I’m supposed to be this traveller, right; living out of a suitcase and being all minimalist and everything. Yet somehow I have still ended up with loads of stuff. To make anti-clutter matters worse, I now live in a house, rather than doing the van life/couch surfing thing that I was for three months at the beginning of the year, and when you have an entire room to exist in it’s even easier to accumulate stuff. It happens slowly over time, creeping up on you like a stray plastic bag in an empty car park on a slightly windy day. One moment it’s just you, your suitcase and an empty room, then suddenly you can’t even get in your room because the nine jumpers, the fifty-eight notebooks, the foam roller, the bag of bags, the six pairs of old shoes and the grandfather clock are wedged against the door, barricading themselves inside.(more…)
This may sound hard to believe given the title of this article, which is also ironic considering the points I’m about to make, but I was having a conversation with someone recently. I’ll pause to let that joke sink in for a minute.
He was about to start a job in a new city overseas where he didn’t know anyone, leaving behind all his friends and family and everything familiar; a daunting prospect for anyone. “But I’m pretty sociable,” he said to me, “at least I’m not, like, an introvert.”
“Like me,” I said, grinning.
When I first moved to the city from the small town I grew up in, way back when I was 20 and King Henry VIII was still in power, I remember being in awe of the sense of anonymity. No one knew who I was. I was a nobody; a stranger in the crowd; one more person on the bus; yet another eccentric in a top hat and fake moustache loitering near the bar in the local drinking establishments. I could be whoever I wanted. In the city it seemed like anything was possible; this was where ideas were born and people got together to change the world. Or, at least, got together to solemnly discuss all the problems in the world and compare berets until all the red wine runs out at four in the morning. What I liked about city life was feeling ‘amongst it,’ like I was a part of something and that something was important. I didn’t know what ‘it’ was or where to find it, but that didn’t seem to matter.(more…)
Shit’s about to get philosophical around here so you’d better fasten your seatbelt, although you probably won’t need it because I’m a sensible driver. Over the last year or so I’ve surprised myself with what I can achieve. I can’t stand the cliché of going travelling and ‘finding yourself’ because it conjures up images of 19 year olds returning home with braided hair and patterned parachute pants and henna tattoos and stories of mind-altering experiences smoking weed at some grotty full moon party, none of which I would like to be associated with, particularly the parachute pants. Annoyingly though, as is the case with all the best clichés, there is some truth to the concept.
However, what you see on Instagram or in the travel blogs about the nomad lifestyle is a yarn told very much through rose-tinted glasses – as is always the case with social media (a concept I already dissected a few months ago). There are some really challenging parts to this travel thing that I think should be talked about, because I like to keep it real over here in Bella’s corner of lazy sociological musings. It’s not all lounging your way around the world to sip undisclosed beverages from coconuts in sunny locations. I know, I’m as disappointed as you are.
Van life isn’t for everyone. I mean, nothing is really for everyone because, incredibly, there are people who don’t like ice cream… or sunshine… or time off work… or Birkenstocks… or any form of fun, apparently. So you don’t need to read this article to know that there is a portion of the population who will not enjoy living in a tiny space with few possessions, doing without luxuries such as, I don’t know… electricity. In fact, you might as well stop reading now (just kidding, keep reading, it gets good later).
When I say that van life isn’t for everyone I’m addressing those who think they’ll love van life; those who have an idealistic fantasy about sticking their middle finger up to the nine-to-five for days or weeks or perhaps forever, escaping the stresses of the modern world in search of a simpler existence. Those who dream of leaving behind the ladle, the shower curtain, those clip things that keep bread bags closed, overdue hoovering, strangely coloured shoe polish that doesn’t match any of your shoes past or present, confusing water bills, bits of wrapping paper that are too small to be useful, and all the other crap you somehow accumulate when living in a house. Those who yearn to pick a place on the map and take off in a majestic house vehicle in the direction of the sunset, or, more likely, the direction of the place they picked on the map. Well, if you’re one of those people, as you’ve probably already guessed, I’m here to manage your expectations. Hi, yes, it’s Bella, we’ve met before.
Australia. The land of eternal sunshine, overly descriptive road signs and a preposterous number of ant species. The place where it’s acceptable for men to wear short shorts, you’ll get cream with your dessert whether you like it or not, and where it’s illegal to complain about the rain. Don’t be fooled into thinking that travelling is all jet setting, partying, glamour and lounging around on the beach drinking beers. It isn’t. Being a solo traveller (did I just call myself a solo traveller?) you are faced with a whole new world of challenges that are hard to understand unless you’ve done it yourself. But I’ll give it a go.(more…)
I’ll try not to gloat from my summery southern hemisphere beach location, but I do want to stop for a second to wish you a Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2018. I recently totally uprooted my life, which is both terrifying and exciting, and thus 2018 for me will bring plenty of challenges and I have many goals I’d like to achieve, so, we’ll see how it goes. Keep peering into this space with mild interest – I’ll keep being here in this corner of the web, though from a different corner of the world. Isn’t it great how the internet works like that? Anyway, cheers to another year/adventure/let’s keep pretending we know what the hell we’re doing in life/look busy.
Love from your friendly neighbourhood writer and blogist
A couple of weeks ago I got back from a road trip through France. A road trip sounds terribly exciting, doesn’t it? Think Sal Paradise in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road; beat generation, young and free, blasting down some long, straight highway shimmering in the midday heat. The top of your 1969 Mustang down, cool rock music blasting from the speakers.The destination? Who cares, it’s all about the journey. Experiencing life at its raw edge; pushing the boundaries and teetering between glorious discovery and stupidity: the very definition of living.
Fast forward to the 21st century, where cars are made mostly of plastic and while we now have air con (delicious air con!) we also have congestion, sky high petrol prices, a worthless economy, overflowing car parks, service stations rammed with cheap plastic chairs, angry overweight people, horrible toilets and confusing coffee machines, congestion, that special kind of rage only summoned by an apparently mutinying sat-nav, congestion, and did I mention the sky high petrol prices. The trip to France was a bit of a reality check for me in this sense. I think I was born in the wrong era, or perhaps I’m just a pessimist with high expectations. Is that an oxymoron? Wait, I don’t even care.
Alas, there was no journey of self discovery or late night campfire societal epiphanies. There weren’t even any camp fires. We did, however, spend the trip camping in our mighty Eurohike Avon DLX (not a promotional plug, just highlighting the funny name), camping being both amazing and terrible. Part of me loves the camping life, nature being only a flimsy door zip away, but my body doesn’t love the shoulder-crumpling sleeps, I’m not a fan of the sudden fear of bears (and, yes, there are bears in the Pyrenees) and nor do I like having an ant infestation in my porch. I’m not kidding, the bastards took my apple pie! Still, we timed it very well because the weather was perfect – cool enough to sleep at night but quickly getting hot during the day. And by hot I mean it was 37 degrees on some days. Camping in early September in the UK is often a different story – gale force winds and frost not being out of the question. Nonetheless French campsites are generally very pleasant; two we found were amazing (one in a pine forest and the other on the top of a hill in the Pyrenees), two were a bit shit and the rest were nice. Win some, lose some I suppose. I have to say, the Hossegor area is phenomenal. It’s a sublime mixture of pine forests and some 200 kilometres of golden sandy beaches. Now we’re talking! I also enjoyed the cheap beer in France. That doesn’t exist in the UK anymore. Hello, inflation.
So I guess the trip was about experiencing nature, which is what I love to do anyway. I may have learned that France is probably not the place for me, but it’s good to find out what you like and don’t like, arriving at your ideal destination by a process of elimination.
The next trip? I’m not telling you. It’s a secret.