A New World: Part 1

In the first of a two-part entry, Ben reveals his motivations for starting his journey on such familiar western ground

One of the most common questions I have found myself being asked this past year is what it was that made me start this adventure from up in Canada?

You see, where the vast majority of westerners seem to undertake their travels from either South East Asia or the Southern Pacific, few it seem choose to stay on familiar, western, ground.

As such, when in the past I have revealed that I began my journey from Toronto, most looked just a little surprised...

“Rest assured” I tell them, “there’s good reason behind such apparent madness...”

You see, having never before travelled I acknowledged quite early on that by signing up to a trip spanning years rather than months, I would need to burn the majority of my bridges at home should I truly want to achieve the freedom I so desired.

In what then became a fairly destructive spree, at the beginning of 2012 I over the course of three months fully-untethered myself from the life I had always known. With my job, my apartment and most of possessions going for good, it was quite liberating to be weighed down only by what I could carry on my back. That said, it was also just a little terrifying.
It was quite liberating to be weighed down only by what I could carry on my back
Because as liberating as this process was, I was in many senses gambling my life on the hope that travelling would be as romantic as I think everybody pictures it.

But what if it wasn't? What if I got somewhere and, regardless of what happened, felt like I couldn't do it? I’d be forced in to returning home to nothing. But that said, this wasn't my biggest fear. No, it wouldn't be the inconvenience of returning to nothing, it would be the overwhelming sense of shame and failure that I knew that both I and others would see me return with - the thought literally sent shivers down my spine.
The thought literally sent shivers down my spine
As such, I felt that by starting off in lands far different from my own, I was increasing the risk that my biggest fear could in fact come true. Logically then, I decided to be a little cautious and instead opted to begin somewhere that felt all in all a far safer, more familiar option. Yes, it was unlikely to provide the same level of initial excitement, but this was in my eyes an investment for my long term future.

Everywhere I have gone so far there has been the peace of
mind of familiarity (with perhaps the exception of Montreal
and Quebec)
Seven months in then and looking back, this was, if I do say so myself, a bloody good move.

For you see, having left a life steeped in both structure and routine, the transition to a life lived from a rucksack is one not to be underestimated.

In addition, I hadn't given much consideration before leaving at just how tiring it would be of finding myself so often in new places and accompanied by new people. Perhaps not always so physically tiring, but mentally for sure. As such, by providing myself this relatively easy start I have been able to gradually ease my way in to this new way of life without having the added stress or worry of either foreign languages or culture shock.

Finally, and perhaps less obviously, there is one additional reason as to why I chose to start up in Canada. For while many questioned why I would start in a place so similar to home, I relished in having what I guess is a fairly unique point of view. You see, while for sure there are distinct similarities, there are too many subtle differences; differences that I felt I would not appreciate if I had beforehand already visited countries far different from that of my own.

After 7 months, this backpack feels as much a part of me as the clothes on my back or shoes on my feet
As such then, when I arrived in to Canada, I did so with the freshest of eyes - eyes so fresh in fact that I found myself very sensitive to the most minute of differences that I am sure I would have been otherwise oblivious to if I had gone elsewhere first.

So yes, it wasn't as perhaps exhilarating as starting off in some far-eastern corner of the World, but this Western start has provided me with many things the East could not. Namely comfort, safety and familiarity, I have by starting out here provided myself a safe environment from which to ease my way into this new way of life.

Alas though, it was never my intention to play it safe forever and rather I have always seen this first stage as the "warm-up" for things to come. So as the Sun sets on my last night here in the States, with the fading light goes nearly everything I have forever been accustom. For when the Sun rises tomorrow, it will bring in a new era based on the unknown and with little to no idea of what to expect, the opportunities seem as endless as they are terrifying.

With the fading Sun goes everything I have forever been accustom