Anyone working in an office who lives for the outdoors can probably relate to the following scenario; it’s summer and the sun is shining, you block it out and try and concentrate on work, then the rays of light reach that perfect angle and are now reflecting directly into your eyes. You walk over to the window, draw the blinds and return to your desk. Now totally unfocused from the job in hand your mind drifts to a place far away from the confines of the surrounding walls.
When I was 28 years old a series of misfortunate events took place with serious injury taking away my only escape: BMX. Bed bound, and coming to terms with the fact I was never physically going to be the same again, I conceptualised adventures for when I was somewhat able inspired by stories I’d read or been told.
As I approached the big three zero it dawned on me how, despite my free spirited nature, I’d never strayed from education or work. I started worrying about an old version of myself reflecting on life with regret.
While many of my friends were buying houses and procreating I had savings and was single after a string of failed relationships; I seemed out of reach from the clutch of adulthood and jest at the concept of settling down. I was alone but I was also free.
It was the perfect storm.
When I thought about where I could venture my mind flicked between Canada (British Columbia), America (particularly the west coast) and New Zealand - places with lots of open space, mountains and views. Of the three countries New Zealand was one I hadn’t visited. There had been numerous plans over the years but none had materialised due largely to the fact New Zealand is so time-consuming and expensive to reach, factors which also made it ideal for something bigger.
Photo: Lake Wanaka
‘As I approached the big three zero it dawned on me how, despite my free spirited nature, I’d never strayed from education or work. I started worrying about an old version of myself reflecting on life with regret.’
At the end of my last day at work before a trip to Whistler, alone in the office, curiosity struck and I looked at the cost of flights from Manchester to Wellington. Pleasantly surprised by the result and without any hesitation I entered my details and confirmed the one-way ticket with the level of consideration I’d give to buying a pint of milk. ‘Oh fuck’ I thought, startled by my highly out of character impulsive purchase. I brushed it off as no big deal; I didn’t have to go, this was just a test to know for sure.
Six weeks before my possible departure it was make or break - if I was leaving people had to be told, arrangements made and my possessions cleared. I could no longer remain in limbo.
The likely feeling of regret if I remained began to outweigh the feeling of destruction and anxiety associated with going so I told my housemate I was moving out and wrote two letters. One was a resignation letter to the company I’d worked for over the past five and a half years, the other was to the woman I’d started seeing on my return from Canada only one month before.
Not being good with words I felt writing them down would make the situation easier to explain, but if I’m honest it was because I was too scared to say them out loud. I hated myself for falling into a relationship weeks before my longest ever departure. No doubt life has no concern for timing and this was not the situation I’d envisioned during those office daydreams.
I felt increasingly anxious as each day passed. Rather than excitement I felt sad about everything I was leaving behind and exhausted and overwhelmed by everything I had left to do while still working full-time; boxing and selling belongings, preparing paper work, renewing my passport and organising a working visa, packing, visiting family overseas, preparing my bike, moving out and going on trips with my girlfriend to make the most of what little time we had. I rode my mountain bike once that month - for 45 minutes to check it ran sweet after every moving component had been serviced.
‘When you go away you gain so many new experiences while at home things remain the same. You’ll come back from this big adventure and it will seem like nothing else has changed’, said a friend at my leaving do. I liked this sentiment but later discovered this wasn’t to be entirely true.
It was a surreal experience being driven to the airport on that morning. A distant fictional day dream was now my present reality. It felt like being on a roller coaster after the wheels start turning. Speaking to my mate I tried to sound confident and exited to mask my fear, aware that everything ahead of me was uncertain. I hadn’t imagined freedom to feel this way.