On Road Therapy

Article adapted from Travel Marmot for Gloucestershire Echo

FOUR years ago today, the curtain fell on my first major bout of travelling, six months heading from London to New York without flying and road tripping around the USA was over.

The intention, as the plane carried me back across the Atlantic to what had previously been reality, was clear – don’t settle too comfortably into life at home.

This travelling bug was not one to be tackled with staying at home therapy and should be treated with prolonged bouts of hitting the road.

It has taken four years, various changes of plans, one cancelled trip through Asia to Australia, a spell spent working in travel and a return to journalism, but that next big journey is now less than three months away.

Having crossed Europe, North America, chunks of Asia and the Pacific Ocean, it’s time for a new continent – Africa.

And it’s no flying visit. From November until August next year, Africa will be home in by far the most challenging, exciting and, to be honest, nerve-wracking journey of my life.

To be more accurate, home for the 10 months will be a huge yellow truck which will carry me and up to 25 other people around the huge continent from north to south, west to east and all the way back up again.

At least that’s the plan, with some extraordinary sights, experiences and optional activities along the way – already booked up for a trek so see mountain gorillas in Rwanda – but you need to be flexible on journeys like this, so what exactly lies ahead will be revealed over the course of 38 weeks.

It will be tough at times, there’s no getting away from that. Some long days on the truck in far from ideal conditions, the prospect of having to dig the truck out of sand or mud and 10 months living under canvas.

So being unfit, overweight, with a bad back, having waved farewell to 40 in the rear view mirror a few years ago and having not properly camped in decades, there is a simple question. Why?

There’s endless reasons not to – money, work, mortgage and, to be honest, common sense – but they are all outweighed by the simple fact it seems the right thing to do. And I want to do it.

Besides, who knows what lies just around the corner?

My father did his National Service as a medic in Singapore and Malaysia. He always said he would return there with my mum when they both retired. But they never got the chance before outside influences intervened and, having lost both of them far too early, that has stuck with me ever since.

So, the decision is made, notice has been handed in at work, my obligatory to-do lists have been drawn and redrawn and the first bits of kit have been bought.

And probably about day two in Morocco, I’ll realise those preparations have been woefully inadequate.

But, hey, that’s half the challenge.

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