Shouting from my shed

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“The virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from here seems broad and straight and sweet.” – John Steinbeck

An urge builds in me, a voice in one everlasting whisper, day and night repeated until I just have to go. It doesn’t really matter where I go. All that matters is that I go. Somewhere different. Somewhere new. Maybe I get bored with where I am. Maybe the restless dissatisfaction rises from everything being too familiar, too easy. Whatever the cause, being in motion feels good.

It can be as simple as driving through the night, music playing, windows down, headlights picking out road signs and counting down the miles to new places. The moon sways back and forth overhead, mirroring the twists and turns of the road as I roll on under the stars. Turnings I don’t take and pass with a pinprick of regret and curiosity. What would I discover down that road? Who would I meet? How would my life change? Places I will never see again, but it does not matter because I am on the way to even more that is new. It is the gleam of the untravelled world that drives me on. Go, go, go.

Before I begin a big trip nerves and excitement brew in my belly. I’m diffident by nature so the nerves generally outweigh the excitement. I worry about all that might go wrong and have to cajole myself instead to imagine the good things that might happen. I stir scenarios round and round inside my skull until they begin to drive me mad. I feel as though I am on a runaway train. But worse than that: it’s a runaway train that I have set in motion myself. I can’t jump off. My lazy streak gets to work, busily concocting reasons not to begin at all. Things are just fine here… Don’t rock the boat…

It does not help when everyone I tell about my plans tries to persuade me to take a bus to the Taj Mahal instead.

“No, no, no,” said a man on the beach at the very beginning of the walk. His face was serious, his head wobbling from side to side. “It is a Very Big River. You must enquire about the bus facilities instead. It is very barren. You won’t even get a cup of water. Indian food is very spicy for you people. There is a very big valley. There are snakes. There is bamboo…”

Thankfully there is a tiny sliver of my brain that fights back. Without it I would never do anything interesting. It is a still, small voice that simply maintains that I must begin. I thank the man for his concern, assure him that I will definitely heed his advice and then do no such thing.

It is like a kayaker approaching a rapid. Once he reaches the point of no return he just has to go for it and trust himself to cope with whatever may be thrown at him. I am on my way. There is no point worrying anymore. I feel a surge of release and remember why I put myself through all these agonies. I love the thrill of beginning new projects. It is a feeling that makes me sing out loud and feel like the luckiest man alive.

 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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