Before we go on an adventure we all have our demons.
So with the countdown clock ticking to D-Day one would naturally expect a certain level of excitement to be building right? After all, I will be hitting the road for ten weeks, right across China from The East over to Xinjiang in The West, back to Beijing and then some; the result of two to three years of methodical planning. Actually the reality is, life is often a sea of doubt created by my subconscious ‘other-half’ where only occasionally do I manage to raise my head above the surface to gasp for air.
I must admit that at times my subconscious does have its uses. If I can’t remember something then hey presto an hour or a day later it’ll just pop into my head at any given time. Aside from that though, it seemingly has no other function other than to project negative actions into my head as often as possible.
My subconscious is a clever entity and applies its negativity in multiple successive attacks whispering “Don’t Do It” in a variety of ways. It has a number of different voices, some of them sound utterly ridiculous but then again it knows what I’m like and how to exploit all of my weaknesses:
- 01: You will miss your creature comforts. This focuses on my bed, pillows, fridge and its contents. Beijing is cushty with a capital ‘C’ and that’s all there is to it really. OMG how are you going to survive without these things? The trip is going to be a living nightmare!
- 02: It’s really inconvenient. God this is such a chore. Building up the inventory and having to rush around everywhere sorting so much stuff out, blaaagh! And then you’re actually going to be driving away from Beijing. What the hell do you want to do that for? Yawn! The first few days are just going to be such a pain in the arse; a tedious tedious chore where you could instead be at home watching a film or keeping up with your social media, sigh!
- 03: You will fail. What’s the point of going if you’re just going to have to come back after a few days having been unable to overcome your first obstacle? As you limp the jeep back into Beijing people will line the streets laughing and throwing rotting vegetables at you. You will then have to reluctantly call the boss and ask if you can come back to work; more humiliation! Oh Lord, it’s so not worth the risk.
- 04: You will suffer a catastrophe. Actually there is some air of truth to this one as the trip will take me through a number of mountain passes. I’ve
already done my fair share of Chinese mountain passes and know full well what lies ahead, admittedly then with a professional at the wheel already familiar with the roads. Chinese mountain roads do not get any more dangerous. Once your over the side then that’s it and that’s all there is too it. The golden rule is, keep away from the edge! If something big is coming in the other direction stop and let them pass, even if it screws up the bodywork of your vehicle. Other worries are the police, especially in Southern Xinjiang, theft, an accident on the highway and some calamity on the Southern Silk Road past the desert.
- 05: You will be lonely. Oh no, you won’t meet anyone the whole time. No one will talk to you. You will start talking to yourself like a madman (well what’s new?). You know you’ll suffer big time culture shock. It’s a different world outside of Beijing. Everyone will stare at you. People will chase you out of their village; the unwelcome foreign tourist who shouldn’t be taking photos.
- 06: You are too old to be doing this sort of thing. It’s irresponsible! Travelling is for young people! You know what it’s like. Bars full of loud tourists all getting drunk all night doing tequila slammers in a line down the bar while you dive for cover and look for a quiet drinking hole where you can self-indulgently contemplate the meaning of life.
“Where were you last night?”
“Oh I just had a quiet one” he says with just a touch of greyness.
In terms of travelling at this age you have no stamina left and your down-legs on mountain hikes left the premises years ago. It takes you longer to heal these days and if you get sick you may not survive, alone in the jeep in the middle of the desert slowly fading away with just your athlete’s foot to keep you conscious (I don’t have AF btw honestly)
07: This whole thing is really unexciting. Look mate, nothing exciting or interesting is going to happen during this sad-arsed trip. I mean look at the map, it’s utterly pointless. Boring boring boring!
08: It’s a waste of money. All this time saving up and now you’re blowing it with no way of recuperation. When you come back you’ll be as skint as usual and will have to start saving up all over again. Blowing all your money on something with no form of financial return is insane beyond belief. Kids blow their money like this you complete idiot.
09: This whole thing is really depressing. The way to happiness is by not travelling anywhere but by sticking to your routine. Also you will be able to go shopping in the Mall and buy some new clothes or a new phone like everyone else then go to a restaurant having received your temporary boost of retail therapy and talk about your purchases.
10: Persistent depressing songs and tunes that plague me. This is not a reason but rather my subconscious cement in the brick wall numbering from 01 to 09. It’s a super-ingenious cunning way for all negative impulses to be brought together in one harmonious and continuous assault on my brain. For three days now I have had ‘Becalmed’ by Brian Eno from the album ‘Another Green World’ going round and round in my head. It’s even edited it so the tune starts from 1.13 minutes when it’s at its most melancholy. I haven’t thought about this track in over thirty years but hey presto, my subconscious has magically managed to select the most depressing tune known to mankind playing it over and over again.
Hey ho. Despite all this I’m pressing on as methodically as anyone possibly can be. The jeep has just had new tyres put on it and my place is rapidly filling up with gear for the trip. I can’t find any waterproof tents but I found a place that sells tomato puree in tubes so that’s a result and a half. Today I bought two 4 gallon petrol cans, an axe and a pair of wellies as you do, (rain boots if you’re from America I guess).
Its gonna be amazing. Bring it on!