happiness through traveling. And I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t learn something useful about themselves or about the world by getting out there and exploring a bit. Sorry for the tangent, but my wishy-washy answer is yeah, I’d say traveling is generally good for you and affords opportunities for individual growth that I can’t imagine finding elsewhere.

Personally I’ve found Ben’s comments awe inspiring! I don’t have much time at the minute but tomorrow I will be analysing his responses :)

Thanks Ben!

Clarissa

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↣ A change of direction

And so with the new year I have decided to change my essay topic question, instead of focusing on whether travel was running away or running towards something, I am going to focus on the feelings around it instead, changing the question to:

‘Is there a certain level of happiness and fulfilment that can only truly be achieved by travel?’

This question gives me the scope to come to a much more objective conclusion, by pinpointing the emotions ‘happiness and fulfilment’, I can reach a more black and white answer of yes or no to the question, my plan now is to write out sort of questionnaires, first directed at people who have/are leading a nomadic lifestyle and travelling about – to the extreme of travel if you will, and then to people who live a  more conventional life but enjoy travel from the holiday aspects, and then another questionnaire to people who don’t travel, who don’t see the need or interest in seeing the world and their reasons behind this.

From this I hope to cover a wide range of opinions from all sorts of people. The questionnaire will vary a little from each group of people that I will ask, for example, sometimes people who travel nomadically and constantly are doing so on a belief of God or religion, or perhaps they are escaping something, or perhaps just want to see the beauty of the world, and I would like to see how many people fall into each of these categories. Questions like this can’t be posed to someone who doesn’t travel at all and so different questions will be asked to them, for example I would ask their reasons for ‘shying away from the world’, like perhaps it is financially inviable, or maybe they prefer to just read about it without leaving the comforts of their own home.

I have vaguely used the word ‘travel’ in this question on purpose, as travel can be interpreted in different ways and so the question becomes accessible to more people, whereas my previous essay question focused on long term travel, here I can focus on the conventional holiday-for-2-weeks travel, road-trip-up-the-motorway travel, charity-help travel, long term travel, any type of travel!

I’m hoping to get some interesting folks to do my questionnaires – and perhaps you sat here reading this are one of the people that I’ve asked to contribute! So watch this space for some epic tales and forthright opinions!

Thanks so much,

Clarissa

 

 

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↣ The beautification of a narcissist, a theif and a poacher

Chris McCandless was certainly no saint, his morals for most things were entirely misplaced, his thoughts delusional and actions irrational. Morals, delusion and being irrational are traits found in many people in perfectly appropriate levels, but McCandless’s level of each of those thing and the way he acted on them were certainly his downfall. I’ve read a few anti-McCandless articles that describe this further, and an incredibly interesting opinion I found is this:

How ironic it is that so many self-involved, urban Americans, people more detached from nature than any humans in history, are so intent on worshiping a suicidal wilderness narcissist, a bum, a thief and a poacher.

Undeniably, Chris McCandless was all of these things, he thought little of any one else, prioritized only himself in all social situations, left many people high and dry, didn’t think any sort of rule applied to him, and yes, he stole,and he poached and killed countless animals when out in the bush, despite confessing his ambivalence to killing.

Previously in this blog I have focused on what Krakauer intended the reader to think, that Chris was some sort of role model, perfect in his thoughts, noble in his efforts, and should be idolized for his, ultimate, ignorance, disregard and carelessness. But he isn’t. McCandless sneered at a lot of us, being so self absorbed that he thought that his thoughts and his thoughts only were correct and the rest of us were fools blinded by conformity. Conformity might well be boring at times, it might be dull, but if it was so bad why do most people do it? If marrying and having children wasn’t a good thing to do then why do we all do it? We can’t all go off and do what we want, people have responsibility, some more than others but we still have some, we are all someones child, someone’s cousin, niece, nephew, sister, brother, auntie, uncle, and we are all looked up to. And these people will still love us, no matter what we do. Which is why McCandless’s parents left this plaque in the Fairbanks 142 ‘Magic Bus':

christopher_mccandless_plaque-640x480

 

The irony that surrounds his death funnily mirrors much of McCandless’s life, unbeknown to him, just 6 miles away from the Fairbanks 142 were a couple of cabins. And not that much further was the city and civilsation. He spent his life trying to run away from all these people, and he successfully did! But it was his refusal to create emotional bonds which ended up contributing to his death. So it might be said that he was happy to die, because he got what he wanted, or that he was sad, because he never got to see any more.

In the end, much like curiosity killed the cat, blatant ignorance killed Chris McCandless. But I think we can excuse the cat, because it knew no better, the cat died because it’s simple thinking didn’t allow it to think of alternatives, but McCandless was so intent on overthinking that he ended up romanticizing things that God never made to be romanticized. Being cold, desperate, alone and dying cannot be glorified. Making one mistake and paying the price of your death cannot be made to sound any better than it is.

