This is a very personal post for me to write, in fact one of the hardest, so I will try and infuse some random shit in here. It covers a period in my life when I thought everything I loved to do came crashing down. Serious shit, right?
I’m also going to swear a lot, because it’s just going to be one of those posts where I speak more deeply to you. So if your a bit of a prude who hates that kind of shit (haha) then I guess it’s time to look away. (I may lose some readers after this)! Got to take the edge of somehow.
Maybe a strong micro-brewed beer could help the process. This is me as a boy at the age of 4 I think, and my sister who is 3 years older. Today I still have the same perplexed look on my face sometimes. As for my sister she will probably hate me forever for using this photo, but it’s one of the only ones I have scanned of me as a child so sorry sis I couldn’t help myself. Say hello to the internet 😛
I’ll start by saying I’ve always been reasonably healthy. Fuck even during my travels when drinking copious amounts of locally brewed alcohol that leaves every other hangover out there in the dust, I still managed to walk it off and do some hiking to get the body back in order.
These days I still get deep chills when approaching people in remote places, as generally they like to greet you with some local brewed alcohol. Alcohol could however be interpreted as also meaning petrol tasting.
Yep, it can be foul.
Anyway, I have digressed. But hell going slightly of topic when rambling away on my own blog is my thing. Some of my favourite comedians such as Billy Connolly are experts at it. Anyone who knows me well understands that I have a lot of things to say about life and regularly go on tangents away from the main storyline.
Actually in life going on tangents away from what you are supposed to be doing is what makes things more exciting. One of my favourite pop art pieces is the one with Marilyn Monroe and the phrase “Being normal is boring”.That doesn’t mean (for me anyway) that if you have a regular job, children, a stable life, that you are boring. Not at all.
What makes things boring is if you don’t strive amongst all that to try new things. Doesn’t matter what it is, just anything to make you think of new things. Hell apart from playing the trumpet when I was a teenager for a while I have no musical talent (and no, me making easy techno tracks on my computer doesn’t count).
But I am now going to buy a saxophone. I might even do that today after rambling away on here. I like jazz/blues music so saxophone makes a good choice I figure. I might end up being totally shit at playing it, but I don’t know until I try. The whole point of buying it is to always, always, always, always, look for something new to do. I don’t ever want to hear the word boring.
I will probably start to take swing dance lessons as well. Partly because it’s a lot of fun, gives you some exercise, but also because women dig a man who can dance good. Apparently. Well I’ve always been proud of my bopping around to cheesy awesome pop hits from the 70’s and 80’s.
Time warp dance from Rocky Horror Picture Show anyone?
Get on with it!
Anyway yet again I have digressed. Fun isn’t it? Well it is for me anyway 🙂 And to be honest I’m writing this for me. And the ones I love. And the ones I like. And for any of you beautiful random strangers out there who I have never met yet follow my random adventures and thoughts around the world. Thank-you.
Yeah I wrote a post a while back how last minute fuck it decisions can be the best for you. Now I’m writing about how saying fuck it can also be the best for you. But I will get onto the fuck it part later on, as it has an especially deep meaning for me.
Let’s get to the main topic at hand. It’s a rather longish story. Dive in. A quick bit of back story first. I was in India in early 2007. In fact I had been there for a few months by then. Meditating with buddhist monks high up in monasteries in the Himalayas. Turned vegetarian. Doing lots of mountain running and hiking. Quit drinking and smoking.
Feeling fucking good and healthy while exploring the full on and beautiful country that is India. Almost a spiritual journey into myself and thoughts on the world around me. Watching people going about their daily lives and thinking about the meaning of it all. You get the idea. I hope.
Then one day while meditating on a beach as the sun set in the southern state of Kerala, everything changed. In a flash. Literally.
The entire left side of my face suddenly turned numb. Initial thoughts were rather stupid ones. Such thoughts as “Hmmm that’s not normal”. “I haven’t done drugs in years”. “What fucking drugs would do that anyway”? “What the fuck did I eat for dinner”? Ok not the last one. It was a vegetarian curry in case your curious. Curry in India? Well no fucking surprise there then.
