Here be a travel blog post, about not travelling…
Inevitably, the adventures come to an end and your faithful travel companion, the one who has been there for every visa run, night bus, hostel check-out and frustrating conversation in a foreign language, is shoved into the back of a cupboard and left to rot (I’m talking about your rucksack, not your partner, you monsters).
What next? Once you’ve caught up with your friends and family and have realised nothing really changes, what do you do? Can things change?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go travelling when I was made redundant from the company I’d been at for ten years, and wanted an adventure. Six months of backpacking around beautiful South America ensued and an adventure was duly had. My blog about nonsense evolved into a travel blog about nonsense and I enjoyed writing about the things we did as much as actually doing the things themselves.
In the back of my mind throughout the trip was a constant nagging thought: what will I do when we get home? I was sat atop a horse in the Atacama desert one day when a thought hit me: ‘I’ll be a piano teacher!’
This thought was quickly superseded, as my horse galloped off, by ‘Christ!’
The piano teaching idea fell flat but nevertheless struck a chord within me, and so began a more improvisational thought process which helped me realise that sometimes the key is…I’m sorry, this is terrible.
After reading the atrocious musical pun-ridden paragraph above, you may be surprised to learn I concluded what I’d really like to do is to write for a living. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to be the next JK Rowling or write this summer’s ’50 Shades of Grey’, but there are copywriting jobs out there that involve writing creatively for businesses, without any predisposition for wizards or anal beads, and I think I could do them.
It’s a cliché but it is true; travel does broaden the mind, and those weeks or months that you spend away from normal life can open you up to different, more exciting possibilities. I realise that lying on a beach in Colombia, sipping a limonada de coco and dreaming about being a writer or Miley Cyrus’ bogey picker might be considered naive – I can almost hear my dad sighing ‘get a proper job!’… but if what you were doing before didn’t inspire you, why can’t you break out of it, and try something that might?
I’ve made the decision to go back to square one from a career perspective, to apply for the most junior positions in the copywriting industry, with a corresponding step back in salary. But I don’t mind. Finally, at 35, I’ve worked out what I want to do when I grow up.
While it’s been tough so far (I’ve applied for twenty jobs and had just three responses: thanks but no thanks) my first writing challenge is to convince a hiring employer to give me a chance.
I’ve read lots of books about writing and the advice always boils down to the same thing: just write. Write every day, even if it’s clearly rubbish. You’ll get better. If you don’t get much better, but you still enjoy it, then that’s valuable too. The comedian Richard Herring writes a blog every single day, and he doesn’t care if anyone reads it. He writes to improve his craft, to spark an idea that he can use for a newspaper article or in a stand-up routine; anything.
His view is that in any given day of your life, you’ll experience something which you should be able to capture in writing in an engaging way. Even if nothing happens, write about nothing happening. Write for websites, online publications, for free. The point is, you can only improve if you do it often. I spent years cringing about anything I ever wrote. I’ll probably look back at this next week and cringe, but it doesn’t matter.
I enjoy the process of writing, creating something from nothing, even if it’s only of value to me. If I can persuade an employer that I can write copy that will be of value to someone else too, then perhaps I can get a job doing it. And then I can finally start working on my smash hit trilogy in the new genre I just thought of: wizard porn.
So when the reality of reality hits and you’re back home with your girlfriend and/or rucksack shoved in a cupboard, try not to forget the moment when inspiration struck, and hang on to that thought. Someone has to pick Miley Cyrus’ nose, and you might just be the best person for the job.
N.B. Please look out for part two of this blog in approximately three months: ‘How to grovel your way back into the industry you used to work in and explain a nine month gap on your CV once you realise your dreams were nothing more than the childish aspirations of an enthusiastic drunk’.
Redundancy from the rat-race inspired Matt to create Mattman and Bloggin’, a space for him to record his witterings and profoundly wise thoughts, but primarily so a family member will be able to get a quote from it to read out at his funeral. A South American jaunt followed and the blog finally had a purpose: to chronicle the adventure. Now he is home, jobless and the blog has become a kind of therapy. Follow him and see what happens next.