23
Nov
10

media whore

Tonight I fly to Australia for the start of a rather well known sporting battle called ‘The Ashes’. To say that excitement is in the air would be the understatement of the century. The thought of being in the ground, sat next to my mates, watching the first ball go down in cricket’s oldest and greatest match up is stupidly, ridiculously and mouth wateringly exciting. As someone who has followed England abroad six times previously, the build up and tension involved in this particular match up is on a whole different level. This one matters like no other test match series. Even non-cricket fans know what the Ashes are and the importance of them. On a ferry back to Padangbai yesterday, a young woman admitted having no interest in the sport whatsoever, but was genuinely excited for me when I told her I was doing all five test matches spread across Australia’s vast land. She was telling me how much her Dad would have wanted to be doing the same. Although she didn’t care about cricket, she could easily relate just how special this series is in a sporting context.

This is also an important time for me in terms of my trip away. I have always spilt this journey around this fascinating planet up into four sections. The Ashes is part two, so mathematics will tell you that I have come to the end of the first major chapter. It has been just over seven weeks of sheer
brilliance that has given me more than I could have ever dreamt of when setting out back at the start of the trip on October 3rd. Usually with these blogs I spend nothing more than several minutes preparing in my mind the kind of theme I want to write about and how I want that to be portrayed. With all my spare time on Gili Trawangan (or Gili T to its friends) I have had more than ample time to ensure that I try and make this particular write up a good one. It might not be a good one for you, but I’m gonna’ make damn sure that it is to me. I have spent quite a bit of time reading through my early days on the road and looking at the kind of emotions and themes that drove me. What is clear to me is that I have become a much more confident traveller, but also a slightly blasé one when it comes to certain areas that were obviously a huge driving force in those original trips.

Take the first few days in Thailand. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it is clear from reading my musings that I was blown away by what are now familiar, every day occurrences on the road. Things such as sorting out train tickets, bus rides or those first few ferry journeys were what gave me a ‘kick’. Naturally when these kind of activities become the norm, the excitement has died down from those first few weeks away from home where all of that was very new to me. I’m not quite sure why those simple chores excited me so much. I suppose it was because being a lone traveller was a brand new experience for me as I have always have a travel companion alongside in the past to share the responsibility. I was the master of my own destiny, if you coin a phrase, and it was my decisions that would get me from point A to point B with no one else to rely on, or blame if things went wrong.

This has also been my first time away from home that doesn’t involve a cricket tour, holiday or weekend city break. Of course I have always had the end goal of the Ashes or the World Cup next year, but there has been plenty of time to do some ‘proper’ travelling. We had an interesting discussion the other night while watching the sunset over Gili T, where we agreed that there are certain cricket tours that could certainly constitute as ‘travel’ and others that should be used loosely. This is far from being arrogant, but I don’t class a two week trip to Barbados to watch a test match and have a holiday as travel. For the record I have done exactly that myself in the past, so its not a snobby comment. As recently as January this year we were in Cape Town to watch England play South Africa. A huge number of people flew in just for this test and good on them. It’s better than watching at home in the bleak mid winter. But again, a one off test match where you fly in and out of a country, squeezing in a day trip to Robben Island with several dozen other England cricket fans cannot be classed as travel in my mind. There are times on cricket tours that I definitely class as travel. On that same trip to South Africa we hired a car and drove down the coast on the Garden Route. We stayed at a different place each night, visited some spectacular places and even went on a safari. Yes, we were in the country for the cricket but we were miles away from the Barmy Army and cricket bandwagon, experiencing what the country had to really give. That said there are exceptions to the rule. I wasn’t in Bangladesh at the start of the year, but anyone that visited such a country can certainly claim to have travelled the country just being there. Why would you go to Bangladesh for any other reason?

It’s great to now be in a position where I can say I have been away from home for a prolonged period of time, sometimes all alone, travelling part of the world just for the sake of it. The amazing thing is I just have not been bored. Even in Penang where I struggled to find anything to do I made use of the time by watching episodes of ‘The Inbetweeners’ on youtube. In Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, I caught up on some much needed sleep after two overnight flights. OK, it wasn’t the kind of rock n’ roll travel that you all want to read about, but it did me the world of good to have a rest prior to the rest of the jaunt across Borneo.

There have always been concerns in travelling alone. What happens if I don’t meet anyone nice in dorms? Well, the fact is I have. Everywhere I have shared my space with fellow travellers I have met some brilliant people. I have dined out with more ladies in those first five weeks than I have in Hereford in the last five years. Not because I have been trying to dine out with females across Asia, oh no. Its just that we have been put together in the same room, got talking and decided we like each other so much that we want to share an evening drinking, eating and laughing about the world in general. I’m an open person naturally which I am well aware scares some people, certainly back home. I tell it like it is and don’t bother tiptoeing around a taboo subject. This seems to have been thee attitude of the vast majority of people I have shared my time with and I only wish I came across more people like that on a day to day basis.

Another fear in coming away was the obvious ‘what happens if something goes wrong’ scenario. There have been several occasions where original plans have gone totally out of the window. The day in Brunei was a great example of how much more settled I have become in dealing with a change of plan, not bought on by my own actions. Hopping off the wrong bus in the middle of the Brunei countryside was not part of the plan. Hitch-hiking to get to the ferry terminal wasn’t in the plan. Booking a combined ferry and bus ticket to Lawas, as place I had never heard of was certainly not in the plan. But everything sorted itself out. I got to KK a night early, had an extra nights rest prior to the Kinabalu ascent and met two cracking lasses that I smashed the town up with. I’ve realised that as long as you have money in your pocket, plans can change freely and you will still be fine. Back in Thailand, I’d have been mortified at having my plans changed so erratically. But several weeks in, so what. It’s an adventure that is out of hands and I’ve realised that those kind of days are the most exciting and fulfilling as a lone traveller.