Either way, as pretty as that sunset was, I figured I should go to a hospital to ask about what the fuck was going on. No shit, right? I stood up, walked maybe 10 metres, then the entire left side of my body went weak and I collapsed to the floor. Lying there fully conscious with no power in my body at all for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was only several seconds, I was in total shock about what was happening to me. Then the pain came.
It’s hard to describe the pain. Fucking hard. Just writing this I shiver at the thought of it. A slowly developing pain came into my chest until it was unbearable. Then my left arm shot into the air, you know like you see when people have heart attacks. I had no control over it as pain shot through my arm. Unbelievable pain. That was it I thought. End of days. Goodbye life.
Being an atheist most of my life, if god was real then I figured I was royally fucked. Especially having pulled a moony on the rock Jesus apparently fed people with fish from when rather drunk in Israel one day in my early twenties. I’m joking. Well not the fish part. No, you know people say your life flashed before your eyes, well for me that was total bullshit.
The reality is the pain takes over most of your thought process. I was just trying to think about the things I had loved in life, and the things I would miss out on doing.
Finishing the travel lifestyle. Falling in love. Maybe having a family. My mum and dad came to mind in that moment as well (tear to eye). Hell I even tried to squeeze my sister into the mix despite her giving me a bloody nose as a kid. I forgive you sis!
But then maybe it’s different for everyone. But it felt like an eternity. Either way my body went into convulsions and my head started turning in ways it shouldn’t. The scene from the Exorcist movie comes to mind. Then everything went dark.
Next thing I know I’m waking up surrounded by dozens of Indians looking over me. I woke up with amnesia. No idea who I was, where I was, nothing. Amnesia is a weird thing as your memories slowly come back, until you remember everything that had happened to you.
But in the beginning I stood up, pushed my way through the crowd that had gathered around (trust me if you see someone in a serious medical condition lying on the floor give them some fucking space). I started walking even though I felt weak, then one of the weirdest feelings I’ve had in my life came. I couldn’t walk anymore as I had no idea where to walk to. I didn’t know anything.
Then a tourist policeman came and said I had blood coming out of my mouth and something serious had happened to me. He asked my name and I couldn’t tell him. He started walking with me when suddenly I had my first flash memory. I saw a couple sitting by the beach. I thought I recognised them. I walked to them and asked them if they knew who I was. They gave the expression of “How many magic mushrooms had I fucking taken”.
But the policeman explained the situation and they said I had been chilling with them on the beach earlier for an hour but they knew nothing about me, not even my name, or where I was from. Anyone who travels may think that’s a fucking miracle, as they are normally the first 2 questions that get asked of you.
But they joined in the quest to figure out who the fuck I was.
The policeman, bless him looking back on it now, took me to a pharmacy to get me some paracetomal. Even in my fucked up state I knew that I needed something more that that, and thankfully the couple were there to confirm my suspicions.
Leaving the policeman at that point the couple took me to a nearby hospital. It was a terrible little hospital but it was something. I’m going to try and get on with the story a bit now and skip out some parts otherwise it will go on forever. Basically what happened next was my memory slowly came back. I was taken to a better hospital where they cat scanned me (no not a curious kitty but the mechanical hospital machine) and found blood spilled on the right side of my brain, which is why everything happened to me.
They performed tests, by pumping cold and then hot liquids into my body to check out the veins. One of the most sickly feelings ever! I ended up around 5 days in the bad hospital before I got taken over to the modern better one. Mostly because the health insurance company were being a bit slow and the hospital wouldn’t let me leave until bills were paid. My dad got on the insurance companies case hardcore until they sorted their shit out. Cheers dad.
Being in hospital I couldn’t do anything. My mum and sis came out to help as well. I think it was partially because my sister wanted a holiday somewhere hot and my mum wanted to see an elephant, but I’ll give them credit it was for me. Although I think my sis may regret it as she had the shits for weeks afterwards. Shouldn’t have eaten the fish…
Eventually I was flown up to Delhi where I only spent 1 night before being flown back to the U.K. The health insurance came good on this one, as I had a first class seat on Virgin Atlantic with my own private doctor until I got to my parents house.
You have got to be fucking kidding me!
Back in the U.K. I went and saw a neurologist who said I needed an MRI scan to get a better picture of my brain. Turned out I had/have a blood clot on the right side of my brain that had decided to pop and blow me up.
Also turns out I’ve had it since birth, but it only affected me from that point in India onwards at the age of 31. Also turns out quite a lot of people get these things but some never even know about it as it does nothing to them. Typical I got the worst case! Also typical that I had decided to get very healthy in India before this thing happened.
Punishment for getting fucked up and partying so hard?! Hahaha.
Anyway the neurologist said the clot was in such an awkward part of my brain that it was best not to operate on it, but for me to take medication for the rest of my life to control the seizures it produces by pressing against the brain. Fat good I figure the meds will do if it decides to pop again.
You seriously have to be fucking kidding me!
The next thing that happened sent me into a deep depression for months.
I explained my lifestyle to the neurologist. About travelling the world, having adventure, partying hard with new people I was always meeting. Living life to the fullest. He then destroyed my dreams.
Everything I had loved he told me not to do, even the simple things.
I had lived in Amsterdam and loved riding my crappy old city bike around. He told me I shouldn’t ride a bike anymore.
I loved free diving with sea gypsies in Indonesia. He told me I should have nothing to do with the sea ever again. Even simple swimming. I love the ocean.
Going out drinking with my friends and meeting new people. Nope I was told not to drink anymore. You have any idea what it’s like being around drunk friends sober knowing you can’t join in? It fucking sucks.
He went on and on, and I took him seriously. He was the expert after all and I was still in deep thoughts about how my lifestyle had changed.
Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it!
Yep, back to the point made ages ago. I hope this post isn’t going on to long for many of you, after all the attention span on the internet is very small. Hell did any of you make it this far? Congratulations!
After a few months I decided that I needed to travel again. Easy travel to start. A train journey across Europe, down into Turkey, and then into Syria. That was the slow progression.
Slowly I started to get out of the neurologist comfort zone.
Next thing I knew I was hiking by myself up in the mountains of Norway. The thought of what might happen if I had a seizure while traversing a tricky ledge with a steep drop is always at the back of my mind. Whenever alone in the wilderness exploring I always have that feeling I would be totally fucked as there would be no-one, and no medical help around.
Riding my city bike in Amsterdam? Fuck yeah! I mean seriously not riding a bike, come on. The cyclist I saw riding his bike through a national park full of lions in Kenya is much more likely to get fucked up. True story.
Then I stepped up my things I wasn’t supposed to do.
Flying a microlight over Victoria Falls. Yeah that could have gone seriously bad.
Snorkelling off one of the best reefs in the Philippines. Drowning with all those pretty colours around.
Horse riding into the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to stay with nomads. Falling of a horse without the fucking seizures almost happened anyway. Multiple times.
Starting to enjoy a few beers out with friends. Ok, admittedly this one has slowly developed into full on party mode recently 🙂 Great way to meet new people.
The point I had made in my head was a simple one: Was I going to follow the rules laid down for me, or live my life and follow my dreams?
I had almost all of my teenage and adult life tried whenever possible to break away from a normal life and say fuck it to the rules. I got expelled from 2 schools doing that when I started to rebel against it all at the age of 14 already. I had simply decided that I had to stay true to myself. Even if it meant dying early (something I don’t want).
But I was going to live!
What I’m trying to say with all this.
I’m trying to say to those people who made it this far (hello mum and dad, I know you did at least)! What I’m trying to say is that shit happens in life. You may be lucky and have no bad things happen to you. Happy for you 🙂 And there are plenty of people who have it way harder than me.
