Sometimes the psychology behind our compulsions is clear: We want to eat because we are hungry, or perhaps we link the idea of food to comfort, or freedom or simply the chemical satisfaction of a sugar rush, however short-lived.
We want a cold shower because we are over-heated or feel uncomfortably dirty, or because for us it marks the end of another day; it has become a mental cue that we can relax and enjoy the remainder of our evening.
We want to fuck because millions of years of procreating tells our crocodile brains this is how we continue for another million. And because society tells us, relentlessly, that we should all constantly want sex (then slaps our wrist and calls us a slut for having it. Dick move, society).
But there are other things we feel compelled to do, and it can take us a long damn time to sort out the root (heh. Root. It’s funny if you’re in Australia) of the drive, if ever we do.
I feel compelled to share stories from my travels in a public forum, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out why. It finally came to me upon returning to Mellish Park, the North Queensland cattle station on which I worked four months of last year.
Photo credit to Bridget Webber. I feel this photo rather successfully portrays exactly how fully in the middle of absolutely nowhere I am right now. (Let’s ignore, for the moment, the sequence of events that led me back here and focus on the epiphany regarding my desire to blog.)
Several months back I was given a stellar piece of advice from a friend who has, throughout the years, given me many stellar pieces of advice. I was attempting to write a submission for a travel writing scholarship that I badly wanted and was having a lot of difficulty with it. When I would write casually, words would come easily, and I’d enjoy the process. But, in striving towards perfection with this submission on which so much was riding, I found myself staring at the screen of my computer with a head full of useless static. Words blurred, sentences ceased to make sense and the harder I tried to focus the more my brain responded with a chorus of ‘no no no no CAN’T’. I was upset and disheartened that the times I most needed my fancy wording skills seemed to be the times they saw fit to wage a surly strike.
My friend, a writer herself, sympathized. She knew the feeling of wanting to polish the shit out of something, to do the absolute best you could with it and, in putting that pressure on yourself, ironically strip yourself of the confidence and focus necessary to do so. The trick, she pointed out, was to relax, and to accept the fine art of ‘good enough’. Which boiled down to her very quotable conclusion – “Care deeply. Then let it go.”
I am not good at letting things go. I am good at wanting things. Fiercely. Continue reading →
My head was screaming at me in a language of shrill white noise, a tangle of displaced emotion and swirling, half-finished thoughts. When I wasn’t fighting off the urge to go and sob uncontrollably in the corner or just stop and ragdoll in the middle of the floor, as though someone had flipped my emergency ‘off’ switch, I was drowning under the dual crushing weights of self-doubt and self-reproach (In the very moment I originally typed this, I was actually fighting off an insistent urge to just curse, and hurl the computer across the room. This is fucking useless. I suck at writing. I LOSE AT LIFE).
What catastrophe, might you ask, was looming on the horizon? What could compel such a strong, crushing emotional response from this shining example of human strength and stability?
Uh, well. . .sort of. Whether or not you can call On the Road to Ithaca a ‘travel blog’ depends a great deal on what you consider travel to be. I would call it a travel blog, for two main reasons.
One, the shoe fits. I am traveling. I am from Canada. I was in India. Now I am going to Australia. But what about once I arrive in Melbourne? Once I find an apartment and a job and settle in for a bit am I still traveling? How long can you stay in a foreign country before ‘travel’ becomes ‘immigration’? Continue reading →
As absurd as it sounds, there was a logical process of thought behind my decision to try prize fighting. I had reasons for choosing to do this, now.
First, there was sheer curiosity. Which is admittedly a stronger driving force for me than is perhaps healthy. But when I get a question in my mind it fucking burns until I get an answer, man. Especially when it’s a question of ‘Can I [insert task here]?’ I need to know. And this one had been nagging at me for a long time: could I hold my own in a cage fight?