All of this brings me to where I am today. As anyone who knows we will agree, I can come across as slightly confident on occasions. In any situation that I’m feeling comfortable and in control, confidence my middle name. Saying that, if you can’t be confident when things are in your favour, when can you? Anyway, this whole trip has never been about ‘finding myself’ or any of that bullshit that you hear countless people trot out when they discover you are chucking in a comfortable lifestyle back in the UK. I know exactly who I am, what drives me and how I like to act around other people. I don’t want to change, I like myself and this trip has re-confirmed that other people don’t mind my company too. But the main thing I have learnt about myself is that I can be a bit of a control freak at times. They aren’t big things, just the little daily issues that you come across that I need to relent control a touch. Simple chores like doing the washing up myself if a friend is over because I can do it better, or letting a colleague look after a favourite customer. By coming away travelling, putting my life in the hands of others and being forced to drop and change plans at any given moment because I have to, has made me realise that I can being in control is not always necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I still like being in that comfortable position of being in control, but I have realised that cannot always be the case and it can be even more fun just to go along with whatever hand you are dealt. Some of the best places I have stopped in have been because I had no other option than to crash in that particular town or city and just happened to stumble upon a hostel or guest house that fitted the bill perfectly. I suppose I have discovered an improved confidence in situations where I’m not in control.

So what are my main loves of travel now the transportation has become more a means than a love? Well, the main one is naturally some of the places and sights that I have seen. Who couldn’t get excited about climbing Mount Kinabalu and that feeling of euphoria when your guide tells you that you are now at the summit? Who couldn’t walk down the golden sands, viewing the crystal clear waters off Langkawi or Gili T and not smile at thereselves stupidly at the location they were in? Who couldn’t feel a great sense of well being after meeting the brilliant kids at CCH in Phnom Penh? There have been countless others, just view the gallery tab at the top of the page if you want more illustrated examples. I’ve also got a massive kick out of meeting new people. Without a shadow of doubt, dorms are the way to go to achieve this. From Simon in Bangkok to the Ashes aware lass on the ferry yesterday, I’ve loved sharing travel tales and experiences far more than I thought I would do. Of course there have been occasions when you hanker for a familiar face to chat too and I’ve had that through spending some time with Fred in Cambodia and the cricket lads in Indonesia. All in a all, a great mix.

I got a message off someone the other day saying that I whine too much in my blog. Well, yes I do because I certainly wouldn’t want to read someone boasting about how amazing, brilliant and spectacular their life was. It would make dull reading to say over and over again that I am having the time of my life, that I have no regrets about coming away and wishing it would never end. More importantly, it would not be worth me writing that kind of stuff. I’d get nothing out of it, so why would I do it? So there we go, that bit is out of the way – this is the best decision I have ever made and am loving every second. Interestingly, I don’t actually have anything at present to whine about anyway. Gili T was quite brilliant – not having had a proper ‘holiday’ since going to Dom Rep in early 2007, the five nights on Gili T saw me rediscover a love for doing nothing. Get up late, go for a walk down the beach, eat some lunch, swim in the sea, have a nap, eat some tea and go out drinking with mates till I felt like bed. The most taxing thing was deciding when to move onto rum and cokes as opposed to Bintang beer. It was sheer bliss. But does it make for good reading material? Nope.

So as part one ends, part two is close to starting. I’m sad to be ending this first ‘travel for the sake of travel’ part, which has been so good to me, but just as happy at the thought of seeing an Ashes series in Australia. All being well, I’ll be buying crazily priced alcohol and eating overpriced grub in Brisbane this time tomorrow.

On a final note, I have been conscripted to do a piece for a small local rag in Australia called ‘The Herald Sun’ – the things you do to help a mate out…….

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/the-ashes/barmy-army-to-find-voice-this-summer/story-fn6w5lwh-1225955262994

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4 Responses to “media whore”


  1. 1 Donna
    November 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Yeah ‘…conscripted to do a piece for a small local rag in Australia called ‘The Herald Sun’ – the things you do to help a mate out……’ I am very excited and curious about this! I will check out the link! I enjoyed your media ‘whore’ Blog Richard and appreciate particularly your openness and honesty and wish you all the very best with stage two…yeah,’The Ashes’!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. 2 Donna
    November 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Okay……………….err is that actually singing!!!! HA HA HA loved it !!

  3. 3 Matt
    November 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Yo Rich
    So, a few things.
    1) Glad you’ve had such a great time on the first part of your sojourn, and you’ve been so inspired by the travelling part.
    2) I like to think that convincing you to go to the Elephant Orphange that day in Kandy might just have been the kickstart to your love of travelling/exploring 🙂
    3) I’m very excited about the Ashes starting (and I’m only watching it on TV) – can’t imagine what it would be like to be there.
    4) re. the singing – good lyrics – tuning maybe needs a bit of work!!
    Enjoy part 2.
    Matt

  4. 4 Martin Chapple
    November 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Phase one completed – well done matey – what a journey! You sound in great spirits and the “Men at work” parody is brill – if a little out of tune!!!!


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