The End Of The Road Is Coming

It’s coming. The end of the road. One more border, one more ferry crossing. And it will be finished.

Forest riding

I’m incredibly excited on one hand; terrified on the other. What will it mean? What happens next? Is it really the end of anything?

Easy to philosophise away, this kind of thing. Another young Westerner returns to the society he left so selfishly to find something better, discovers that nothing much has changed. This will just be another stop on life’s journey, right?

But no! It won’t be the same. The road is simple. You have two choices: go, or stop. Embrace the forces acting on you, or fight against them. The location is incidental, as is the weather, the language, the altitude, the time of day and the season. The world may not have changed, but the young Westerner has, even if he doesn’t quite know how.

French breakfast

Knowing that this luxurious spate of simplicity is almost behind me, I also know that life has the potential to immediately become infinitely more complicated. When I first drafted this post, I dwelled on what worried me. I wrote about the people I’d met who couldn’t come to terms with the homecoming, even years later; how the footloose traveller still sprang animatedly forth in their words, but was utterly absent in their present-day lifestyle.

I wrote about how I wasn’t even a hundred percent sure that this was the time to be pondering a stable, mono-locational future, because it’s rather unclear whether the days of long-term travel are truly over. That depends on someone other than myself, and is another story. But the truth is that I’m really champing at the bit at the prospect of spending the next few months getting my teeth into something new, and being in one place. I’m thinking of it in positive terms, and hoping I can channel the inevitable frustrations into impetus to press forth in life with vigour.

Hedgehog

It boils down to this: My greatest fulfilment has come from negotiating unusual and challenging situations in the great outdoors, coupled with the threefold communication disciplines of writing, photography and video. These may not be the things I’m best at, or the things I studied or earned qualifications in. But if I don’t at least give it a try – to eke out a living from this wonderful marriage of creativity and adventure – I know I’ll regret it.

Looking back through the pages of my diary, from recent weeks and further back in Mongolia, I’ve written reams on what’s important to me, and the ambitions that have risen to the surface over the years. Not just the big things for the future, but the small day-to-day pleasures that can so easily become drowned out.

Because I don’t want to forget that I once dreamt of going riding in the English countryside, unladen and unbranded, with a warm house to return to at the end. I don’t want to forget that I was hopping about in anticipation of digging through my old record boxes and spending some quality time with a good sound system and a pile of vinyl twelve-inches. The idea of donning trainers and running through the woods and fields in the cold rain brings a huge smile to my face right now, as I ride along France’s tiny rural lanes through the golden leaves of autumn. In my perfect, contented fantasy future I’ll drag out my gi each Sunday morning and cycle through the lanes to the dojo for two hours of meditative, invigorating training. And it will be so, so romantic to have the time and space to sit down and study a couple of languages in the evenings, then pick a book from the shelf and appreciate the fundamental pleasures of food, warmth, shelter, and company, knowing how it is to be homeless, broke, lost, frozen and alone, all at the same time.

All this, of course, while germinating the seeds of new expeditions, to be undertaken partly for the sheer hell of it, and partly to remind me of how I felt when I wrote these words.

The journey recounted in this archived post is now the subject of the award-winning documentary film Janapar: Love, on a Bike.

Click here to watch the trailer in a new tab →

7 Responses to “The End Of The Road Is Coming”

  1. Alastair Humphreys

    Two more blog posts very much on this theme:


    http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/the-docking-of-the-banana-boat

    Hope you have more success at finding domestic bliss and idyll than me!

    A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for…

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • Tom

      Hi Al, thanks for these links. These are great pieces. Quite an essay you wrote there – was that just as you got home? There’s definitely a massive such rant brewing but I think it needs tempering before it’s fit for the public…

      Reply
  2. andy

    thats a nice photo of tenny

    Reply
  3. Fearghal

    Brace Yourself!

    After 4 months I’m still trying to get to grips with a stationary world(pens paper envelopes, all very difficult to deal with ; )

    If I could give one piece of advice, find something structured to occupy and excite you, as soon as you get back. An unquiet mind doesn’t take readily to a sudden jolting halt, well mine didn’t at least.

    And you’re right, the world will have changed little, but the world definitely changes you.

    Don’t forget… ride on the left, ride on the left, ride on the left!

    Reply
    • Tom

      Hi Ferg

      Thanks for this comment. I heed your advice and have started laying plans appropriately…

      Looking forward to a pint or two someday soon!

      Reply
  4. Adrineh

    I love this: “appreciate the fundamental pleasures of food, warmth, shelter, and com­pany, knowing how it is to be homeless, broke, lost, frozen and alone, all at the same time.” But it gives me the sense that you didn’t really have a chance to “appreciate food, warmth, shelter and company” while living in Yerevan. Am I right? Living in the English countryside is quite different than living in Yerevan, I imagine!
    These days I’ve been longing for a break from this city myself 😉 but instead I am enjoying the trip vicariously through you and Tenny (tell her I said hi!) — did I mention that Yerevan misses you? 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply