The title of this blog post comes from a poster I saw on the London Underground once. I don't know what it was advertising but I remember the slogan very clearly. It made things sound so simple. I wasn't feeling like things were going so well at that time, so the idea of being able to change my life just like *that* stuck with me.
I like my life, as it turns out. I have a fiance and a cat. The cat and I are very well fed thanks to the cooking skills of the fiance. We have a roof over our heads (for now - oh the uncertainty of the renters market...) and we have health and friends and things to do. Money is coming in. We spend it on the things we need and I buy quite a lot of gin. And we carry on in this manner and it is not unpleasant. But that doesn't stop me thinking sometimes about breaking out of routine and convention and this comfort zone I'm in.
In September, on the shore of Loch Ness, I came across a man living in a converted mobile library, right on the beach, next to a pub. He had left his home and job behind many years ago to move from the south of England to the Highlands and pursue his dreams of becoming a Loch Ness Monster spotter. He calls himself the Nessie Hunter and he watches the waters every day for signs of the unusual. In his spare time, he makes Nessie models using clay and smooth stones that he finds on the beach. He sells them, and one now sits on my windowsill, to remind me of this brave abandoning of a comfortable existence in favour of the unknown, and the pursuit of happiness.
At the time, standing on that beach, I thought 'how wonderful, I'd love to do something like that'. But it doesn't seem possible when you start to think of the logistics of it. The unknown seems terrifying. But at this time of year especially - during this 'lost week' between Christmas and New Year, when nobody knows what day it is and can't move due to abundance of chocolate coins and Paprika flavoured Pringles, I often sit and think 'this is fine but what am I doing that's INTERESTING? Worthy of note? Fun??' and then I feel like crap. And this is the time when I think about my own hare-brained schemes for leaving my conventional life behind. I've come up with many over the years and I daydream about them sometimes, as if they could be turned into reality. I could take Dan with me easily enough. For some of them though, bringing the cat along might be tricky. Here are my favourite three:-
Idea One:- Move to Wales and open a B&B with a gin bar in it
Of the three ideas, this is the most likely to one day become reality. I love Pembrokeshire and all it's hidden beaches and dramatic cliff faces. It's full of quaint little villages set so far away from main roads or trainlines that you have to be pretty dedicated and armed with a hardy set of wheels to reach them. In one of these villages I will one day open a B&B with Dan. We will be unconventional and awesome. I will at last be able to dye my hair blue and show off my tattoos without fear of getting sacked, because I will be my own boss. We will provide bedrooms decorated with rock and roll memorabilia and the breakfast room will be light and airy, maybe with a big window at one end, overlooking the sea, or a nice field of cows. I will bake muffins and my cross stitch cards and photography prints will be on sale in a little display box. In the evenings we will put on good music in the communal lounge and I will obtain a bar licence so I can serve gin from a little vintage bar cart, and people will come from miles around to marvel at my extensive gin collection. Dan will teach at a local school, because he's a teacher and it would be silly and unfair to make him give that up, and my little B&B would become famous for being really cool, and I would have a fantastic Tripadvisor rating. The reason this is the most likely to become real is because people actually DO open B&B's, so it's not that ridiculous. I think I could be a good hostess. And, well, when you read my other two ideas, you'll see why this is the least Mad.
Idea Two:- Take a Year Off to Drive Around the American West, Photographing Abandoned Places
Now, this idea is something I've had in my head for over half a decade, ever since I discovered this Photographer, who photographs abandoned places in the deserts of California at night, playing with light to create eerie effects. How fantastic would it be to sack off work for a bit, up sticks, fly to Los Angeles, buy a beat up camper van I could sleep in the back of, and drive, armed with cameras, wherever I felt like, finding ghost towns, abandoned gas stations and the like and photographing them?
This idea comes with a minefield of problems though. Firstly, a US tourist visa is only valid for 90 days. But even that would be cool. Better even, because I'd only have to find 3 month's worth salary. But - where would that come from? How on EARTH would I fund this lifestyle? And also, what would be the point of it? What would I do with the photos once I'd taken them? Would anyone want to see them? Or would I just be left with a huge portfolio full of snaps of falling-apart sign posts and lens flare?
It would be great though. An isolated existence, sure, but think of the tunes you could play as you drove down the old highways with the sun blazing down on you! Heaven.
Idea Three:- Get My Walking Boots On And Go On A Really Long Hike
This idea has been inspired by all the travel books I've read that have involved ordinary people thinking 'f**k it! I'm turning my back on life and walking 3,000 miles with absolutely NO training!' Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which tells the story of a woman in the 1990's who dealt with the death of her mother and the break up of her marriage by walking the Pacific Crest Trail, having never had any experience of long walks. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, detailing how the travel author tackled the Appalachian Trail, which traverses 14 states of America, and is full of bears. Again, he'd had no training. And Walking Home by Simon Armitage, a story of how the poet walked the Pennine Way from north to south, giving readings in pubs alone the route to pay his way. I'm not saying that none of these books contain tales of hardship and overcoming adversity, but they do somewhat make it sound easy to say 'bollocks' to your every day grind, and run off to the wilderness to devote your life to the pursuit of walking. Imagine it - being so focussed on getting from A to B that nothing else really matters.
I nearly signed up to do the Coast to Coast Walk once, which runs from the west coast of Cumbria to the east coast of East Yorkshire. But it turned out to be this big faff whereby most people just hire a 'sherpa' service to shuttle their luggage between accomodations, and of course, a different hotel every night adds up. It's a very middle class pursuit. I'm sure that tackling one of these huge trails in the USA is also an expensive kerfuffle nowadays - I've read that people spend a fortune on GPS trackers and the like. It's not as simple as throwing on a baseball cap and hitting the road. But oh, wouldn't it be nice if it was?
So in my darker moments, I think about saving up enough money to last me 3 months in the wild, completing one of these trails. I could have a trail name and everything. I have even read about how you dissuade different types of bear from eating you, so I'm all set.
The trouble with most of these ideas is not time, it is not even motivation because I could definitely find that in spades - packing up a job to go on a bit of an adventure is no stranger to me, I did it briefly in 2014. It's money really, isn't it? And the bravery to realise that although you aren't *quite* sure how you would afford to do these things, dammit you're going to find a way. As long as nothing is really tying you down, why NOT get out there and seize the day? When I have a mortgage and/or a baby, it will be harder.
But, as always, it's far easier said that done. Dan and I have put things into motion in the most sensible and practical way we know how - we've set up an Online account with the National Lotto and play every week. It's been a couple of months now and we have not won yet, which seems quite unreasonable really. You would have thought it would be easier than this to score a jackpot. But we'll keep trying. And maybe soon, one of these wild ideas will become reality. Or all of them! Think of what a great blog post they would make!
What are your 'get away from it all' fantasies? Do you think you'll ever make one of them a reality?
All photographs Copyright Christina Owen 2016.