Seize The Opportunity
I didn’t think I would be breaking our self-imposed ‘no flying’ rule so soon. Only 6 and a half months into our Thailand to South Africa overland journey and I am already about to set foot on one of those large flying contraptions that I so desperately wanted to avoid. But there is a good reason for this. It would be a shame to not seize the opportunity when a good one comes along.
Life is what happens to us when we are busy making other plans – Allen Saunders
Today I am sitting in Cambodia, relaxing outside a characterful restaurant called ‘Happy Special Pizza’. Across from my outdoor dining table is a quiet road running alongside the river that bares the same name of the town I am in – Kampot. The Vietnam border is only an hour’s ride away. I am sipping on a fresh mango smoothie. It has been made with just the right amount of condensed milk to mask the slightly bitter taste of the out-of-season flesh of my favourite fruit. Cirrus clouds drift by on this unusually humid day. Dedicated Buddhists are bringing out offerings of rice, money and canned soda drinks to the monks who walk the streets collecting alms. They give their blessings to all who seek it. Life is simple here, just the way I like it.
Tomorrow I board a flight to Germany. I have never been to Europe before and besides the images I have seen on the internet and the stories from fellow backpackers, I have no idea what to expect there. I did not think I would get a chance to visit Europe so soon due to the high costs of backpacking in the region. The money spent in 3 months in Europe could potentially last us a year or more in Asia. So when I received an email back in June regarding a short story I had written, our current adventure had been thrown a huge curveball. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the three finalists in the World Nomads travel writing scholarship and as a result am being sent to Europe to conduct a two day writing course with a Lonely Planet author and then hit the road for 10 days to document my travels.
To say this had come as a big surprise would be dramatically undermining the actual emotions felt when I heard the news. An opportunity of this magnitude doesn’t come around often. I definitely did not think it would be something that I would qualify for. I had never considered myself a ‘travel writer’. I just simply travel and write about it. Same as I do not consider myself a motorcyclist just because I ride a cheap, unreliable motorbike.
Nevertheless the opportunity was offered to me and I intend to make the most of it. My love of travel grows more and more everyday and the passion I hold for writing continues to burn deeper with every new article I have published. I have never wanted a ‘career’ but at the age of 27, backpacking around Southeast Asia, I stumbled upon something that excites me almost as much travel itself. The notion that travel and writing go hand-in-hand is more appealing than the deserted beaches and remote mountains I find myself writing about.
It took a while to discover this though. I left home at 20 and am still travelling, 7 years later. I was a single guy when I left and now I have the beautiful Alesha by my side. I can’t even say my dreams are coming true because our lives have progressed faster and better than we ever could have dreamed. As Allen Saunders wisely noted (and John Lennon re-worked into the song ‘Beautiful Boy’), “Life is what happens to us when we are busy making other plans”. We have decided to ditch any plans, and now our life is evolving in a beautiful way.
I will step onto the flight tomorrow from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Berlin, Germany. Even though my entire European trip is planned and paid for I still am unsure about what the outcomes of this kind of adventure are going to be. The best I can do is to embrace every moment and focus on life’s ever-changing opportunities. In three weeks time I will be reunited with Alesha back in Southeast Asia. The journey doesn’t end on that flight back. Far from it. Instead it will continue with a new added element that we could never have anticipated.
Perhaps at the end of my writing scholarship, I will honestly be able to consider myself a travel writer. A new unexpected career flourishing from an improvised adventure. Maybe this was part of a plan we had unknowingly made, or maybe this is what happens when you just let life take its course. Either way I am not going to let this opportunity escape me.
But for now I sit here looking out at the Kampot River, wondering what the poorly concealed innuendo of a restaurant named ‘Happy Special Pizza’ really means. Europe and its exciting opportunities are still a world away and I still have this mango smoothie to enjoy. I don’t want to think too much about tomorrow as that would result in me making subconscious plans. Instead I am focusing on this fruit shake. The waiter is walking over. Perhaps I will seize the opportunity to order another one. It is delicious.