Feel the fear and write about it anyway

Up until about two years ago I wouldn’t have admitted to really being scared of anything. None of the obvious fears particularly bother me: spiders, snakes, heights, flying… I’m not too keen on fire having had an unfortunate incident at school involving my arm and a Bunsen burner but I can still light a candle with no fuss.

Spider
You don’t scare me Australian spider

I’ve been thinking a lot about Two-Years –Ago-Me recently. Two-Years-Ago-Me was just about to book her first flight to the great unknown. She was hesitant about quitting her first ever (and to date, only) permanent job she’d ever had, or possibly will ever have if I continue at this rate. Two-Years-Ago-Me thought she needed to plan and was concerned about going away alone. She was nervous but not scared, she wasn’t scared of anything.

While I can say now that I have probably changed significantly, it is my element of fear that bothers me the most.

I am scared of commitment. I didn’t really consider it two years ago because I had decided to quit my job and run away but for some reason that I can only assume is age-related, I am scared of what I should be doing and more so, the fact that I’m not doing it.

Rafting
Slightly more scared here

I’ll be 25 soon. I am aware that this is in no way too late to change my life/settle eventually/blah blah, however I sometimes wonder if I am going backwards rather than forwards. At 18 I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I had plenty of time to decide. At 21 I still had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life but now I had a shiny new degree to try and use to justify my enormous debt. At 23 I still didn’t know but that was ok because I was going to go travelling. And going travelling is a really worthwhile thing to do so it’s ok to not know what else you want to do, you’re just finding your way in life, right? Right?

25 is a whole new ballgame. Not only do I still have no idea what I want to do with my life but it’s got to the point where it scares me, as if I’m running out of time to decide. In a way, I am. There’s only so much you can do with low-paid jobs and a lack of somewhere to live that isn’t with your parents. If I do another working holiday, will this disappoint my hard-working parents all over again? Will it make it impossible to find a job when I get home? The six months of searching haven’t found anything so far, do I want to go through it again?

Canyon swing
Ok, scared now. As you can see by the look on my worried face!

These questions that go through my head on a near-regular basis are nothing new. Two-Years-Ago-Me thought these things to, especially when I was debating whether to actually quit my job in the first place. The difference between then and now is that none of those things scared me two years ago. Now, almost every possible outcome scares me in some way:

  • A permanent job: a permanent job means having to settle somewhere and not being able to just drop everything. I can’t do that, there’s so much to see! But…
  • A temporary job: could end at any time; what if I ran out of money? Although, I could leave again and travel. But…
  • Travelling: what if I get there and can’t find a job? I’d run out of money in a different country! I’d have to come home. And then…
  • Home: There’s so much still to see, I don’t want to settle! Repeat cycle of thoughts.

Feel the fear and do it anyway, I’ve heard that a few times. But seeing as I’m feeling the fear about every outcome, which one to choose? I can only hope that Two-Years-From-Now-Me picked the right choice and will sit there, glad that the scariest option won because it was all for the best.

The six month itch

At what point do we admit to ourselves that we’re now settled? At what point are we then happy about it?

This is something I find myself wondering on a regular basis… about other people. I can settle relatively quickly; the issue is that I also get bored just as quickly. During university I could only stay there for so long before I needed a change and went home and in the holidays spent at home I’d long to go back again. I’ve officially been back in my home country, in my childhood home for six months now and no sense of settling has occurred in any sense of the word. I have no more desire to actually find a stable job and settle into it than I did six months ago. I would love to own a house but find the thought of having to actually stay in the same place for a prolonged period of time crushing and restrictive.

So what is my problem? Why don’t I fit? I look around at happily settled friends; many of them younger than me; buying homes, getting engaged and buying dogs. People who are more than happy to plan for the future, live in the same area and have occasional holidays. A small part of me would want that if the bigger part of me wasn’t so afraid of it. Because all of those things mean you are Rooted. Such a big deal to me that it requires a capital letter. If I had a permanent job/my own place to live/a living animal to look after I couldn’t just take off and travel. If I found myself Rooted I wouldn’t be able to use that Canadian working holiday visa it took me months to get.

And yet, whilst having the visa I haven’t actually made plans yet to even go to Canada. I can’t even commit to that – I am a full commitment-phobe. My lack of commitment is driving me mad. Surely I can’t be alone in this? Wanting everything and nothing all at once. Wanting to make the parents proud by having a job but also wanting to see more of the world.

IMG_4539
My brain when I try and make these decisions

I’ve been using the phrase: ‘Oh I just got back from travelling’ as a way to justify being back at home etc but in actual fact, I have not just got back from travelling. I’ll be getting to that tipping point soon where I’ve been home for longer than I was away. But I feel like I’m living in limbo, waiting for something but I don’t know what it is.

