It was at that moment, surrounded by an angry gang of taxi drivers, at a Port City in Borneo, that I realised I had brought this situation on myself. I realised I could continue this stupid game of who is right and who is wrong, to stand their in the searing tropical heat, still loaded with my backpack. To let that anger energy surge through my body, like a crazed warrior of old. To take this destructive path to it’s bitter end, out of pure pigheadedness, or…. to walk away. To accept what is, not what I want, but what is.
After 10 months of traveling South East Asia, of deciding this will be my lifestyle until I have filmed the whole world, this was one of my biggest lessons. That in the end, it is all a game, there is nothing worth getting angry about. That wherever you are, everything you know, you think, you believe, all stems from your own upbringing, your own culture. And that to survive, in another culture, you must forget all that is known, all those silly little rules of etiquette and manners, and just observe.
“Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
What makes a person want to leave their home country and explore the world? I have asked many expats this question and the answers tend to be the same. The search for something better, the feeling there is more to life than what they grew up with. For myself, I can’t explain my obsession with needing to see the world. And it is an obsession, that takes over everything; career, relationships, all the rules of the game, such as saving for one’s retirement. I just know that ever since I was a child I’ve felt the need to experience the world, with my own two eyes, to try and understand how things work from my own perspective.
“It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
The biggest fear for me was how would I survive, if I don’t work the 9 to 5, climb the ladder of promotion. And I suppose what I have realised is that no one has any certainty in anything! And what is the point of doing some shitty job you don’t like just because you have an unfounded fear that if you don’t you will end up in poverty? One of the great skills one learns on the road is the ability to adapt. I’ve found it is always good to have a plan B, as things don’t always go as expected. This is such a valuable lesson in life and work; to be flexible and ready to change plans at a moment’s notice, when circumstances demand such versatility.
I’ve met a lot of fascinating people on the road, digital nomads making money from all kinds of ways and means. Playing the stock market, online gambling. I remember one in particular, an young English lad, not quite 25. He did all the right things, went to uni, paid it off with part time jobs and when his study was finished, the golden job at the end of the road was no where to be found. He felt cheated by the system, and without many options found a way, via his interest in online poker, to escape the depressed UK job market. He studied the top players, researched their earnings and then in a leap of faith he moved to Chang Mai to set up an international gambling den made up of other online forum members keen on an overseas adventure. A mansion and swimming pool, a maid and motorbike, a motley crew of Westerners found they were making more money than they had ever dreamed of, for one quarter the cost of living in their own countries. “I felt I was cheating the system, I just could not believe things could be so good” confessed the young Yorkshire lad.
“To destroy a man, give him everything he desires”
What would happen if you didn’t have to do anything, if you didn’t have to work, you didn’t have to raise children? If you had complete and utter freedom. I tried this! I cut myself loose from the bounds of my own community, making a home in the borneo jungle. I lived the life of a bohemian artist imbibing in a chaotically destructive lifestyle. I became the wild man of Borneo and my work reflected this. Nothing was holding me back, no one was stopping me from doing exactly as I pleased.
Excess, Decadence! The rise and fall of the Roman empire, the french nobility before the revolution!
I looked into my heart of darkness, and there was a void, an empty space. I was bored with doing whatever I wanted, I needed some meaning. Instead of looking in, I needed to look out!
“People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing.”
There is nothing better than arriving in a strange town, and having a passionate stranger give you a tour. Technology, the internet provides the introductory letter of old. When it works, there is a joy in sharing something people enjoy. I suppose this shallow pleasure is the meaning in my trip now. It’s not delivering babies or nursing orphans, but I’m following my passion and who knows where that will lead. Teenagers want to save the world, adults want to find a way to live in it!
I still have my dark moments about my nomadic lifestyle decision, I still have fears that Im going backwards, that one day I will just become that strange bearded homeless man on the periphery of society, unable to reconcile human behaviour with human ideals. I still wonder whether the world really is as dangerous as they say. So far, so good. My belief still holds true that wherever I go, I will find good people willing to meet up with a traveling man, wanting to document their story. The journey continues…..