Clarissa

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↣ For now I walk into the wild

My next source of experience surrounding my essay question ‘is travelling running away or running towards something?’ has been to read Jon Krakauer’s autobiographical tale of Chris McCandless’s trek into the wild, originally titled ‘Into the Wild’. It tells the story of McCandless’s young hopes and dreams of the Alaskan wilderness, his naivety cost him his life in 1992 when after travelling America he finally got to Alaska, four months later his emancipated body was found wrapped in his blue sleeping bag in an abandoned bus. Chris’s story was special because of the amount of people’s lives that he touched along the way, Chris himself appeared to develop no particular attachment to any of these people, and was known to keep them at arms length, but when Krakauer begun interviewing those who met McCandless on his travels, they all seem to have been touched by him.

into-the-wild

McCandless was scathed after his death by those who read his story as he did in fact have a loving family back in Washington whom he disappeared from without a trace.His loneliness and isolation was self made, his demise self conflicted. “McCandless was thrilled to be on his way north, and he was relieved as well—relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it. He had fled the claustrophobic confines of his family. He’d successfully kept Jan Burres and Wayne Westerberg at arm’s length, flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him. And now he’d slipped painlessly out of Ron Franz’s life as well.” McCandless was not just a nomad of literal means, not content with constantly changing jobs and place to stay, he also appears to have been an emotional wanderer, he either didn’t realise or didn’t care for those he left behind, thinking nothing of the effect he had on them. Perhaps I admire this because it meant he never got hurt or worried, but I can’t help but see it as just a little selfish.

“Seven weeks after the body of his son turned up in Alaska wrapped in a blue sleeping bag that Billie had sewn for Chris from a kit, Walt studies a sailboat scudding beneath the window of his waterfront townhouse. ‘How is it,’ he wonders aloud as he gazes blankly across Chesapeake Bay, ‘that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?’” Walt and Billie were Chris’s parents, speaking to Krakauer after their sons death. I think perhaps they did not understand his mind at all, resulting in the end sad relationship where McCandless felt unable to speak to his parents about travelling, and so he had to just up and go. Perhaps his frivolity was only achievable because of the spontaneity of his departure, if it had been more planned, from what I have learnt about McCandless from reading this book, he would have felt the trip ruined.

chris-mccandless

So far I’m two weeks into reading this and I’m half way through, usually I would be a little disappointed at this slow pace but so much has been happening recently, the time has just slipped away. I’ve got a stall at a huge christmas market in two weeks which I am going crazy making for,and the orders I’m getting are coming in thick and fast.

So I will leave with a quote I have just got to in the book which I really like : “A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence—the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes—all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.”.

I think what Krakauer and McCandless are trying to get across here is the idea that wherever you are, you have to be ‘all there’, ‘participate’ if you will, you have to immerse yourself in where you are and what you are doing and not think about anything else for you to truly enjoy it.

Clarissa

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↣ Viewpoint : They say i’m running away

So, I’m getting down to the deep corners of my ultimate question ‘is long term travel running away or running towards something?’. Well, I’ve found that when I ask someone this, mostly the immediate response is that it’s running away from something, unless that person happens to be an aspiring nomad themselves.

From a personal point of view, I see it as a beautiful, free spirited and humble combination of the two.

I see it as running away from a life of convention and conforming and running towards the unknown, the excitement, and the adventure.

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You see, who was it that set out the rules? Or did we unknowingly make them ourselves; the idea that in life you have to follow the same methodical path. That you’ve got to conform and settle down and go through the motions of growing up, finding a partner, settling down with them and having kids. Not for a moment do I say that this is bad or wrong or anything like that, because I know truly that most people are entirely happy and contented with this lifestyle. Maybe it became ‘the norm’ because it was just the easiest thing to do and everyone found themselves mainly happy with it.

The only thing that I see as wrong with this concept of life is the way that people look down on those that chose to disregard it. Those that throw caution to the wind and take life their own way and make their own untrodden path.

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Why is it that society put such pressure on doing what everyone else is doing? They tell us at school that we have to be individual because ‘God made us that way’ and that you’re meant to be your own person because we are all unique. But then as soon as you leave behind those colourful childhood classrooms and kind teachers encouraging your uniqueness, you’re suddenly thrown into a place who will passionately disparage you from going your own way. All of a sudden, you can do what you want but you’re sure as hell going to be persuaded not to.

I love the quote above because I agree with it so much. I believe passionately that to achieve the most out of life, you’ve got to buck the trend and do what your heart tells you to do, not what is being drummed by seeing ‘normality’. The common mistake people associate with this is the idea that by doing this, you’re being selfish.

I don’t believe it is selfish. Not in the slightest.

