I’d just left university with a degree in Contemporary Arts (Theatre, Music & New Media).
I wasn’t interested in travel. Sure, I went on the odd holiday, but nothing out of the ordinary, and besides, I wanted to get my foot on the career ladder as a bright-eyed, actor.
I was sure that before long my talent would be spotted and I’d be whisked off to Hollywood, become a national treasure, and live happily ever after. It didn’t really occur to me that this would not go to plan.
After a couple of years of touring Britain’s primary schools (oh, the glamour) I was growing tired of life on the road.
I dressed up as a monkey and a witch (amongst other characters) twice a day and barely made enough money to eat some weeks. I was tired of living out of a suitcase (how ironic, now), tired of auditions and I like my food, so I began to think that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for life in ‘showbiz’. So I took a temp job.
Fast forward a few years, and a couple of promotions later, I found myself with a proper ”˜grown-up’ job in Sales & Marketing.
Thought of travelling had been floating around in my head for some time. I’d started to find myself fascinated by TV shows, like Bruce Parry’s ‘Tribe’ and pretty much anything narrated by David Attenborough. I started reading books by travel writers. I went to talks by those same authors and was inspired by their stories.
It all sounded so exciting and exotic and challenging. Something which my life, currently, was not.
I began to dream of what it might be like to visit places like Tanzania, or Mongolia, or Papua New Guinea.
Around the same time, my grandmother had a very severe stroke and was fighting for her life in hospital. She couldn’t move, had lost the ability to swallow, and could barely speak.
My wonderfully independent, dancing nana was now unable to do the things most of us take for granted. She recovered to a degree and stayed with us for another 4 years after that, but life was never the same again.
She was always an adventurous woman. She moved to New York at the age of 21 with her sister to live in ”˜The Bronx’. She was a Wren (a female Navy Officer) and continued dancing 3 times a week up until her stroke.
My auntie once bumped into her, alone, enjoying the music at the Mathew Street Beatles festival in Liverpool (our hometown). She’d been wandering past and heard all the commotion so she just joined in! She was in her 80’s.
It broke my heart to see her like this. She was so ‘young’ and had always lived life to the fullest.
One quiet afternoon at work, I decided to work out how much time I’d spent commuting to and from the office over the last five years. No idea why I did this, perhaps some morbid curiosity.
I did the maths. And then I did it again because I’m rubbish at maths and it couldn’t be possible, could it?
I worked out that I’d spent around 4.5 full months of my life (approx 3000 hours) driving to and from work in my car on the same stretch of motorway. I was 28 and this made me so unbelievably sad. Surely there was more to life than this?
I realised that life was passing me by at an alarming rate and I hadn’t really done anything of any note. Over the next year I saved money like mad and convinced my employers to give me 6-months unpaid leave from work the following year.
As fate would have it, just before I was due to leave on my trips, my company restructured (as a result of the 2008 recession), so I was able to take voluntary redundancy and paid a sizeable severance package.
I travelled through East and Southern Africa and had the time of my life. It opened my eyes and changed my life forever.
I got a job working for a charity in Zambia and Malawi as a project manager and tour leader. It was my dream and a real adventure.
Now it’s 2013, I’m back in the UK and starting this blog to share my travel stories and tips about travel and I hope it will help or inspire you to plan your own trips.