I’m on a train en-route to Gatwick airport where I will be getting on a plane to fly to Morocco. ON MY OWN!
I’m nearly 40 and this will be the first time I have left the UK alone. I have always been lucky enough to have someone to share the holidays, trips and adventures with. Without ever really giving it a great deal of thought, I have always assumed that it was better that way. I don’t think I’m likely to change my mind on this but it feels like time to challenge my assumption. Could traveling alone offer some hidden gems that just aren’t there when sharing the experience?
We are social creatures and in my opinion, there is nothing more important in life than the connections we create between each other. It is through these connections that we feel supported enough to take risks and make mistakes, challenged enough to make ourselves as good as we can be, loved enough to care for others and valued enough to make a difference. I’m not the most social of creatures but I really believe in community. Our society pushes us to find a mate, to be part of a group, to create a family, join a gang. We are stronger together right? Yes, yes and yes. We are stronger, wiser and more resilient as a group. This is how the human race has evolved and how it will continue to survive. BUT! Is there a possibility that for some people, the need to be with other people has become unhealthy? Have some of us become too reliant on other people in our community? Do some people chose not to do things because they don’t have anyone to do them with? This is what I want to write about today.
I would describe myself as an independent man able to take care of most challenges in my life alone if I need to. One of my favourite things about my wife is that she is the same. Its why we work. We don’t need each other, we want to be with each other; sometimes, at least! For a community to work for all parties and to be at its best, everybody needs to be strong and independent within it. Imagine your community, whether its your family, a group of friends or your neighbours in your street or village as a huge stone lintel holding up the front of an ancient greek temple. The people in the community are the pillars that hold the lintel up. If they are all independent and strong, the lintel is stable. If the pillars are too close together the lintel becomes unstable and vulnerable to falling. If some of the pillars cant be as strong as others, that’s ok but it will mean more weight for the stronger ones. I picture my family community in this way. My wife and I were the two strong pillars when the children were young and as they have aged and become stronger and as we get weaker, they will take the strain and keep the family strong. Anyway, my point is…. we are better as a community but we need to be as strong and independent as possible within that community to make it work.
So, my wife and I are pretty good at being independently strong within our relationship. It has a healthy balance of support, togetherness and independence. Despite this being the case, it has not always been easy to find this healthy balance. As a parent and a husband, I find myself needing to juggle and balance a lot of things. There are always other people who have greater needs than mine. This is the way of it though, especially with parenting. You are there to give to those who need it more than you. The trouble is that along the way you can be pulled all over the place and start to loose part of yourself in the process. I guess this is the reason for date night, golfing trips, girls nights out etc. Some time to invest in yourself so that you can remain strong and independent and continue to support your community. Well this is where I fell short. I have sometimes struggled to take time for myself and pursue some of my own, personal dreams, goals and adventures. For me, a big one has always been to travel. I am never happier than when I am able to travel and explore. I have everything I need with me and I am free. Push bike with panniers on a long cycle, walking with a ruck sack on my back or driving around in a campervan with no plan where to go. This sense of independent adventure makes me feel amazing. I remember wanting to convert a double decker bus into a home and just drive about exploring. I must have only been 10!
When you fall in love and have a family and have to consider other important dreams and goals in life that aren’t necessarily conducive to living in a converted double decker bus there is a need for compromise. Some of those personal dreams have to put on the shelf. I think that’s ok. If I hadn’t of put them on a shelf I’m not sure I would have been the good husband and father that I have been. In fact, I’m not sure my wife would have been too keen on me becoming a husband and a father if I lived in a bus. Things are changing in our community though and have been for a few years now. Some of the children have left home and are becoming strong and independent and creating their own communities. I no longer have a job where I am responsible for lots of people. My team are now also strong and independent without me. There is starting to be space for me to think about getting a few of these things off the shelf! Great new! I have planned a few adventures so far, starting with a few cycle and walking trips with my son, a trip to Asia with some of the family and then this opportunity to go to Marrakesh, on my own. There were people I could have invited who would have been great company and would have certainly taken some of the anxieties and responsibilities of traveling alone from my shoulders. The trouble with that is that you share everything including where we eat, what we do, what time we get up. For me, it was time to do something that was just mine. I think part of my motivation was to prove to myself that I still could. Those dreams of double decker buses were just mine. I have chosen other dreams along the way with other people and I cant expect them to also want to live in a double decker bus. In fact, I think that particular dream might need to be thrown away, she will never agree to it. But the ruck sack on the back adventure is still available to me and so I’m taking it.
Most aspects of life are better shared in my opinion. How lucky I am to have a diverse group of friends and family that make up my community. But, I am an individual within this community with individual dreams and goals. If I want to invest in my community I need to invest in myself too.