The Extracts

Continuing the State 1 Review, Ben uses extracts from his journal to relay his best and worst moments from Stage 1.

As mentioned in my previous entry, I have documented this first Stage of my journey from start to finish and selecting only the most pivotal moments I have for you given an insight to both my best and worst moments of the journey so far.

My Best Moments

Entry 035: This is The Ginger Revolution

So I sit here this morning in the departure lounge in the south terminal at Gatwick Airport. I have quit my job, had half a dozen vaccinations, left my apartment, "liberated" myself of all my stuff and said my goodbyes.

I am a little nervous but mostly I am filled with excitement knowing that in just a couple of hours I am going to board my plane and embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Today is truly the first day of the rest of my life.

Entry 07524 Sussex Drive

As I came to realise what was about to happen my heart began to race. But as the walls of my ribcage felt like they were ready to give way, pressure too was building from the back of my head where with every step I took it felt like I gained an extra ten pairs of eyes becoming glued to watching my every move in the want of knowing what was going on.

Here I am, standing on the bank of the Ottawa River in the garden of 24 Sussex having an official photograph taken with the Prime Minister and First Lady of one of the most developed countries in the World. You know what... this is pretty cool

Entry 082: One Direction

Making my way up on to the Alexandra bridge to reenter Ontario my imagination goes into overdrive filling my ears with music, lining the banks with cheering crowds and painting the sky with the biggest and brightest fireworks known to man. I feel at this moment right here and right now like nothing in the World could stop me and whilst passers by are oblivious to this bout of ecstasy I can do nothing but stand and smile. 

Fortunately for everyone though, two minutes later I am back on dry land. The fireworks have stopped, the crowds have dispersed and the music in my ears has been replaced by the sounds of the city. Yes, the 1st chapter of this journey has come to a close but with little time for reflection there really is only one direction now to take - and that my friends is West.

Entry 103: Lady Macdonald

"You know this is why I love my life right now... 

...I left Calgary this morning with no plans to speak of except for trying to reach the Rocky's. Three hours later I'm eating a prime Alberta beef burger in the town of Calmore surrounded by 3,000m high mountains, a place to stay and a new friend in the form of Mike. 

Seriously, how does life get better than this?"

Whilst this was supposed to be a self-rhetorical question, the answer it turned out lay just a few short hours away, for after arming myself with a trail map and some bear spray I eventually hiked up to this point where in that moment - everything was perfect.

Entry 107: Friday 13th: The Greatest Day

From setting off, it would take Kilian and myself nearly eight hours to make the drive up to Jasper, where from start to finish we were treated to the most inspiring of landscapes. It seemed for every corner we turned, the mountains got higher, the valleys became deeper and this great expanse became ever more spectacular.

Writing this post, I genuinely struggle to find words that do it all justice - all I think I can really say is that as the late summer Sun set that evening in Jasper, it did so on what I figured may well be the greatest day of my life.

Entry 116: Vancouver Island: The Cat's Arses

On my final night on Vancouver Island, the three families I had stayed with had organised a small get together at the park to bid me a final fairwell. As we tucked in to this near banquet of food I thought back over my time on the island and became quite sad to know I was in fact leaving.

Both individually and collectively, these people have made me feel like part of their own family and have given me somewhere that truly feels like home. Throughout my eight weeks here I have not once stopped being blown away by the kind and spirited nature of these people and am just so grateful to them for having me. 

This said, I have most enjoyed the time I have been able to spend with the children. Each with a very distinct personality, these  toddlers and babies alike have made enlightened a part of me that previously I did not know exist and if there is one thing I take from this island it is that no matter what happens in the future, gay or not, I most definitely want to have children.

Entry 125: Mr Wilson

Just as breathtaking as I had hoped the view was simply astonishing and with just a light warm wind I took off my backpack and tried to take it all in. At 2,550m you could see for many hundreds of square miles where out in the distance, Mt Hood and Mt Adams were clearly visible along with a vast array of other mountainous peaks.

The main attraction though was at my very feet and at this I was truly in awe. Stretching a mile and a half across, the crater was much bigger than I had envisaged and peering down this was anything but a sleeping volcano. Demonstrating perhaps that this volcano is still active, steam could clearly be seen rising from the crater and it seemed every minute or so there would be a rockfall down the crater rim, kicking up ash and other rocks as it went.

Most incredible though was thinking back to what happened at this exact spot 32 years ago and as I did so I felt that same level of awe and astonishment that had me fall in love with this place back when I was in school and I guess in many ways I owe this experience to Mr Wilson. Yes, I may have been an arsehole to teach, but I hope he would agree that it was well worth it.

Worst Moments

Entry 069: The Black Fly

With the Sun baking me at 35C, black flies pulling chunks of flesh from my neck and mosquitoes doing what they do best I was somewhat unhappy with my situation.

And with every minute that passed I became more and more wound up until finally, following a quick succession of bites to my neck and arms I snapped and like a child losing his temper I threw my tools to the ground where to my complete horror I growed and muttered to myself "You know what Ben...? I think I'd rather be sat at my desk in Dudley."
Well absolutely not. There is no way I have quit my job, left my flat, given all my stuff away and travelled 6,000km only to be wishing (albeit briefly) I was back at home. And as fleeting as this moment was, it was enough to have me sat in front of Mitch twelve hours later telling him that I would be leaving first thing in the morning - this of course despite it only being the tenth day into what should be a six week stay at his farm.