Maybe I am just behind and one day something will make enough sense for me to stick it. For now, I’m just going to try and embrace the uncertainty and stop telling people that I recently went travelling. Step 1 in admitting it to yourself.

Bag-stirring

Bag-stirring [verb]: the method of finding objects in a backpack or suitcase in a small hostel room where the quantity of people exceeds the available space

The age-old debate amongst the backpacking community: suitcase or backpack.  I realise that essentially, I am talking about a method of transporting personal items from one location to another. However, backpacker life is defined by moving around, not staying in one place for a long time and living out of bags.  Therefore, choosing the right transportation method is essential and could save you a lot of time, effort and frustration.

The way I see it, there’s clear pros and cons with both methods:

Suitcases: 

Pros – they come on wheels so no need to carry them. You can look cool at airports as you aren’t risking hurting yourself or anyone else by swinging your heavy bag on your back (sunglasses will also help with this look.  For inspiration see any picture of famous people walking through airports). If you have mistakenly packed something important right at the bottom of the case; in the event that you find a small area of space you can open your suitcase and observe all your possessions and find that important item without having to unpack and repack a bag at the front of a very long check-in queue (sorry to all passengers behind me when I packed my passport at the bottom of my backpack for, ahem, safekeeping.  Didn’t wanna lose that!)

Cons – they can be heavy so cut into your baggage allowance (a 4kg suitcase for a 15kg weight-limit trip is always annoying). They cannot be easily carried up stairs unless you have excellent strength/helpful strong people around you. They do not have as many pockets/pouches/extra potential straps to tie things to (such as shoes which just will not fit into an existing bag)

Backpacks:

Pros – easier to carry up stairs (just massively painful in some cases). They have multiple pockets and pouches to try and restore some order to the chaos that is your life.

Cons – they weigh you down so a small walk becomes a mammoth task (30° heat plus a walk through a city with your whole life on your back = a ridiculous thing to do to avoid the taxi fare). When you’re as feeble as me, picking up the bag in the first place becomes a difficulty, hence I have found myself (not even just once but twice) lying on my back like some kind of tortoise after picking the bag up, buckling under its weight and falling straight over. But the biggest con of all is the issue of never being able to see the contents of the bag without emptying it considerably. Hence, bag-stirring became a part of my life.


As a backpack user myself, I have wistfully looked at suitcases with a longing that I normally reserve for cold beer on a hot day or dark chocolate at any time of any day. I’d see people strolling round the airport, wheeling their suitcase behind them and wondered what was going through my mind when I chose my large backpack. At around 15kg it was almost too heavy for me to lift (did I mention I have absolutely no physical strength and/or fitness?) which made it a sweat-inducing, back-breaking, would-never-quite-fit-everything-in bane of my life. It hid random clothes from me, lied to me about the contents but occasionally allowed items to rise to the surface for a last chance at freedom.

Hostel rooms are typically far too small to hold even unpacked bags so the concept of taking clothes out of the bag is not a feasible one. Hence, bag-stirring™ became my morning and evening ritual. It became a source of hilarity amongst myself and friends as we did our daily bag-stir only to find a single sock, woolly hat and bikini top.

It is important to note at this point that bag-stirring can only be used when you are aware of what kind of clothes you are looking for (i.e. shorts & t-shirt/ swimming stuff/ something to sleep in, etc). If you are looking to re-organise your possessions you simply have no alternative but to empty the bag and start again.

The method of bag-stirring is as follows:

  1. Prop up the bag. Any bunk bed will serve as an excellent stand for your bag to lean against; just make sure there is no-one asleep in the bed at the time
  2. Put your hand in the bag and, without looking, stir the contents with one hand
  3. You will know what kind of texture you are looking for, depending on what kind of garment you need. Use this information to try and find the right feel of item before pulling it out.  However, be aware that together, your brain and sense of touch will trick you and items that absolutely don’t have the same texture will become one of the same in The Bag.
  4. Pull out your chosen item and either a) bask in your glee as you successfully chose a suitable item; b) moan in frustration as an incorrect item has been sourced from the bag or; c) feel totally confused as you do not recognise the item that has come out of the bag as the item is not yours/was lost three months ago/is suspiciously clean.

 

travel-bag
Here she is. Her name is Wildcat. She taught me everything I know about bag-stirring

Bag-stirring is not for the tired/emotional/nervous backpacker and definitely shouldn’t be attempted whilst under the influence of alcohol, in a darkened hostel room or in a rush. To go the extra mile, try wearing only the first three items that have risen to the surface that day. Whether or not you feel ready to admit it, I can almost guarantee that anyone with a backpack as a main item-holder has engaged in this activity at some point – those pesky things just insist on hiding just about everything. I implore you to embrace it as an art form and enjoy the daily surprise of the surface-risers. You’ll be doing it anyway, might as well enjoy it!