Get busy living
Updated: Jul 7, 2018
Barcelona I love you, but you're bringing me down.
So I’m 46 years old and unemployed (again). After a decade studying the behaviour of worker bees in their natural habitat - smile here, nod there (but don’t nod off in a meeting), look like you care, pray nobody can tell the difference - my attempts at assimilation have been rewarded with redundancy. Weep not for me though; it's all good. From peering around my PC to squint at life through a narrow slit, the windows of opportunity have been thrown open wide and the fresh air of freedom is flowing in.
Take a deep breath
Last time I got culled from the corporate world, back in 2001, I ended up traversing the Pyrenees and coming down to earth in Barcelona, where I’ve been ever since. I think I've done a pretty good job of holding down the all the trappings of a settled life (career, relationship, mortgage). Or of bashing a square peg into a round hole, depends which way you look at it. Now, though, anything and everything is suddenly possible again and I’m going to make the most of it before reality starts nipping at my heels.
I want to break free
First on the agenda, escape the roiling boil of Barcelona in summer. Flee the sea of singed flesh lapping at the base of the Sagrada Familia; the tourists oozing in a crimson tide down the Ramblas. I need a break from the city where the world takes a break. As temperatures and tempers rise, I've got to get away from the whine of the power saw and the neighbour’s mother-in-law. Pack my bags before I decapitate the next phone zombie to shuffle across my path. Take the golden key of redundancy and use it to peel back the lid on my sardine tin of a flat.
But where to go, what to do with this precious gift of time? I want to hit the road, but that road needs to take me somewhere meaningful. I’ve done the backpacker thing; the lazy daze on the beach, the drunken nights on the Khao San Road. That won't cut it this time (nor could my middle-aged liver handle it). At this time in my life, I want something different: a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a challenge. To be part of something important, to learn something new, to stretch myself before I seize up forever. God help me (those of a cynical disposition look away now) I want to give something back.
Call it a midlife crisis if you want, but it’s this or the Harley and I can’t ride a motorbike.
Well, seeing as I love animals, care about conservation and am looking for a challenge, I’ve decided to take myself off to South Africa to volunteer. I'll be working on wildlife and marine conservation projects for two months, which I'm pretty excited about. First though, I’m walking part of the Camino de Santiago in June to raise the money.
Can I hack it (yes, you can)
I’ll admit I’m pretty nervous about both SA and the Camino. After a decade as a desk jockey, maybe I’m out of practice at privation. Like Punxsutawney Phil, my inner wanderer emerges from hibernation blinking into the light, bleary-eyed and out of shape. Comfy living has made me softer than the sofa I’m fast becoming one with. I need to get off it soon, before Jerry Springer has to come and cut us both out of the house. The last time I set foot outside my comfort Eurozone I was a bright-eyed thirty-something. Now I’m bushy-eyebrowed and pushing 50.
How will I cope with the weary miles, the blisters in the blistering sun, the snores and bores of the hostels? How will I react when I come face to face with ferocious beasts, including that most fearsome creature of all: the gap-year backpacker?
Watch this space, great things will happen in it (I hope).