I went to see a talk on Friday by a travel writer called Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent.
The talk was about a 2000 mile motorbike journey she made in 2013, on a pink Honda Cub, down an old Vietnamese war supply network called the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The trail is disappearing rapidly, and cuts through a remote jungle littered with unexploded cluster bombs. On the way she suffered four engine rebuilds, met former American fighter pilots and found abandoned tanks.
To a small degree the stories she told reminded me of a six-month trip I made to South America. Refusing to pay more than the bare minimum for transport meant I repeatedly put myself in sticky travel situations.
In Peru I walked six miles down a path to see a waterfall called La Gocta. Halfway there a pack of growling stray dogs blocked the road. I skirted round them, but I remember thinking: ‘why didn’t I just pay for a damn taxi?’
One of Antonia’s points, which I agree with, was that travelling alone is perhaps one of the best forms of personal development you can do. You have no opportunity to hide behind your travelling companions. Everything you encounter you must face. Everyone you come across, you must speak to. It’s exhausting, but rewarding.
The bottom line is that if you want to make a change to your life you have to make a break from your current routine, and do something for yourself.
Doing something for yourself could mean travelling. It could mean starting a business. Whatever you do it has to be scary and challenging. If well-meaning family members advise against whatever you plan, that’s a good sign.
Most people never really do anything for themselves, drawing meaning instead from being needed. Meaning comes from purpose, not from having the people around you need you.
When the oxygen masks fall on a plan, what is it they tell you to do? Put your own mask on first. Then put masks on the people around you. You’ll be more useful to them that way.