I’d trained in martial arts before. But I’ll admit readily – not a lot. There was some Shotokan Karate back in my last year of high school and some half-assed Jeet Kun Do back in my short-lived university days. But the style I really loved was Muay Thai, in which I had trained during my early years of tattooing in Newfoundland, as well as for a while in Ireland back at the start of my travels.
5 years ago I made what, at the time, seemed a terribly difficult decision. At the tender age of 25, I had been preparing to leave the sheltered Canadian province of Newfoundland and go traveling overseas with the unequivocal love of my life. Unfortunately, one month prior to departure an ill-timed and particularly heart-wrenching break-up left me with an awkward choice: Should I still board that plane, even though ‘we’ had become just ‘I’? Or should I abandon plans and allow my limping heart time to heal before hurling it halfway across the world, over an ocean and into foreign lands and potentially disastrous situations?
In the end, it just seemed easier to go. Flights had been booked, visas arranged; momentum was behind me and it would have taken more effort to cancel plans rather than just follow through with them. Still, I deliberated the choice up until the very last moment, having approximately 4 panic attacks in the remaining interim. But in the end, I did board that plane.
Lil’ ol 25 year old me preparing to head off.
Making the decision may have been challenging as all hell but actually leaving my home and job to begin traveling with a broken heart actually turned out to be one of the easier things I’ve done. Continue reading →
All flowery language aside, the point you start shitting blood is usually the point when you should stop naively hoping your body will sort through the problem and go seek medical attention.
I hadn’t been well in some time. At the start of the trip I was flying, sampling every street food I could find and priding myself on the fact that I seemed to have beaten my belly into submission after the initial round of violent nausea on day 3. I pictured my stomach as having given up on me after the fifth meal of mystery chaat and having left me to my own devices. “Fuck it,” the mental image of my stomach said. “Eat what you want. I just don’t care anymore. Whatever.”
But 3 weeks later in Rishikesh I found myself in the hospital to get a prescription to combat a sudden bout of food poisoning. It delayed our bike tour departure date by a couple days but, after the round of meds, I was feeling good again.
Until I caught a cold.
That was around Vrindavan. Having been slammed by gulal for Holi meant that whenever I blew my nose the tissue came away tie-dyed into a colorful snot Rorschach. And that lasted well into Jaipur where everything went south in more literal ways than even I care to elaborate.
Until, finally, when leaving to view the infamous Taj Mahal in Agra, I dialled a good friend back in Canada who happens to be a pharmacist, looking for advice. The call ended up having to take place in two parts as, halfway through, I had to cut him off to search for a toilet IMMEDIATELY. Continue reading →
A very good friend of mine recently wrote a great post on pushing through excuses to do the things you love, even on days when you’re not in the mood to do them. And it lit a fire under my ass. Steph’s good at lighting fires under my ass. It’s one of the (many) reasons I love the woman.
A month and a half into my most recent bout of travel, I had a lot of excuses for why I wasn’t living up to the goals I’d set for myself. From keeping up with regular posts on a shiny new blog site to the photo sets that remained sorted, but unpublished, on my desktop, to the neglected runners that had only seen about 6 km of Indian trails to the deadline for travel submissions to an anthology that had come and gone. . .why wasn’t I keeping up with this stuff?
Well, there was the initial round of unexpected culture shock I’d been slammed with upon arrival in Delhi. Paired with general jet lag, it took me a couple days to find my feet. Then there was the general minutia of getting set up in a new place you’ll be traveling in long term; arranging a working sim card, laying down the initial frame-work of your route and just developing a general sense of how basic things work in the area, from food to transportation to usual social rules.
And I felt like any time I had left I wanted to use to squeeze every ounce out of Delhi I could, while I was still in the city. Rishikesh, I told myself, I’ll get things sorted in Rishikesh. It’ll be calmer there. And all the time I was telling myself this, little warning bells were going off in the back of my mind that reminded me this excuse sounded awfully familiar, even if the locale didn’t. It sounded an awful lot like a pattern that had been tried and failed already.