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November 16, 2007

Back into Society

Its over a month ago that I re-crossed the Meridian Line at Greenwich along with Moksha and the other members and close supporters of Expedition 360. Having been riding towards this exact moment in time - 12pm on October 6th 2007 - for so many months coming up through Africa, the Middle East and Europe, it was predictably a very emotional moment. For so many years I'd been pushing myself on with the adage that it is the journey, not the destination, that is important. But I cannot deny that at the end of it all the destination was just as important too. After all, how can one have a journey without there being a destination? It would be impossible to have one without the other.

The first three weeks following the circumnavigation completion were a blur: back to back interviews by media to the point of losing my voice and nearly my mind. In amongst this frenzied activity I was trying to spend time with as many of the expedition family as possible, many of whom had traveled a great distance and gone to considerable expense to be there at the finish. The completion party at the Trafalgar Rowing Club was quite small and modest considering the scale of effort by so many over so many years. There were only a hundred there to celebrate. But I knew that never again in my lifetime would I get to share the same room with such an incredible bunch of absolutely top rate human beings. For me it was definitely the high point of the entire expedition.

Since then the media interest has thankfully waned, replaced by meetings with publishers, broadcasters and others interested in exploiting the story. I've always joked that at the end of X360 I'd be as broke as when I started, with little to show for it except a bunch of good stories, and that's pretty much the way it's turned out. But what's interesting is that there does seem to be value in these stories that I didn't fully appreciate until just recently. So if I play my cards right I might not have to go back to cleaning windows after all!

One of the most common questions I've been asked is how I will adapt back to a life without the expedition. Well, the truth is that aside from the physical traveling, not much else has changed. I'm still talking about it, writing about it, thinking about it 24/7. The monster still needs feeding and its appetite is growing if anything, rather than subsiding. So unless I do want to go back to cleaning windows it seems like I'll be living with the expedition for a while yet to come.

Adapting back to living in London has been a struggle though. The culture shock of transitioning from a largely freeform existence traveling through largely freeform countries and environments, where few rules exist that can't be circumvented either by greasing palms or shouting a lot, has been quite severe. In short I am not enjoying being back in the UK. Everyone complains about the cost of living, stealth taxes, CCTV cameras, loss of personal rights and an insidious bureaucracy gradually creeping into every aspect of their lives. Having been away for 13-years I can see it clearer than anyone. It's actually terrifying, and part of me wants to run screaming in the opposite direction as far as my world weary legs will carry me. And then there's the media. Oh Boy! How much more narcissistic, utterly base, pointless, navel gazing drivel can they cram on the box before people become completely disconnected from ANYTHING that is actually worth filling their heads with? So many lies, distortions, sensationalism, half-truths, non-truths, all for the sake of attracting more eyeballs and better serving the interests of greedy advertisers just so they can put more crap on the shelves that people don't actually need. So many hours of the average person's day already appears to be dedicated to earning money just to pay bills. As part of this new found awareness that people have of climate change and carbon footprints you'd think we'd be looking at ways of buying less stuff, rather than more, so we can spend less time working and more time at home with our children or doing exercise to keep healthy, or just sitting in a corner reading a book. Clearly a change in mainstream society's value system is desperately needed. But how to engineer this when materialism and obsession with money is so ingrained in everyone's thinking from early childhood on?

Admittedly I am the world's biggest hippocratic as far as time management goes considering how much a slave I still am to this project (that is supposedly now 'finished'). The challenge I see for myself from now on is to try and harness the legacy of the last 13-years into something that is interesting and useful for people to read or watch a program about. Recounting a straight adventure story doesn't interest me. Participating in a much needed public debate on how human behaviour might be adapted over the next 50 years to better serve the interests of a sustainable planet with people helping each other rather than exploiting and killing each other (as is our historic precedent) does. And if there's any conclusion that I can draw after traveling the world these past 13-years it is that education is where its at. That's the direction I need to channel my efforts from now on.


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Posted on November 16, 2007 2:57 AM