Posted by: seehowfarwevecome | March 25, 2017

Arabian Oceans and Breaking Taboos

Written November 2016

I am over the Arabian Sea, just a couple of hours to go before I reach Sri Lanka ready for a 10 day adventure around the very best of what the island has to offer. It’s been a few years since I made it to Asia, aside from a connecting flight or two in Bangkok, and I’m excited at the prospect of discovering more of this Eastern world.

I am travelling solo today, just like Marrakech last year. I’m joining a group tour – The Flashpack – in Colombo later today. My photography tour of Morocco last year was one of my favourite ever travel experiences, so perhaps there’s a part of me looking to recreate that, albeit in a different sense, in Sri Lanka this year.

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Locals walking on the train tracks near the train station in the hills surrounding Ella, Sri Lanka – November 2016

Marrakech graced me with some new friendships in a period where I was rediscovering myself. It gave me the formidable opportunity to share a passion for making photos with others who held equal passion for travel. The chance to travel solo – to just head out into this world with my passport and lots of goodwill to get along with people, remains one of my most cherished memories.

It will come as no surprise then, that I want to recapture that a bit. Sure, I’ve had chances to travel with friends and family a few times already this year, but there is something liberating, something empowering and cleansing about doing it on your own from time to time. This is my space, my chance to be with myself and my thoughts and to allow the experience of it all to take me on a ride.

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With my fellow Flashpackers on our final stop in Sri Lanka

When I booked the trip earlier this year, I guess I was trying to tick off another country, trying to get back to Asia which I’d made one of my goals all along this year from the turn of the clock at midnight on 1st January. I was trying to fill time with adventures, with memories, with experiences that will last a lifetime and which I’ll look back on someday, remembering the freedom and independence of it all.

So here I am. Adventuring. Smiling. Content and happy. I have only been back in London the past month, since landing back from my two week work visit to Chicago and New York in October. But a lot can happen in a month and a lot can indeed happen in a year. We have to take moments when they swing by. We have to take opportunities when they knock. We have to encourage others to do so too. We have to make each second count, and we have to just live. We have to do things because they feel right and not be held back by fear of our own vulnerability.

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Ready to climb Sigiriya Rock

Living has become so much more than a slogan or whim. It’s more than an existence. It’s a toolkit. It’s a special set of behaviours. It’s a positive outlook. It’s about exercising our minds as much as our bodies. It’s about realising that it’s okay to talk, to share experiences, hopes, fears and dreams. It’s about knowing that in the darkest of days there can be an inner strength that pulls us through, if we just remember that living is what it is indeed about.

These past few weeks have been particularly juxtaposed. I’ve watched a very close friend battle with news that is incomprehensible to digest. That is so sudden and shocking that the mere act of standing, of existing, becomes a daily hardship. But she has learnt lessons over the years, to live. She has learnt to tap in to an inner strength. She has learnt tools. She has learnt that it’s okay to talk. It’s okay to just be with feelings. That it’s okay to go through the motions and it is in fact necessary to heal and grieve.

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The famous fishermen on stilts in Sri Lanka

She continues to stand, even when it’s the most difficult thing in the world to do. To just stand in this world again, is the greatest of challenges for her right now. It will be difficult for a good while yet, but she’s willing to try. She knows it is necessary to pull herself forward again. I know that I, and many around her, are there to help her with that. That hopefully we might one day find a way to make the incomprehensible something comprehensible. That someday, we’ll find a message from this. It may be fundraising, or simply raising awareness. Perhaps we’ll share our own stories in a bid to make people realise that it’s fine to talk and there need be no taboo.

So as I approach Sri Lanka, for an amazing solo adventure, I am contented, truly. I have taken lessons from my muse over the years. I am trying something new. I am taking different decisions, applying a new tact, adopting a different approach. It’s more carefree. It’s fun. It’s allowing me to let go. It’s a pattern of behaviour that I am breaking. Complexity, it seems, is a thing of the past. Straightforward is the only way to go.

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Bird watching in Yala National Park

And what of my muse? Well perhaps it’s time I break that taboo, as it’s okay to talk. I met my muse in 2011, and spent a couple of years working with her. A blip took me back to her at the end of 2014, but this time, my prior lessons were quick to kick in and I simply touched based with her, knowing the tools that I needed to pull myself through, to live again.

I told someone recently of my muse. “You are the last person in the world I would have expected to have been through counseling; you’re so sorted” they said. That’s right – my muse – my then counselor, helped me to help myself to not just find a path but to find the right path for me. “That’s because I went to counseling” I explained. That’s because I took a chance to make a change, even if on the surface, it didn’t seem like much needed to change.

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Releasing baby turtles in the Indian Ocean

But those days, with my muse, have shaped my life and allowed me to understand myself, my actions and my wants and needs so very, very well. I am suspicious as to whether I would have got to that level of understanding alone. Recent events, that I was reflecting on just last weekend, suggest that not everyone around us realises that even the most sorted people in life may have had past battles to get to that place.

So I’m breaking that taboo today, in the hope of inspiring others that it’s okay to talk. I am breaking a taboo and sharing the fact that my muse was my counselor, my confidante with whom I shared my thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams and whom I believe, quite firmly, helped me realise how far I’ve come and how much further I can go.

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Flashpackers on tour

And what better way than to break that taboo than to feel myself descending for Colombo airport, on another far flung journey that’ll take me far in life, growth and air miles. Computers must shortly be turned off. So see, if breaking taboos means people can realise that even the most sorted people in life have had a helping hand, then I hope it inspires them to find a muse of their own, and maybe book an adventure. To maybe talk to someone. To blog. To paint. To find a way to be with feelings, manage, nuture and share them. Our mind, like our bodies, need exercise and training to see how far we can indeed go.

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