Think about it, there are well over 7 billion people currently living on earth, and each one is made up of completely unique cells creating a body and mind completely different to the one next to it. This means you can never truly understand what anyone else is thinking, there are so many billions of variations, so there are billions of ideas and opinions. Which inevitably clash and disagree. It’s normal. So the idea that one person thinks travelling the world and ‘running away from something’ is a wonderful thing and something that should be embraced, of course it’s opposed by the idea that it’s wrong and selfish. But disagreements don’t mean that you can’t persue your dreams. The fact that I don’t think it’s selfish is my own opinion, and it is shared by many, and I do understand that there are people who counter it and completely disagree.

That doesn’t mean I’m right, or what I want to do is right, what I mean is that it’s right for me.

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And that I suppose is what it’s all about, you’ve got to do what’s right for you because, you’re the one who misses out if you don’t follow your dreams. The human race is a very selfish as a whole, people tend to think about mainly themselves. You have to do what makes you happiest.

The ones that tell you not to go off and travel are probably just jealous that you have the guts to do so.

So yes, maybe travel is running away from something, running away from the fear of regretting your whole life that you never climbed that god damn mountain or boarded that long haul flight. But it’s also running towards an infinite amount of endless possibilities and adventures that are just waiting to happen.

“Adventure is out there”

Clarissa

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↣T shirts finally hitting the House of Bean shelves!

Today has been a happy day… my t shirts and transfer papers arrived to do my new t shirt designs! It’s a bit of a coincidental story behind these t shirts, a couple of weeks ago I happened to post a picture of a t shirt that I drew on with someone elses typography work on it (back in the days before I did my own typography) on my Instagram page. I was constantly inundated by ‘likes’ and comments of people asking where they could get one from. I sheepishly had to admit that it wasn’t actually my artwork but I’d be happy to design my own and print them on t shirts to be sold. And the response was fantastic! I had so many people asking for them and the more people saw them the more messages I had asking when and where they would be listed. So I made quite a large order of plain t shirts (some baseball style) and shopped around to find the best transfer papers and they arrived yesterday! I’m so happy to announce that finally, after lots of promises of ‘soon’ to those people interested, they are finally available in my shop! I’m just getting to grips with them and working out the best way to do them etc but I’m very proud with the results! They’re £10 plus postage and are being sold on my etsy shop (click on the link at the top). So here they are…

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I hope you like them!

“Paddle your own canoe”

Clarissa

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↣ A book-inspired lust for surfing

Well over the course of my 6 day holiday over in sunny Spain I chomped my way through two new books, and as well as picking up lots of interesting quotes and ideas for my essay question, I also fell absolutely head over heels in love with the idea of .. that’s right…Surfing.

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The book to blame for this is the autobiographical adventures of Wilma Johnson in her book Surf Mama. Whilst suffering the mid-life crisis that never was in her 40’s, one day she decided to up sticks from her home in Dingle, Ireland with her surf dude husband and 3 young kids to Biarritz, France. She soon splits up with the husband and embarks on her quest to become a Surfer, Hot Chick, Beach Bunny, Surf Mama.

I genuinely think this book might have changed my life. My mind immediately flew to my friends over in Jersey (sixth best surf spot in the world) and wondering how I could wangle a trip to see them and learning to surf at the same time. I then got caught up my dream about travelling the world, imagining how I would simultaneously juggle running my House of Bean business and at the end of the day going out in the bay with the big guys and catching some waves.

Stop. Let’s be realistic.

But actually… what is stopping me? Yeah I’m 16 now but I won’t be forever.

If this book taught me anything it’s that no dream is impossible, despite geographical placing in the world, love life or age.

After finishing it, I was just ravaging to get out in the sea feel the waves breaking under me.. . I did, but not quite the extent of surfing, intstead I hiked 8 miles to the beach, spent 15€ on a bodyboard and went out to feel the exhilaration of being carried back to shore on a fast paced body of water. I accept that this isn’t exactly surfing and it doesn’t even scrape standing up on an 8ft length of fibreglass concealed in a 6 metre tube of water, but still, 60cm waves off the coast of Alicante will have to do for me.

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Being based in Ireland for the beginning, the vibe is very countrified and friendly, you can almost smell the Guinness and fresh morning dew when you open the book. Very early on, I hit a quote that really inspired me.”But it’s so hard to leave, just as it’s hard to leave the bar on a Sunday night when the accordion music playing and the old farmers are waltzing in their best suits. It’s too easy to think you’ll stay for one more pint and suddenly it’s three in the morning. Or to think you’ll stay for one more summer and suddenly you’re 40. You have three children, a vegetable garden and some ducks. You also have a fine collection of nursing bras, but your paintings are gathering dust in the attic.”

