Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | July 22, 2016

Feel the Silence

It’s a Thursday evening in July, some five years since Hesn and I visited Graceland during our expedition across America and a year since we, the Warner Music and Appirio team, got together for a series of workshops, and amazing evenings out, in midtown’s Summer. It’s crazy to look back twelve months and realise that we were right in the thick of the project then.

Little did we know how much harder we’d have to work after that crazy Tuesday evening in Manhattan, that saw us end up opening a bar tab at 1am in the morning at the Kimberley Hotel overlooking the Chrysler building. How a group of twenty or so of us made it back in for 8am workshops the next day, I will never know. The work was so much fun though, despite how very hard we did indeed work, that I almost didn’t realise that I had accrued but not taken so much annual leave last year.

So this year, having snatched just long weekends for most of 2015 – where I had to wait until Christmas to get a full week off (and even then, when I had to work on project deliverables for some of it) – I am making the most of my rolled over annual leave.


NYC – a Tuesday in July 2015

At the beginning of the year I made a plan to use my holiday this year. To plan properly. To maximize every opportunity. It was pretty easy to begin with. Paris was organising a girls’ trip to Dubai, so that was the first week sorted. Then I had air miles, and there were bank holiday weekends to play with, so I checked out where I could get to in Europe that would be sunny in May and which my avios miles would take me to. So that’s how Bologna came to be.

Beyond Bologna, a return visit to Cyprus was quickly on the cards, to celebrate Barry’s 70th Birthday and make a return trip to the island that has served me so well in allowing me restoration and reflection over the years. It was a personal journey – for me to go back – to go back this year, in a far, far better place than my last visit. A far better place that was so noticeably visible to Barry and Julie who continued, as always, to be wonderful hosts.


Dubai holidays

So what else? Well, on that Summer tour of the US and Canada some five years ago, I ventured to East Coast Canada with Fi, who emigrated from London to Canada some six or seven years ago now. Fi and I had an amazing ten-day trip around Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa – we shared stories, dreams and woes. We bonded and rebuilt – she from a tough time settling in Ottawa and me, from finally taking the lessons of my muse to heart, to feel its silence, and learn to bring holiday, and acceptance, into my every day life.

Fi had been living in Ottawa then, and was making plans to move to Vancouver. I promised her, back in 2011, that I’d be back to do the West Coast in 2012. It would be the next part of the journey – that exploratory journey we began on the East Coast of Canada. It was supposed to be the follow up. The next adventure. Another year older and even wiser.

But 2012 happened, and I guess my life and priorities changed a bit. Travel still was important, but as I got sucked into a non-single life, I guess I set aside some of my solo travel plans. And that was really, quite okay. At least I thought it was. So Vancouver didn’t happen. Not in 2012, not in 2013 and not in 2014. Then in 2015, I wanted to go, but was simply too busy to. My project just couldn’t release me for more than 2 or 3 working days at a time.



So this past Christmas, perhaps a little spur of the moment, I looked at the flights to Canada again. I was back in my 2011 place. Where I felt ready again. When it all suddenly was easier than I had expected it to be. When my brief reconnection with my muse had set me back into that good place. When all I had needed was a bite-size reminder of the work I had previously done, to set me back in the right direction. The feeling – that familiar feeling of being satisfied – happy – internally so, felt like it needed to be marked this year.

As the feeling of contentment found me over Christmas 2015, I began my search for flights to Vancouver. I messaged Fi – five years late – and she was just as excited as she’d been in 2011 for our East Coast adventure. “I am coming to the West Coast and I am bringing my sister Louisa” I told her. Fi’s response was just as I’d expected – utter enthusiasm. I quietly admonished myself for being so lame as to wait five years to make that planned visit.


Feeling the silence of Arthur’s Seat in 2011

In no time at all, I’d booked flights into Calgary, for a brief sampling of the Rocky Mountains, then set about planning a trip that would take in some of the remotest parts of Vancouver Island, for Grizzly Bear watching and Killer Whale spotting, before finishing in Vancouver itself. By March, I could surprise Louisa with the trip, leaving her speechless on her birthday, for the second time in so many years (the first, a birthday present to New York and San Francisco to see Bon Jovi in 2010).

Then last week I caught up with my Marrakech buddies. Rich, one of the most talented photographers I’ve ever met, had just returned from Vancouver. In a complete coincidence, he’d booked the exact same Grizzly Bear and Killer Whale tour as I have. His photos – of Grizzly Bears and Hummingbirds – are exemplary. He told me how the cabin – in Telegraph Cove, with its sheer wilderness – was his very favourite part of the entire trip.


