Tell me, do any of these thoughts ever spring into your mind when you’re dreaming of trying to do something cool?
- I don’t have enough time.
- I’d like to, but I can’t quite be bothered.
- I’ve never done it before, so I can’t do it.
- I’m a bit scared.
- What will people think about me?
I think these things all the time.
Luckily I’ve built up the habit (over many years) of trying my best to ignore these voices and go make that cool thing happen anyway.
None of us have enough time to do all the things we’d like to do. But we can still do some of the things we’d like to do. And besides, if it was life or death we’d make it happen, wouldn’t we? In other words, “I don’t have the time” often means “I choose not to make the time…”
I’m naturally quite lazy, shy and pessimistic. I do my best to fight that, because I know that when I can be bothered, I am always glad that I made the effort.
Not doing something because I’ve never done it before is dumb. It’s more natural to feel scared about the unknown and the difficult, but those feelings can (with practice, the support of a friend, or peer pressure) be surmounted.
And what will people think of me? Honestly, when will I ever grow out of such a stupid worry?!
Well, all these thoughts were rolling round my head last week as I boarded a flight to Los Angeles. I had a plan. But I wasn’t sure if I was going to go through with it or not.
I was on my way to America to give a talk at a conference. And I had managed to squeeze in a few extra days to go seek out some adventure beforehand. America is one of my favourite countries in the world, it’s incredibly beautiful, and you can literally get sandwiches bigger than your head. I was excited.
I emerged from the airport feeling predictably exhausted and generally bleeargh. I am always nervous when I arrive in new countries until I’ve settled in. All I wanted to do was find a hotel and sleep it all off.
But I didn’t.
I made myself stick to the plan.
I rented a car. I hit the road, armed with just a handful of scribbled directions. I launched myself into the rush hour madness of the 10-lane Los Angeles highways.
This was a really stupid idea.
Thirty minutes later I arrived. To my surprise I had not crashed / got lost / fallen asleep at the wheel.
As soon as I parked the car, heaved my rucksack onto my back, and started walking, I knew.
This was a really brilliant idea.
Los Angeles is one of the most sprawling, concrete landscapes on Earth. And yet it has hills and wilderness as well. I began climbing.
It was late afternoon and the sun was slowly sinking into the Pacific. Skyscrapers glinted in the sunshine. Busy roads stretched away to the horizon in every direction. And I was hiking up a narrow dirt path, through bushes and beautiful flowers, being wary of rattlesnakes as I picked my way higher and higher.
There are certain unmistakable icons of the world that you cannot help but grin when you see. It’s a grin of recognition, and the knowledge that you’ll remember this moment the next time you see the icon on TV. I crested the hill and there it was – the blooming massive HOLLYWOOD sign!
This was going to be a memorable hill to sleep on.
We tend to be quite blasé these days about air travel. But think about it. I woke up this morning in my own bed. I ate breakfast in London. And now I was about to go to bed on a hill above the HOLLYWOOD sign! That’s pretty crazy, really.
I moved a short distance along the ridge away from the sign to a very distinctive lone tree, known as the Wisdom Tree. Below me, on all sides, the lights of LA were beginning to shine.
I rolled out my sleeping bag. I was exhausted. And I was very, very happy.
The night air smelled sweet and tropical; of jasmine and warm, dry, red earth. It was noisy with traffic and helicopters. I was totally alone, surrounded by millions of people. Within moments, I was asleep.
I woke briefly in the middle of the night. I sat up and grinned. The city had fallen almost quiet. The lights below me were beautiful. This was one of the most spectacular bivvy spots of my life.
I woke again at dawn. To my surprise the loudest sound now was birdsong. I pulled on a warm jacket, sat up, and watched the city slowly waking beneath me.
My stomach declared it was breakfast time.
So I scampered down the hill in search of pancakes and a sandwich bigger than my head. It was great to back in America.
As I walked down the trail, back onto the streets and past the fancy Hollywood houses, I was so excited, and thrilled with myself for having made this little microadventure happen.
It’s always worth it, I reminded myself. It’s always worth making the time and the effort.
And to hell with anyone who thinks you’re a bit weird…
[POSTSCRIPT: I then hit the road with my friend Ryan, working on a film which I hope will be pretty sweet. We took in Joshua Tree, the Sequoias, and the Pacific Coast in a hectic road trip before I arrived, un-showered in five days, at the very swanky five-star resort where the conference was being held. I love the disgust with which people look at me when I arrive in fancy places like this. But I remind myself, again, to hell with anyone who thinks you’re a bit weird…]