Gate 27: As One Stage Ends...

In the concluding part of his Stage 1 Review, Ben reveals whether or not he found the one thing he has been looking for?

Aims, objectives, stages and legs… I realise I can perhaps make this adventure seem a little over the top some times, but fundamentally everything I find myself doing is motivated by just one thing – that is I travel in the pursuit of happiness.)

For nearly three years now, this pursuit has been my sole focus and applying everything I have in to making this reality, I have I admit gone perhaps further than others might have been willing.

But why travel? Why not just go on holiday for a few weeks or buy a new TV like a normal person?

Well, it was tempting, I won’t lie, but deep down I knew that what I really needed was a far greater change of direction. It wasn’t something I could explain but I knew fundamentally that the life I was living… it wasn’t for me. 

Then on a cold winter’s afternoon, whilst sat at work in Dudley, I found myself watching a presentation in which half way through the following quote pops up on the screen:

“When nothing is clear, everything is possible” 

And it dawned upon me. The problem I had was that everything was in such good order that I had inadvertently been suffocating any opportunity that presented itself .

So in typical Ben fashion I knew it was all or nothing and from one extreme to the other I gambled everything I had on the unknown. Why? Well drastic times call for drastic measures and just like gambling in the real world, you don’t make big bucks by betting just a dollar. I mean yes, there was of course the risk I could lose it all, but - and cue the World's smallest violin - I didn't honestly feel like I had all that much to lose.

Seven months later then, there is just one question that remains. Was it all worth it?

The End of an Era at Gate 27, Los Angeles International Airport
In a nutshell - yes. Yes it was. I mean, I left the UK with high expectations but nothing in a million years could have prepared me for what has come to take place. And it is largely this reason why I first decided to write the Stage One Review, because with so much having taken place in these seven months, I wanted for my own sake to feel like I had properly reflected on what has happened so I can move onwards with a fresh perspective.

And what a pleasure it has been. Looking back over all my experiences what has struck me most is a change in my attitude. A far cry from my life back home, this stage has really taught to keep an open mind and grasp every new opportunity with both hands, for neither I nor you, have any idea of just where it might lead.

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Similarly too, I have almost but entirely lost my fear of the unknown. In particular I think back to the morning I left Calgary where equipped with no arrangements for two whole weeks, I simply set off up to the highway with the intention of seeing what happened. Just months previously, the mere thought of this would have turned my stomach, but I remember vividly standing there up on the highway with my thumb out brimming with excitement, for each car that approached was now it seemed "an opportunity" for both adventure and excitement.

Perhaps reflective of my attitude back home, the one thing I considered least has in fact turned out to be this  journey's biggest asset - that of course is people. For wherever I have gone I have been universally welcomed with open arms. I have CouchSurfed in many towns and cities and in doing so met dozens of new people who I now regard both highly and as friends.

Likewise, the Work Exchange projects I have been involved with have also been extraordinary. Practically they have been a constant education and I have learned more new skills in these past seven months than I have back home in many years. Best of all, the nature of these placements in going from one family to another has provided me both a sense of stability and belonging. In each household I have been told "your problems are our problems" and have developed the sort of relationships I thought would be impossible whilst travelling.

Thinking back then to the gamble I made some seven months ago, sitting here on the plane waiting to take off I feel looking back like I must have won the jackpot. For no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot fault what has happened and even those more testing experiences have in fact turned out to be worth their weight in gold.

Ultimately though, I'm sat here for one reason and one reason only... that is in the pursuit of happiness. And as the plane begins hurtling down the runway at what feels like a million miles an hour I am overwhelmed with excitement and smiling uncontrollably. For in this very moment it dawns upon me. I have for the last seven months never felt so incredibly happy and if I were to die tomorrow then I would do so a very happy man.

Caught in the moment I feel everything tingle and as I do the World outside of my window falls away and with it this first stage officially comes to a close.

But far from the end of this great adventure, I am long way yet from thinking about heading home. For as one stage ends, another is just beginning...