Making it Count

In the next instalment of the Stage 1 Review, Ben takes a closer look at the driving force behind his adventure

In preparing for this adventure I decided quite early on that I wanted to leave the UK with both purpose and direction. You see, I figured that if I am going to invest several years of my life in to this experience then I wanted to make sure I made it count...

...I mean obviously any experience, guided or otherwise, is always going to be fruitful but I feared that relying on chance alone would not suffice. Moreover, I felt that with such an extensive itinerary it is likely I am going to be surrounded by opportunities almost all of the time and whilst this is great, I know myself well enough that I'll quickly become complacent and begin letting things slip on by unless prompted to do so.

In addition, I guess like many people who set off travelling, they are prompted in part by the thought of self-discovery. For me, this was certainly true and whilst not wanting to sound like a complete dildo and come out with that douchebag line of "wanting to find myself," there were upon setting out several personal aspirations that I hoped I might be able to meet.

As such, during the 18 months I had leading up to my departure I gradually built up a a list of objectives which I hoped would eventually come to shape my journey.

So made up of a series of both specific and somewhat more tangible goals, I ended up leaving the UK in March with the 32 objectives that I am sure by now you have become familiar with on the right side of this page.

So as the driving force of this adventure, 7 months in, how am I getting on? Well actually, quite well for I have made fairly substantial progress towards four objectives whilst completing in full a further two.

#5: To not shy away from eating unfamiliar food

As a child I was the fussiest of eaters but in the spirit of what this adventure is about I set out to work hard and leave this habit at home. 

As such, my black list of foods now contains just four things - cheese, fish, eggs and mushrooms. Perhaps only friends and family will realise just what a turnaround this is because as a child I really was pretty awful, refusing to eat pretty much everything other than fish fingers, chips and peas.

So 213 days in, what I have managed? Well unsurprisingly I have been keeping close tabs on what I have been eating and am really quite proud to say I have eaten 45 new foods for the very first time! They include...

Crepes, Blueberry Pancakes, Maple Syrup, Peanut Butter, Waffles, Calzones, Falafel, Tamale Pie, Tofu, Bean Burgers, Quinoa, Bok Choy, Prunes, Turnip, Wax Beans, Black Beans, Garlic Scapes, Aubergiene, Artichoke, Fig, Egg Rolls, Dumplings, Perogis, Chesse (Cheddar), Onion & Garlic Soup, Carrot and Brie Soup, Peanut Soup, Sloppy Joe's, Bear Sausage, Pepperoni, Salami, Venison Burgers, Bison Burgers, Rabbit, Crab, Salmon, Spaghetti, Pasta, Tomato Sauce (not ketchup), Tamarina Sauce, Pesto, Humus, Dill, Horseradish, Tajon Clasico (fruit spice)

And no, I'm not kidding... I honestly never had even pasta or spaghetti before leaving the UK.

#7: To record my entire journey

My mind is no more effective at capturing memories than a sieve is with water and with an adventure of this scale likely to generate hundreds, if not thousands of memories, I knew from day 1 that I must find a way to preserve them for the future.

Most of all I wanted to capture this journey in its entirety, for having never before been abroad I felt I was likely to undergo some level of personal transformation that in years to come would be somewhat cool to have documented.

Beginning back in February 2011, the first entry in to my journal was written the same day I decided to travel the World and already just 7 months in, reading what I wrote always brings to me a warm glow inside.

Initially however, my journal was private. Still online and in a not too dissimilar format to what you see here today, it was for my eyes only. However, as the months rolled on by and I considered what it was I wanted from this journal, I came to realise making it public might help me in my plight.

Mainly it would keep me motivated.

I think most of us have at some point had a diary and upon turning to the first page it is hard not to sit and wonder what you might come to write in the pages ahead. The opportunity it seems is empowering and the sense that the future has yet to be written is all the more apparent when you can see and touch those pages unmarked. However as the days roll on by it is not long before your motivation wanes and whilst it begins with missing the odd day here and the odd day there, it's not long before it has fallen behind the bed and is gathering up dust.

My fear then was that by keeping this journal private I too would wane and not wanting this to happen I figured an unspoken pressure from others would help to keep it going.

But not only does your presence here keep me writing, I firmly believe it encourages me to produce better content.

You see, in the early days of this journal when it still remained private, I spent a great deal of time thinking about the style and tone I wanted my words to conjure. Having never really written anything beyond essays at school, the only thing I was certain is I didn't want something that read like this...

Urgh. Could you imagine?

The logic then was that if I knew I had an audience, I'd make a much greater effort towards keeping my entries well written.

Now whilst perhaps detracting a here a little, I feel this is a good opportunity to bring up something that many people have asked me about. That is "why is your journal always so out of date?" 

For a little perspective, this entry you are reading was written and published on the 11th January 2013 but the entry itself actually corresponds to events back on the 25th October and the day I completed Stage 1. That's 78 days out of date! But why? Isn't this meant to be an informative journal that keeps readers up to date?

Well yes and no. I'll admit, 78 days is further behind that perhaps I'd like but it's not something I have much concern for. You see, I find that when on the few occasions my journal has been up to date, the close recency of the events I am writing about leads me in to documenting things neither of us frankly give a crap about.

Moreover, it enables me to be a little more creative with my publishing. You see, with such a lag, I have the opportunity to spend what it is often a few weeks thinking about how I can best document what has happened in terms of the style and length before also considering whether I want to publish it as part of series of entries like for example, my Stage 1 Review.

So why is this objective not green? Well, the objective is to document "my entire journey" and given I'm only at the end of Stage 1, it will be a long time yet before it is complete. That said, I am happy with my progress.

#19: To visit a rainforest

Put simply, when viewed on television rainforests look pretty incredible and if I can get over my phobia of spiders and insects I've always said I'd like to visit one if I can.

Now technically, this objective is complete (See Entry 122: Bone Stuff) for I visited the Hoh rainforest in Washington when travelling briefly with Chris and Jo. However, it hadn't rained in more than ten weeks so whilst technically yes, I have visited a rainforest, the notable lack of rain detracted me from considering this complete.

#26: To learn new skills

So here is a prime example of one of my more tangible objectives I mentioned toward the start of this entry. I don't think I need to say too much here but if I'm away from home for a few years then I feel like I ought to try and pick up a few new skills along the way.

Why orange? Well I learned how to canoe in Tweed (Entry 049: Welcome to Tweed), I learned some basic DIY whilst refitting a bathroom in Winchester (Entry 074: The Powder Room), I'd say I've learned a fair amount about travelling and as a spin off from this journal, I have also learned a little about creative writing and web design.

However, I feel this list should be somewhat more extensive before I consider marking it complete.

#16: To climb a volcano

For as far back as I can remember I have found volcanoes utterly fascinating and the first of 32 objectives I noted down was to climb Mount St Helens.  

So as I described in some detail in (Entry 125: Mr Wilson), there was just one reason I wanted to hike this and that was largely down to my geography school teacher, Mr Wilson.

Anyway, on the 8th November 2012 I did it. Perhaps the most physically challenging thing I have ever done, it was truly an unforgettable day and when you have time, I'd really like to recommend reading the entry if you haven't already.

#18: To set foot on a glacier

There is nothing cooler than a flowing river of ice, especially when viewed on a time lapse video. 

As such, my passage up through the Columbian Icefield in the Canadian Rockies provided me the perfect opportunity to set foot on a glacier and whilst realising it's not much more than a really big ice cube, it was still quite a cool experience that if you get chance I'd give it a go.

Completed on the 17th July 2012, you can see the full journal entry here (Entry 110: Andrea)