There is just something so poignant about that little paragraph that not only makes me think about leaving, but also makes me also worried that time can sneak up on anyone, it’s just so true that you think you’ll stay a short time and suddenly half your life has slipped through your fingers. Maybe to a certain degree that’s why I want to travel so much, because I am so startlingly aware even at the age of 16, that when I feel I have wasted a day, I feel like i’ve wasted a proportion of my life. It might sound melodramatic and it probably is, but hey ho.
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“It can be hard to continue believing your side of the story when everyone else believes something different. The adventure has become reality. I’m not longer pretending to be a housewife in an Irish fishing village- I really am one. Or, if there’s a difference, I’m the only one that can see it. I’m not an international art star or an international traveller after all.”

Oh Wilma, oh how you hit the nails on the head! She’s so right, painfully right, you can dream all you want about the life you want to have but it gets harder and harder to believe that when everyone else just sees you as a boring every day person. In Wilma’s case, everyone saw her as just the doting housewife with the loving family, but once she got the idea of being a surfer, she believed herself to be a surfer. Maybe that’s all you need, a dream that you can work on, a dream that if you believe hard enough, will happen. I mean, look at Wilma, she turned herself from an everyday country girl to hot surfer chick at the age of 42! I mean come on, if that’s not inspiring then I don’t know what is.

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“The invitation asks me to describe the past 20 years in fewer than 100 words. It’s a classic mid-life crisis moment. What have I achieved? Have I let my dreams be dreams? Looking around me, I have to acknowledge I have an idyllic lifestyle: a whitewashed farmhouse with blue wooden shutters and honeysuckle growing over the porch, a garden full of roses, wild lilies and pampa grass. I’ve got three beautiful children; I’ve got poultry and a vegetable patch. But suddenly I find myself wondering if this is what I wanted. I can’t remember when I accepted the role of earth mother that I’ve spent so long playing – it was never on my list of life ambitions”

Wow. Wilma. That’s all I can say. Often I find people mistake wanting something different in your life as being offensive and rude to the life you already live. I find this completely baffling and untrue. People assume that because you want to up sticks and move to do something more exciting then you must be running away from something, and that something must be the awful life you are living. Wrong. Wishing for something more doesn’t mean you are unhappy with your life, far from it, I like to think of it more as just to experience the rest of the world and enhance yourself. I believe that life was not meant to be kept and contained in one place, that’s why so much of the world is beautiful, because we were meant to go out there and get lost in it and be absorbed within it. Be present as it were.

A little appearance from Marlon Brando pops up in Surf Mama, Wilma writes about Brando’s starring in The Wild One, when someone asks Brando’s character, ‘What are you rebelling against?’ and he answered: ‘What’ve you got?’. Oh how I can imagine Brando’s black and white filmed face looking to the camera, eyes emotionless and answering with that line. I think it’s brilliant. It’s a serious question though, Why not rebel if it’ll add a bit more excitement to your life? What’s the point in being boring and conforming to all those horrible ideas from society about being ‘normal’. What’s the point in sitting with your own grandkids in a few years time telling them to follow their dreams if they only do the same as you? Wish they’d done it but never really had the guts to because they didn’t dare rebel?

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On the final page of the book, Wilma reflects back on the journey that has led her on her whirlwind surf adventure, as she returns to her old hometown of Dingle to begin her surf tour of the world, she thinks back to how she started and how far she’s gone. “On the sand, visible only to me, is the faintest imprint of the beach blanket where I once sat eating home-made banana loaf with my children and wondered if I was too old and too scared to ever learn to surf. I think about the journey that has brought me full cirlce, back to this place where I had the revelation that I wanted to be a surfer all those years ago… It’s funny to think of everything I’ve been through to get on this wave – all the wipeouts and bruises and feelings of inadequacy, but also all those terrifying and hilarious Saturday afternoons with the Mamas Surf Club. But it wasn’t really about doing a press-up or even standing up on a surfboard, it was about proving that I wasnn’t too old or too scared to do this, that I could transform myself from Surf Widow to Surf Mama’.

Even though I’m only 16 and not for a second do I suggest I do not have long left on this earth, but it is still a feeling that can be applicable to anyone. All the things that we do aren’t always to prove things to the world, sometimes it’s about proving it to yourself and proving that you can live your dreams because, let’s be honest, the only one stopping you is yourself. There will always be ups and downs, in whatever you do, but you can’t have the glory if you don’t accept a little failure at some point.

surf mamaThe Psychologies Magazine also agrees with me on how epic this book is, you only have to read the article that they published above to see that. So, if you’re going away and want some light hearted yet inspiring literature to accompany you, or maybe your an aspiring surfer yourself, or perhaps you just like reading about adventure, this book is absolsutely excellent and I could not recommend it highly enough!

“Let’s go Surfin’!”

Clarissa

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