Fi and Nicola – Canada, 2011

“It’s the part I am most looking forward to” I told Rich.  He explained the silence there, save for the electricity popping. The chance to be in a log cabin – right in the middle of nowhere – population 20 or so people and a handful of tourists – with one pub and one place to eat – sounds amazing. Wilderness shall find me, with only the sounds of Hummingbirds to keep us awake. I couldn’t be more excited about this impending visit. About feeling the silence of it all.

Or at least, I thought I couldn’t be. Then Fi messaged this week, to tell Louisa and I that Rob Thomas, one of our very favourite artists, is playing Vancouver, on the last evening of our trip. For those who don’t know – Rob Thomas is the lead singer in Matchbox Twenty – whom have an album and song that I named this blog after. “How Far We’ve Come” – the apt name of their greatest hits album from a few years back and its title song, was always the perfect name for this very blog.


Seeing Train and Maroon 5 in Toronto in 2011 with Fi

So what is “See How Far We’ve Come” really about these days? I guess it started in a more literal sense – of how far we’ve come and can go, in terms of physical travel and distance – and initially was intended to document my 2009 travels across Asia and the Pacific. Over the years though, it’s morphed a lot. It’s become my personal space to share. To process thoughts. To keep a creative hand in something juxtaposed to my corporate day job. To play with words around other arts. Of course, it’s also become about my personal journey, of how far I’ve come and how much further I want to go.

I adore reading back on past blogs sometimes, finding advice in my own words from a year, two or three back. When the world crashes down on you sometimes, it’s nice to go back and remember what it’s like to pick yourself back up, to remind yourself that it’s possible to survive, and in that in all likelihood, you’ll get stronger from it.


Feeling the silence of water in Ottawa

Plus, it’s always fun to read back on past travel adventures and remember anecdotal points that might otherwise be forgotten. To revisit and once again feel the silence of my thoughts at a given point and place in time. To feel the silence. To not know where you’re going but to know exactly where you’ve been.

Ah, “Feel the Silence”. One of my favourite Goo Goo Dolls songs from 2006. Its relevance to me now, ten years on, just as strong as it was back that year, when it was first released. It talks of people moving through your soul like a hurricane wind. Yet unlike the song, which goes on to say how you can be so lost for so long, and that you don’t know how to get back again, I do know how to get back, and I am back. I am no longer lost.


Feeling the silence of creativity in 2011

Occasionally, rarely in fact, do I find that people move through my soul like a hurricane wind. When they do – it’s attention grabbing and exciting. It has little to do with being lost and everything to do with finding yourself. With finding something special. Hurricane moments – that sweep through your soul, remind you how to live. No matter what currents you might be fighting, no matter how hard it seems to reach the shore, a hurricane grabs my attention. When those hurricane winds swing by I am reminded – vehemently – to never let a promise go unfulfilled. To feel the silence and hold on through every gathered storm.

I am at an age where I cannot ignore hurricanes. Where their presence – their impending arrival or departure, and the potential destruction in their path – remains mesmerising. When they change everything, when they change everything inside us and allow us to feel a silence where love heals pain and candles battle dimmed lights.


Toronto, 2011

Hurricanes, with their immense presence in our lives, permeate moments infrequently. Between the storms, between the silence they leave behind, are opportunities to do the things we want to do – selfish things. To become who we want to become. To release and relax. To find ourselves amidst the shore. To listen to silence, feel its presence and gain strength from it.

So somewhat ironically, I find myself at 37,000 feet today heading to a place that will be anything but silent. Jade and I are venturing to Ibiza. Yes, the known party island. Albeit, there is another side that we are dying to experience. I am as enamored by the stunning scenery and silent seas as the nightlife, in fact more so by its natural beauty.


Canada – 2011

Jade and I started tossing holiday ideas around a few weeks ago. I was looking for a long weekend – saving some holiday for a winter trip later this year. She asked if I’d go to Vegas, which felt a bit far for a few days. I suggested she join me somewhere in Asia later this year – to which she was less inclined. Mykonos was suggested – and was a contender, until Jade read Tatler magazine and deduced that she would find herself a Summer fling in Ibiza. So here we are – Ibiza bound.

Our accommodation is ridiculously overpriced, but does look amazing. When I agreed to it, I thought it was the price for four days – somewhat shockingly discovering later it was the per night price. I might have been sensible – had it not been for the fact my Auntie had just passed away and I had a “F**k it” moment. You live once, so live it.


