Islamic terror ... Lanta style

Islamic terror ... Lanta style
My neighbour Hutyee Boat
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The final third ...

"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure . . . Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller.

I came across this wonderful quotation today in one of the local papers as I finalised preparations for the last third of my gap year.
The quotation was used in the context of entrepreneurs and their ability to pick up the pieces after failures, but it could equally apply to those of us who leave our 'safe' lives behind in order to travel and see the world for a while.
Many successful business people gave up 'safe' lives in order to take a risk and many of them had to fail before they managed to succeed. But they all had the spirit of adventure to go out and take risks.
I've been rested up in the safest harbour possible over the past two weeks, my parents' house where I haven't lived for 20 years, and it seems so far removed from what I am going to encounter in Central America over the next few months.
As an adult, I've rarely spent so much time with my parents as over the past two weeks, with the added bonus that my 96-year old granny, whose spirit is unbelievable, joined us for the last five days or so.
Part of me is really fearful of what lies ahead, traveling through Central America on my own, and that makes me wonder why so many of us doubt ourselves so much in this life.
My plan for the year was to become a Divemaster, living on a tropical island in Thailand for five months; to improve my Spanish by spending much of the summer in my favourite city in Spain, San Sebastian; and then to do voluntary work, and so far everything has gone to plan.
Yet suddenly I'm in fear. Even though I know I will spend two months working with a voluntary organisation in Nicaragua, where I am bound to hook up with like-minded souls from around the world and make some sort of difference to the lives of people who are less fortunate than us Irish.
And, truth be told, Galway has been a tad depressing over the past two weeks. I've met two people who lost their jobs this year, one or two whose businesses are in trouble, and everyone is talking about the crisis, the corrupt politicians, and the unbelievable bail-out of the fat cat bankers.
But nobody seems to be doing anything about it, apart from moaning.
In Nicaragua, I'm going to see children who don't have food to eat each day, poverty on a scale which will put Ireland's current woes to shame.
Maybe I will learn a thing or two about revolution from the Sandinistas, and bring my lessons home!
Or maybe I will see that Ireland's woes are not really as bad, in the context of poverty and just putting food on the table, as what I will encounter in Central America.
There are a host of scare stories on the internet about how tourists in the region are targets for robbers, and suddenly I'm in fear. And yet this is the guy who backpacked around Cambodia when it was definitely not safe and never experienced problems, even in Phnom Penh at 4 a.m.!
Perhaps I should have more faith in myself and, by extension, in the world as I prepare for the final third of my 2010 adventure.
Apart from a cancelled flight (due to the awful weather in January), a cancelled credit card, and a five week illness, nothing has really gone wrong so far in my travels through Thailand, Malaysia, Swizterland, France, and Spain.
And now I'm in fear . . . It just doesn't make sense!
Life has become an adventure after 18 years in the 'safe' job, a job I can go back to in January. It would have been far worse to take the 'safe' option and continue to sit in Market Street, Galway, for another year only to dream of such adventures and encounters.
I've made wonderful friends in Koh Lanta and San Sebastian, yet I'm haunted by the thoughts of all the criminals who are going to be following me around Costa Rica or Panama next month. It's just negative, pointless, fearful thinking, which we can all be guilty of from time to time, whether it's about our relationships, our jobs, whatever.
As my friend Cian said in Valencia, as we prepared to go out and see The Cult play in a huge park, "how lucky am I?" It was a beautiful summer's evening in a big park in a big Spanish city and I was getting to see one of my favourite bands 25 years after I became a fan.
The 'safe' version of me would have been back home watching some mediocre act going through the motions at the Galway Arts Festival.
It's up to each of us to overcome our fears, whether we are sitting in our home town or negotiating rough streets half-way across the world.
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Christmas, and I realise that I do have a wonderful family and friends in Galway, but I have a few more adventures to experience in the meantime. Yes, how lucky am I?


  1. Ciaran,you wouldn't be normal if you weren't a bit anxious or apprehensive about this next leg of your journey.The important thing is that you are going to do it anyway.When you're out there doing your thing,fear won't cross your mind.You are right though,when you say fear can get the better of us anywhere if we let it.Remember though,fear can't live where there is faith.Best of luck!Keep us posted.

  2. Thanks a million, Pat,

    And I know you are dead right! If anything, writing this piece has been therapeutic and suddenly I'm excited and not afraid. My aim with the blog is to be as honest as I can, because all my life I have glamourised travel after feeling I missed out for so long.

    It just amazes me how I, or anyone else, can let fear rule our lives. I spend five months in Thailand and then worry about three months in Central America. It's infuriating, but understandable too, I guess.

  3. I admire your honesty, and your self-awareness. This fear is pure tiredness. A million new experiences, and then a visit to the familiar that seemed so slightly unfamiliar. Think of how many new experiences you encountered during a month in the newsroom, and then think of a day, any day, in the last few months. It's a lot to take in, and it takes an energetic and emotional toll.

    But you're so right to be excited. Unless you seek it there is no such thing as travelling alone, and those robbers are in Dublin, Rome, New York everywhere.

    Imagine what it was like for Helen Keller, and just as you have put the Irish moans of poverty into perspective, think of her and her courage and you'll wonder what on earth you were worried about.

    And never forget mate, this journey is of your choosing, and you have the absolute right to continue or return whenever you wish. and keep blogging about your travels - I'm hooked!

  4. Thanks Charlie,

    And you know me ... coming home two or three months early is not going to happen!

    It's funny, though, when things go wrong on your travels you suddenly want to be back among familiar places and faces. And yet, once you get through the bad days, good days will always follow.

    In Penang, I was sick, on strong antibiotics, out of phone or laptop contact and very much alone, plus staying in a kip of a hostel. Two days later, I was bounding through the wonderful rainforest in the Cameron Highlands.

    In A Coruna, I felt very much alone and sad, and haunted by ghosts of my past. Two nights later, I was moshing to Public Enemey, my favourite hip-hop band of all time and enjoying the start of a fantastic four day fiesta.

    It's all about getting through the 'down' days, the blues, and coming through to the other side.

    I will probably be sipping a beer in Panama on Tuesday or Wednesday night, with some wierd and wonderful new people, wondering what all my anxiety was about!

    Thanks for your heartfelt advice and see you at Xmas.

  5. (Yes, I’ve learnt to post comments…)

    And am catching up on your blog in retrospect – is great to read such honesty. And also quite comforting – when I had my break back home, before coming back out to Spain and all the scariness of no job and nowhere to lived (and rapidly dwindling funds) – I was most afraid while at home with me lovely ma and pa. Horrid fear, and dreadful nightmares, blah de blah.

    And then, once you get on and make the changes – it goes, and is replaced with the thrill of being happy with yourself, and what you’re doing.

    (And in the spirit of honesty – there’s nowt daring about this one. I’ve swapped the bike and insane luggage for a laptop, so now have radio 4. Nothing bad can ever happen while you’re listening to The Archers ;-)