I have started this series by looking at where I am at present with relation to the past. Talk of assessment and reassessment, snippets of ideas that are fleshed out, others that drift away on the tide. I have been sharing the state of my physical, emotional, creative, and mental conditions, whilst also discussing my location.

In this third step I shall assess and relate (with obvious space-and-time enforced brevity) what I want in life, especially in the near future — where I want to be and how I want to live. This is a crucial part of self-assessment, looking forward: all the dreaming, the thinking, the planning. Without these things we simply will not fulfil our individual potential. And that is a terrible waste.

Sometimes it is hard to look ahead. Sometimes it can be as painful as looking back, the big “what ifs” and the un-scalable “hows” become barriers rather than the challenges and goals they should be. This is why I break everything down into little parcels. Little portions of dreams that are easier attained than the whole. In this piece, this third step, I shall talk of the Steps yet to come, those splinters of a potential, wished-for, future.

Huge storm in Wick harbour, massive waves breaking.
The photos and linked video are all from a huge storm that hit Wick in December 2012. It seems fitting to include storms here – as I write this there is a sense in this country that the biggest storm is yet to come, which is frankly terrifying, considering the mess we are in already.

I have already spoken about a planning process I undertake with semi-regularity, and this is a good place to start. Where do I see myself in a year? In two? In five? The idea of having a goal, a plan, and working backwards towards it, whilst living day to day, in the moment, is not a new one. There are many times on such a journey that we can feel as though we are not achieving our aims, that the goalposts keep being moved, that it simply isn’t fair. Life is not fair, nor is it just. But it also not unfair or unjust either. It, like nature, simply is. And it is up to ourselves to take what we are given and decide what to do with it, change our paths to create increased opportunities if we feel we need to, constantly reexamine our destination and route. Question, do not simply accept.

I shall be blunt — I want to see as much of the world as I can before I die. I do not have any idea of when this will be, I feel strong and fit, but who knows what the future holds? After all, I have slipped off cliffs, accidentally glissaded down scree slopes, rocks tumbling beside, over and around me, and I was once nearly killed by a meteorite (yes, really). For this reason I see it as essential to begin this exploration as soon as I can — within a year. I do not simply want to tick off countries or continents, become one of those “it’s Tuesday, therefore it must be Italy” tourists. Instead I want to move slowly, from nation to nation, living in one place for three months, then another for two or six, with a month of travel betwixt the pair. I will explain why I chose the idea of slow travel in a later post.

I do not know how long I will want to do this for. I envisage the process, of learning about our world, about different peoples, cultures, wildlife, plant-life, environments and so much more will take a while. It may never end. Conversely, I may head off and feel that being location independent, a digital nomad, is not for me. I DO NOT KNOW. But that is fine too. (Those I have spoken to about this all suggest I will love such a lifestyle, that it fits with who I am, at least for a time. I think so too, but there is always the chance I will have to alter my plans.)

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Where I will start is currently as much a mystery to me as it is to you. I have looked at various options, worked out differing plans depending on destination; Chiang Mai in Thailand is a popular place to start, other places on my initial list include Indonesia and, in particular, Bali, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Columbia and Chile, to name a few (or somewhere like Curaçao —a place I’ve longed to visit, ever since my first cocktail containing Blue Curaçao, many years ago. I think it’s the name that does it. Perhaps the colour.). Each has positives, each has negatives. Each is different — and that is what makes me most excited — a wealth of differences and a potential treasure-trove brimming with unexpected similarities.

I think I have always viewed humanity as a whole, ever since I was little, raised to understand we are all one species, that the differences others view as frightening or wrong are actually wonderful, are actually what makes us so incredible. This was only strengthened by studying archaeology and prehistory, looking at the depth of time we have been around and how we are all cut from the same cloth, shaped by our environment, torn apart by our own destructive nature — but also brought back together by ties that reknit and bind even as others keep trying to slash and cut.

I have, for a very long time, thought of myself as nomadic. Although this may appear odd in some ways — as I have spent over five years in Caithness now, and have lived in other places for equal or greater lengths of time — this feeling goes back to my childhood and has not at all dissipated. In the fourth Step, the aforementioned essay about “Home”, I shall return to this subject, and why I feel nomadic, what home means to me, and what it might mean in the future.

