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“I’ve never been content to pass a stone without looking under it. And it is a black disappointment to me that I can never see the far side of the moon.” – John Steinbeck

Go somewhere new, try something different and life fizzes with questions. What will happen? How will my life change? How will I change my life?

No imagination has ever conjured up anything so unique, vivid and complex as any view on this planet. I am fascinated by what lies around the next corner. Like the lucky dip at a fairground, I was eager to delve into India, a country I had not been to, and rummage around in the sawdust with no idea what prizes I would pull out.

The Explorer, by Rudyard Kipling, tells of the lure of the unknown. The mountain ranges called to the explorer until he was drawn to find out what lay beyond them, even when people told him not to bother, that it was not possible. Curiosity took him “along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snowslide shivers” and through “the big fat marshes.” The hero, paradoxically, is content not to be a hero. He lets others take the plaudits and the spoils from his accomplishments. What then was his reward, if we assume rewards to be necessary? Primarily, it was a satiation of his curiosity. It never made him rich but the explorer ends his journey with a sense of satisfaction.

I am also drawn by the randomness and unpredictability of horizon chasing. I like having to respond to new situations. Out here I do not just have the opportunity for spontaneity; I am compelled into living spontaneously. I often fear this in anticipation, but love it in hindsight.

I know that these are the fun times, the mad times, the exciting times. Living by my wits. Trusting them to keep me alive. Standing on a hilltop and singing at the sky with no idea where I will sleep tonight but with enough chutzpah to be confident that it will all work out and enough positivity and humour to accept that the worst thing likely to happen is a long uncomfortable night. Morning will come. The sun will rise. And I will sleep extra well tomorrow because of tonight’s travails.

There is enough in this world for many lifetimes. But if the flavour of the ocean is contained in a droplet why can I not just be satisfied with all that is around me right now? Why am I constantly probing for something else? Is this the trait of an optimist or a pessimist? Am I always hoping for even better round the next corner? Am I just dissatisfied with the present, with my ‘now’? Or am I somewhere in between? In purgatory, searing away the bad, the weak and the superfluous in the hope that I’ll find a solution at last. The road rolls on and on. On towards the next horizon. It’s the most enticing page-turner I’ve ever known. And all I have to do is walk on to try to find out if the far-off jasmine flower really does smell sweeter.

This is an extract from my book There Are Other Rivers. I’ll post the next chapter here at the same time tomorrow evening. 

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