Feeling the hurricane of Niagara Falls

So in a turn of events, I’ve left Jade in charge of organising the trip. She has dusted of her planning skills and this evening, presented me with the most amazing itinerary I have seen since, well, since Jade. Amidst seafood, live music under the stars, snorkeling, horse-riding and lazy beach days, there’s cabanas and cocktails by the pool and Jade’s ever hopeful desire to meet Leo DiCaprio.  No wait, I stand corrected, she assures me it’s not a hope, but rather a future reality.  Either way, I couldn’t be more excited.

But this somewhat luxurious and indulgent weekend is a stark contrast to other trips.   I like to mix my travel experiences up. Just earlier this year I made a silent plan with myself to try and get to Asia this year, specifically Burma. One of my friends was planning to come with me for the photography trip, then she fell pregnant. Slightly in jest, when I congratulated her on the impending arrival, she instead joked she’d rather have come to Burma. She’s promised to come post baby’s arrival – but we’ll see.


Horse riding in Ireland in 2011, before my Summer adventure

So as I was thinking about Burma still – for its photography more than anything – I remembered the Travel Photography workshop I did at the beginning of last year, where I met a girl who’d returned from Burma with amazing photos. I’ve been intent on making the trip ever since.

Not to be perturbed by the Burma ‘v’ baby boom, I began to research, a few short weeks ago, Burma tours. I came across the Flashpack. Cha and I always joked that we didn’t ever ‘back pack’ but rather ‘flash packed’ so it seemed apt. I enquired, but was somewhat disappointed to learn that the November trip was unlikely to run. Instead, they suggested Sri Lanka in October. I read the itinerary, which looked fab, but the timings simply didn’t work. Then Selina and I started talking about India. And Barbados. Then Anamaria suggested Bali. Asia was calling me.

Then an e-mail arrived from me this week from the Flashpack to say that both Burma, and Sri Lanka, are now running in November. I jumped up and down in my seat at work. I now had a choice. Wait for Selina to figure out India. Consider Bali at Christmas. Skip to Burma or try Sri Lanka. Holiday rations would not stretch everywhere.


Memphis – 2011

Yet the Flashpack, and what it offers, has been calling me. One of the very best travel experiences of my life was Marrakech last year. Especially the project we did with the local village children. Solo travelling where I had the greatest adventure with some amazingly phenomenal people. The opportunity – to go far away – on my own – and have an experience, another real life adventure, has been tempted. There are some travel experiences in life that you need to feel the silence of alone.

As I therefore sat and felt the silence of my thoughts, of my options – I found myself committing. I found myself back in 2011. Back adventuring. Back doing something because it’s what I, solely I, want to do. Burma, you’re going to be beautiful, but you can indeed wait. If my baby booming friend does indeed want to go, we’ll go. Your temples, sunsets and long-necked women shall be there next year.


Goodbye Party – before Summer Travels, July 2011

So this morning, in sheer contrast to my Ibiza weekend, I booked my November trip to Asia. I shall be participating in community projects in a local school and playing cricket with the local children. I shall be meeting baby turtles and taking sunset and sunrise safaris looking for jaguars and elephants. I shall be visiting the fishermen on their stilts. I shall be sampling tea. I shall be watching sunsets and recreating my Marrakech moment in 2016, in Asia.

Sri Lanka, you are booked. I know little about you except that one of my oldest friends and his wonderful Sri Lankan family, are some of the nicest people I know. I know that you’ll give me a different side of Asia. I know that I’ll be feeling your silence, with my solo travel, and that it’s going to be one of the greatest moments of my 2016 revival.


My best and oldest Sri Lankan friend

Then there are work trips, too. There’s a good chance I’ll be in Chicago, speaking at a global event this September, and I’ve been invited to speak at a couple of events in Barcelona in November and March next year. But November clashes with Sri Lanka, so I shall soak up my Spanish sangria this weekend in Ibiza and see what March 2017 shall bring instead.

An hour and a half of blogging has passed and we are getting ready to land. So I shall say this. 2015, you brought hard work and rebalance, amidst long weekends and NYC workshops. 2016, I am making the most of you. You’ve brought me one hurricane thus far, and a promising Middle Eastern storm, but I’m feeling the silence between them. I don’t know where I am going but heck, I know where I’ve been and the silence, well, let’s just say it feels so very right.


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