The reasons I’m considering a longer time away than a “traditional” gap year, why I’m not actually going travelling, per se, will also be discussed in a forthcoming step (the actual final order of these pieces is still very much a work in progress).

I have a lot to do in the forthcoming eleven months (more or less), and that time is already in danger of slipping away. I knew I needed a map, a route through my time left here, lest it spin through my fingers as so many dandelion seeds in the wind, hence the analogue planning I portrayed in Step Two. When I look at my time left on this planet, in my current form (I’m quite a fan of thinking of how my constituent atoms and molecules will be recycled. Nothing ever really dies), and I start to plan in decades, to think in years — then the sheer speed at which we live becomes apparent.

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My next decade, my 40s, is certainly one I wish to use to see more of the world, as you already know. But what else do I hope to achieve during this arbitrary measure of time? I would like to continue getting into a shape I like, into something I can take forward for the rest of my days. I will have several things published. I will continue to study humanity, our relationship with nature, with the world — bushcraft is an excellent example of this. I want to learn new things; languages, customs, skills, different ways to live, different ways to make the world a better place, how to knit, more about cordage and ropework, to swim strongly, to dive, to climb (properly, not in wellington boots with no rope), this list goes on.

If we live our span without continuously adding to our knowledge, then what’s the point? I have no children, nor am I sure I’ll ever want any, but there are other ways to disseminate all the things I learn; to distill into fiction, into words, is something that drives me. When I look at the world and see all the horror we are presented with, time and time again, the darkness the media portrays — I wonder whether this is all. It isn’t, of course, but newspapers are not sold on smiles and happiness. I cannot help but question whether a new era beckons, one of co-operation, kindness, goodness. I do not believe we are the cruel and evil species we are constantly told we are.

Huge waves battering the old lifeboat station in Wick, time and nature destroying and remaking.
This is the old lifeboat station and some of what is now called Simpson’s Yard. Once upon a time, not that long ago (in the big scheme of things) this area was used for preparing and salting herring. Thousands of barrels worth. In this photo, note the rocks that have been tossed up and across by the power of the waves.

I need to look at income streams, not just one new string to the proverbial bow, but several. I need to examine how much money I actually need to live (hint: not as much as I would require in this country, not by a long way). I want to talk about what “stuff” I need, the physical things I will carry from place to place, or use in other ways (software, for example). I want to look at why I am doing this, and how best to share it with you — words and pictures? But what about sound? What about video? I shall peer into my relationships, with family and friends, and see how I can carry them with me, how often I am likely to return to Scotland, and how long for (which, as I have said before, will always be the closest thing to home I know). You will see how I think I will live, what sort of places — not just the countries, but, for example, accommodation — I doubt a busy backpacker hostel is really conducive to successful working. I absolutely have to look deep into myself, force my fears out into the open, into the daylight where, in theory, they shall melt away under the sun.

There is much to talk about. Much to plan. Assessment, of myself, of my situation and my future, all this is crucial — and I know I need to take it and reassess. Probe, poke and tease apart, before repairing, splicing, strengthening. Like a muscle used heavily, the fibres re-knitting into something more powerful. This is what I will be doing here. Making the process open and honest, sharing, is something I think can only be a positive.

I am also open to suggestions and comments. Anything you think may help me, anything you think I should be talking about — do let me know.

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ADDENDUM:

This step was supposed to have been published here last week. Instead events grasped hold of me, as they did most of the nation, and I shared a few thoughts on the EU referendum. One thing I need to add to the above is this — if, or when, as is highly likely, there is another independence referendum up here in Scotland, I SHALL be present to vote. What this is likely to do to my plans is, at this point, unknown — but vote I shall, and vote for a progressive, inclusive and welcoming small nation, no longer governed by those who perhaps should not be in charge at all. As much as this is at the back of my head, making me think those “what ifs”, it is nothing — NOTHING — compared to how others must be feeling. Those from the EU, those whose livelihood depends on funding through this, those who will feel the crushing weight of despair and recession that is entirely likely. No, I have my plans, I will follow them, but I shall listen carefully and time things wisely. There is a real sense here in Scotland that, this time, things are likely to be very, very different to the last indy ref. Watch this space.

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Step Three: Self Assessment Pt. III

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