Entry 085: Misery Attracts

In the half hour or so en route to some place called Bruce Mines, Kevin and I acquainted ourselves to the point that I felt OK having just jumped in to a stranger's car, despite this is that...
...the stranger only stopped because he identified me as a lost tourist 
...the stranger is smoking illegal substances 
...the stranger has invited me to go camping with him
"Hmm" I thought. "Something about this just doesn't quite sound right."

My thoughts continued this thought as Kevin began driving ever faster away from the main highway and within a few minutes realised that out here there would be little chance of people hearing my screams. So as dusk began to set in I turned to my gut for an answer and whilst my head was screaming out to pull on the hand brake and make a run for it my gut seemed to insist that everything would work itself out.

That was of course until I heard the words that even my worst fears could not have predicted.

Said with the straightest face, Kevin simply turned toward me and told me

 "If I were you I'd be shitting myself"

At which point everything seemed to stop.

Entry 074: The Powder Room: The Big Reveal

I have to say that when I finished destroying Laura's downstairs bathroom I did feel like I had taken on way more than I should have...

...What's worse is that I realistically knew there is no way I would have attempted this if it were my own bathroom and yet here I was feeling apparently fine with tearing into somebody elses like there is no tomorrow.

Well on the eve of my departure I can finally say that I have finished. 

And with the exception of drilling through a hot water pipe and nearly flooding the entire downstairs, I have found things have gone pretty well. I am not too sure Laura was thinking the same when she was calling out a plumber to mend the pipework but we need not focus on that do we?

Entry 129: Hansel

"The highlight of my day?" I hear you ask... Well that's an easy one... Returning back from a walk downtown I discovered the house completely locked up and in desperation to use the bathroom I had no choice but to climb through the bathroom window. Made all the more better was that the window would only open a fraction wider than I am and with only a little lee-way either side and a toilet floor still dripping in God knows what, I landed on the floor in what may well be my most glamorous of entrances yet.

My Personal Top 5 Journal Entries

Entry 135: Yes. I am Gay

Most incredibly though is how in just seven months I already feel so different to the man I was when I left the UK. And whilst there are many small changes I have come to note, there is one change for sure that will I think eventually come to define this stage. 

For just eight months ago, I was in a very different place and if I was given the choice, I would have changed what is one of the most defining parts of who I am. And whilst this journey is still far from over I leave tomorrow for Mexico a proud man. For after an uphill struggle for nearly 15 years I can finally say with heartfelt honesty that I am not just gay and I am not just proud, but if given the same choice today I wouldn't change it for the World.

Entry 125: Mr Wilson

So off I went off to buy some beer and booking myself in to the cheapest motel I could find, I did just like they do in the movies… I drank beer, watched TV and listened to the couple next door screw each other’s brains out. Positively horrendous, yet wonderfully poetic.

Entry 119: Not Where, Whom

Reflecting upon my time in Canada, I have inadvertently stumbled upon a lesson that will likely permeate this adventure through and through - that is, it matters not where you are but who you are with.

Best illustrating this is by referencing a question I have been asked many times in recent weeks and that is quite simply "what experience did you enjoy most in Canada?"

Well quite naturally I think, people expect me to answer with the places they recognise as being most beautiful or most popular, say for example Niagra, the Rockies or Vancouver and whilst there is no denying how spectacular these places are, they weren't what I enjoyed most.

Instead, I deliver a surprise, as my response without pause is "Oshawa, Whitby and Regina," places that on their own merit are boring, drab and entirely forgettable. Perhaps then a little ironic... but I guess that is my point.

You see, it didn't matter about the location and it didn't matter what was on offer; what mattered was the people I was with and thanks to the likes of Colin, Laura and Jordan, these terrible towns became places I now come to think of more highly than the Canadian Rockies, which trust me, is as much of a surprise to them as it is to me.

Entry 114: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Canada

Having spent over 80 hours hitchhiking across Canada I have had a lot of time to think about the art of successful hitchhiking and for readers thinking of embarking on a similar journey I wanted to share with you my thoughts.

The less you "must" be somewhere, the more fun you will have getting there.

Entry 100: Take a Note

Since I closed the door on my apartment back in Birmingham and set off on The Goodbye Tour I have found myself taking brief notes throughout each day to ensure I retain all of the little details that make this journal what it is...

...The notes that I take are often in somewhat of a 'raw' state and turning them in to one of the now 100 finished articles in this journal generally takes somewhere in the region of 3-5hrs. Needless to say, it takes a great deal of time and effort.

So to mark my 101st post, I wanted to give you an illustration of what a typical day looks like through  my eyes and in my notes.  Before reading on though, I should emphasise that this material isunsuitable for grandparents or any other person(s) who do not wish to harm the positive image you will no doubt currently have of me (i.e. innocent, polite, can do no wrong). By reading on you forego the right to complain to me about my behaviour and my language.