But my personal point is that you should always try and follow your dreams. No matter what. Don’t wait. You never know what might happen. And if shit does happen then get up and keep at it. Never give up.
People think I’ve had this easy life of just travelling and having fun, but I’ve seen dark days. I still have the possibility of this thing popping. I still get partial seizures even with the medication. You know how annoying it is being in the middle of a conversation then having to stop for 30 seconds until your face stops being numb. Especially when they have no idea what is wrong with you.
Waiting 10 minutes on hold trying to get in touch with customer support, and as soon as they bloody answer you have a facial seizure, are unable to talk, and they hang up on you. And no Adrian from Bangalore I don’t believe that is your real name!
It’s weird to think that if I had behaved myself in my teen years then I would probably have ended up a scuba diving instructor as that’s what I wanted to be. I may have had a family and living comfortably somewhere cool. And if I had, then when this thing happened I would no longer be able to scuba dive anymore. Funny how life works….
But travelling and meeting so many great new people along the way is what keeps me happy. Having good times with new friends on the road, while making some even longer term good friends. I picked up a guy and girl hitch-hiking along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and just hung out for a few days. Over the years since then we have met in various parts of the world, and had fun times.
That’s just one of many examples. Even meeting people for just 20 minutes turned into a proper friendship later on down the road. That’s part of the joy of living. You never know.
And try and make others happy and you will yourself in the process. Listening to the song “Mad World” while driving past one of the worst slums in Africa, watching young children living in absolute poverty, living on a trash pile just trying to survive, makes everything come into perspective.
No matter my problems there is plenty of people having it a hell of a lot harder. I always think of them. Most people reading this will be from first world countries. Most of my readership is from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, etc. You have much better opportunities to follow your dreams. Go for it. You’re lucky.
Live your life!
Yes this post is definitely different from most posts on my blog. Most are country specific advice articles, or trying to show you the world through beautiful photos, or some random thoughts that come to mind, as well as helpful posts on booking flights (boring but helpful should I say).
You know bloggers want to get as much attention as possible, always looking for niche articles and using perfect Google optimised posts to show up in Google search results, and in doing so bring more visitors to their site. More visitors means more exposure and the potential to make money through doing more freelance posts, or advertising. Hell I’ve done it with some articles.
The funny thing is that this is the longest post I’ve ever written, and I know it won’t bring in hardly any visitors from Google search. Probably. It’s also the most emotional post, and surprisingly one of my favourite to write. Because at the end of the day I want to convey a positive feeling.
What I’m trying to say is I didn’t write this long ass post (again congratulations if you’re still with me) for any kind of website traffic bla bla bla bullshit ( I love how auto-forrest makes it bra bra bra initially). Auto-correct makes it auto-forrest for some reason. 😛
I said at the beginning I wrote this for me and those who know me. And for you who have followed my journey. I wanted to share something deep and personal with you to get to know me better, and delve into my mind a bit more.
After all there is so much travel related stuff on the internet. A blog should first and foremost be about the person(s) behind it. And to try and give some inspiration to live your own dreams. Or at least try. You never know. Even the small things can make a difference.
This post is dedicated to my parents, David and Jean, for helping me through my most difficult times. And especially for my mum through all the hard times I’ve given her by scaring her half to death through some of my various harder adventures in the world. I promise I won’t hitch-hike through the Gaza Strip again mum.
And thanks to all my friends out there for keeping me going with a huge smile on my face 🙂 Now where is the shop with the fucking saxophone…..
Music inspiration played while writing this post: Pink Floyds – “Comfortably Numb” song. Hahahaha. If you can’t laugh at yourself and shit that happens to you then WTF. Donnie Darko soundtrack. Love and Rockets – Haunted when the minutes drag. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless. David Bowie – I’m Deranged (a particular favourite). The Pixies – Dolittle. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy. Sneaker Pimps – Becoming X.