The Loss of Wonder

When I was little, on a winter’s morning in Staffordshire, England, walking with my Gran across Cannock chase, the mist rising, dew clinging to the grass at our feet, I turned to her and said ‘Look Granny,’ as we reached a clearing, staring out through the fog, the sparkling trees, ‘it’s just like Narnia!

This story begins with wonder. With imagination. With the wide-eyed outlook of childhood. Sadly, since that day upon the moors, the wonder has been lost. We are born into a complex and random universe. Small, but fearless creatures. Ready to absorb the history, nature and cultures of our world. Unafraid of the adventures that lie ahead. By the time we reach adulthood, for many of us, our focus has fallen on the small things: the specific politics and bickerings of daily life. Important questions – what it means to exist, to be happy, to explore our world – fade and we live out our lives in the same job, the same villages and comforting structures, never dreaming, no longer wondering.

But the memories that stay with us from childhood are memories of wonder. I remember reading stories about strange worlds. I remember exploring the forests beyond the homes and farms that my family lived amongst. I remember, once, thinking that the Narnia I’d spoke of was a real place… though sadly, I remember too, the moment I realised it wasn’t. Twenty more years of similar realisations later and I found myself in a job I struggled to enjoy, dependent on the little money it generated, in debt, without happiness even on a basic, social level. Trapped by contracts and deadlines in the grey city of London.

This is the story of one man’s attempt to travel the globe by bicycle. A quest to realign with the world and with that lost sense of wonder. But, until this adventure, I’d just been part of the conveyor belt of life. Education. Job. House. Marriage. Children. This was the standard life and those were the stages we were meant to go through. I’d tried to follow that river. Working in bars, restaurants, call centres to reach graduation. Moving to the big city, clinging to the fragile idea that I was moving upwards through the competitive film industry, to a position where I could retell the stories I’d dreamt up as a child .

But, about a year before this adventure, I found myself living in a flat that I couldn’t afford to hide from a city I couldn’t connect with. All my money went on this. I never went out. I worked from dawn till dark and the film world was centred on money, power and management. Creative inspiration seemed hard to find and hard to hold on to. The more I worked in that city the more it tested my morals. I was as the bottom of a ladder I no longer wanted to climb. Often, I found myself sitting in the office or walking the streets of London, in a daze, drifting and sinking, in a dark, depressed place. Over time, the past four years began to feel like one big, grey working day. I kept looking back and thinking ‘When was I happy? When did I stop trying?’ In these moments, sitting alone, finishing up in the office, winter outside, the sun fading, I’d get random flashes. Sudden bursts of emotion and memories from travels gone by. There was a world of wonder out there, a world I had turned away from.

A month later I was India with backpack, lumping all my years holiday together in one last attempt to find inspiration. Six weeks flew by, wandering with monks among the foothills of the himalayas, listening to the babas in the forests of Goa, driving motorbikes up and down the glistening coastlines. A realisation washed over me; I didn’t want to go back, I’d have enough. Why should travel and adventure something you do only when your young? In India my photography flourished again, I began to write, to meet people, to explore. That magical country got under my skin, warmed my blood, rattled my mind.

 

I found joys once more. Began to read again. Old books from my childhood. New books full of philosophy and optimism. I began to think not only about myself but of other people and some of the travellers I met in India were some of the most fierce, most intense I’d ever met, myself colliding with them, moving at an angle through life, trying to regain it and they too in a transitional place, a good place, paths crossing. Conversations took place on the beaches of Goa, by firelight, by moonlight, that began to stir my soul, my mind again. Something was happening. Ideas were being born.

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