I have a moderate to severe case of wanderlust, which I ascribe in equal measure to my Romani blood (50% proof), limited attentions span, and downright curiosity.
Last year I found myself at one of life’s crossroads: I hit the Big 3-0, lost my job through redundancy as part of Britain’s austerity measures, and exited a serious relationship stage-left. When the world shifts around you, take the hint. So I got the hell outta dodge. Or so I thought.
Now, I was fortunate enough to receive a not-insulting pay-out from the redundancy elves, something that’s frighteningly rare in the public sector these days, and having come to the end of my natural lifespan within my job at least 18 months before this all happened, it wasn’t the saddest of farewells. So, with rental costs too much to bear (and I sure as heck wasn’t going to fritter my doubloons on it, sea-view or not!) and no immediate prospects, I set sail on the high seas of adventure (in reality I booked flights). Now there’s an idea for next time – take a boat trip around the world. Food for thought.
So I embarked on a mini adventure around South East Asia, starting in Bangkok and from there travelling largely overland through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore, before crossing over to New Zealand. Asia was a whirlwind; not so much an assault on the senses but a battle between them! I took in the main sights (think the Vinh Moc War Tunnels of Vietnam, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Temples of Angkor) and caught up with friends dotted around the continent. Learning new customs, greetings and currencies every few days was certainly challenging; the difference in deference so slight, yet so impactful on the receiver. One false move and you might insult your new neighbour. Thankfully, to my knowledge, my weeks passed without committing any cultural faux pas.
On then, to New Zealand, or to give it its Māori name, Aotearoa (Land Of The Long White Cloud). This is a difficult one; on paper New Zealand is a wonderful country. With its great expanse of diverse, breath-taking scenery, small population and relaxed outlook, for some it’s a virtual nirvana. One person’s nirvana however, is another’s inferno. Not wanting to unjustly judge a country I spent a mere five months as a resident of, I have tried to be objective, but the fact remains: The Land Of The Long White Cloud is my Land Of The Great Dark Cloud.
It’s probably fair to say that we are all a little guilty of complacency and sometimes neglect within the relationships we build. Even, and perhaps in part because of the tools of technology at our disposal, and that we all seem to live such rushed lives, it’s easy to find ourselves disenfranchised, be it self-imposed or otherwise. Now and then, when life throws us a curve ball that not so much slips through our fingers as knocks us over, we are reminded that the relationships we cherish, but have side-lined for individual pursuits, are our only salvation. What happened next I still find hard to quantify. At this point you would be forgiven for thinking “Uh oh, here’s the kick.” Not so dear reader, don’t fret. It’s true I’d found myself in a fairly hideous predicament, but this tale is not one of lamentation, but one of love.
The yearning to come home, to this broken country I had been so desperate to escape six months earlier was overwhelming; completely and utterly consuming, but I was destitute and needed help. More help than I’ve ever dared ask for. Guess what? That help came. Three months later I am still blown away. I’m utterly astounded by the immense support and generosity of these wonderful people, who quite literally, brought me home. Then I ask myself, why am I really? I chose them, each one, and they chose me. We handpicked each other to form part of our respective inner circle, our gang, our flock. Should it be such a great surprise then, that we would support each other in times of great need? One could argue that it no, it shouldn’t be, and in part I agree, for I love these people, and they love me. On the other hand, there really is no room for complacency here.
What then of the kindness of strangers? My friends brought me home and gave me shelter, but I then needed to find somewhere to lay down my recently-torn roots. I’d turned to my allies for help, and the balance was tipped heavily in their favour. Was it possible the same theory could be applied to a different audience? The answer it appears is yes it can. I turned to social media to broadcast my plight, and within a matter of days I had the foundations of that sought-after new start. The reaction was, as with my “friends in real life”, nothing short of extraordinary. I certainly didn’t expect the volume of responses received and it has left me truly humbled. This gives me the courage and strength to fight on.
In times of hardship such as we find ourselves in now; amid a global recession, my country is even more fragmented than it was when I left. Every day seems an uphill struggle, and the system is failing so many, but I’ve seen the Third World, and the people there put us more fortunate folk to shame. Entire generations wiped out by genocide, yet there’s such a strong sense of community, and the people have a smile for everyone. That’s what life is about is it not – smiling through the pain, shouldering each other along and helping your fellow person. The next chapter isn’t going to be easy, but my faith in life bolstered, I owe it to myself, to my loved-ones, and to the human race as a whole, to persevere. In a battle between adversity and humanity, I know who my money’s on.