Today I am writing this from a beautiful mountain view home in a peaceful, spacious area in the countryside of Thailand. I have been pretty much full time traveling and adventuring around the world for almost a decade now and right now I am having some of the greatest years of my life. But the story of how I ended up here started a long time ago with some unbelievable tragedy and bad luck.
This is actually something that I’m very uncomfortable talking about but I feel this urge that I need to put this out there as it is an essential part of my story and how I got to where I am today. I actually started to write this article months ago but was to scared to publish it. So here we go…
The once in a lifetime experience of that was the start of my best years.
On December 27th 2002 I set off on a one year around the world adventure. This is something that I had always wanted to do but it had taken be having two years of the most terrible repetitive bad luck to give me the push to make that jump and do it. I believe that if I had not had these years serious bad luck and tragedy, I may have never bought that ticket that led to nearly a decade of world traveling adventures living an amazing happy life.
I have always wondered, “Does life have to be really so shit before it can be really amazing ?”
Two Years of Repetitive Bad Luck.
So in the couple of years before my round the world trip I had some of the worst luck that I’ve ever had in all my life, all condensed back to back over the space of a couple of years. I had my designer furniture business collapse twice through no fault of my own, I started having regular epileptic seizures, went through a bad break up of a long term relationship, lost use of my right arm for six months after a drunken falling through a window, all connected together by a whole load of other bad stuff filling in the gaps.
I had built this great little business from scratch since 1998, designing and producing fantastic hand made furniture, mirror frames and resin-cast ornaments and sculptures. Then one day early 2001 I woke up to a phone call that my business was on fire. I got there as quick as I could and there was nothing I could do but to watch in front of my eyes as this freak fire burnt through my workshops which were full of highly flammable chemicals and materials. I lost all the manufacturing processes, materials, stock and machinery. With no insurance, I lost everything.
So I bravely picked myself up and started again. I worked day and night to build this business to be even better than it was before. I did several high end exhibitions across the UK and was hugely successful in collecting loads of orders which would rebuild my business again. I had a great little team of guys building this stuff and we were sending out huge volumes of product out to customers across the UK by courier.
My best friend gets a dose of my bad luck.
Helping me rebuild my business during the summer of 2001, one of my very best friends who I met at art collage several years earlier was helping me complete a batch of orders for mirror frames. Using a router table set up, basically a table with a hole in the middle with a high speed super powerful cutter sticking out which you have to push wood attached to templates through. These machines have no mercy and unfortunately he got one of his fingers tangled in the machine that ripped it to shreds, cutting it to the bone. This guy was an up and coming artist at the time and this 2 second accident had but a real dent in his future. I felt so guilty about this for a long, long time.
Luckily I can say that he determinedly bounced back from the accident and right now, today is a highly successful artist with his paintings in many respected galleries around the world and we are still the best of friends.
My birthday – September 11th 2001.
Yes, that terrible day of 9-11 and the twin towers attack. That was my birthday. And as everyone remembers where they were that awful day when the live pictures were shown on the news around the world. I remember sitting there watching this stuff on TV on my birthday and looking back at my recent life and thinking, “what is the state of this world ? This world is terrible, my life is terrible”.
The Courier Company Cowboys
In late 2001 I displayed my wares at one of the biggest furniture exhibitions in the UK. Hugely successful taking tons of orders that we then had to make and be delivered by my courier in time for Christmas all over the UK. Turns out that this courier company that I was using were absolute monkeys ! On me sending out over $20,000 worth of products split between 150 different orders with different delivery addresses across the UK, this courier company had somehow managed to lose or break over 70% of the consignments.
The whole job suddenly became a customer support nightmare. I was having to deal with non-stop complaints from customers who had not received or had to send back their broken items. We had to make all that 70% again and use a different courier and I worked my way through every order to get it right. Miraculously I managed to get every order rectified and delivered in time for Christmas.
Then comes the bill for the courier, they will refund at cost price value of the items lost and broken (in theory), but the catch is “that no insurance claim will be considered until full receipt for carriage has been received.” Long story short, early 2002 I had to go to court with them, and by the time we got to court the courier company had almost gone out of business (they we’re real cowboys). I stupidly defended myself (because my cheap useless lawyer never turned up to court) and the courier company brought out liars/lawyers like the mafia. Total mess, nobody won, we both came away with nothing.
The Doctor’s Verdict.
Most probably stress related I also started getting sudden loss of consciousness and going into epileptic seizures. I started drinking quite heavily and started to lose the plot a little bit. Followed then by loosing my girlfriend of 5 years, which screwed me up even further.
Then the next blow was when on a visit to the doctor he pretty much said that I could no longer continue my business with my epilepsy continually getting worse. I was working around some extremely vicious woodworking machines that seriously do not mix with my occasional no warning sudden loss of consciousness. Simply put, if I was to continue this hand made designer furniture business and was one day walking around the workshop and had an epileptic fit and fell into one of these machines it would have turned out very messy, guaranteed.
Drunkenness and the Glass Window
So I was in a real mess, and the best idea I could come up with was to hit the bottle even harder. Now people who know me well, know that when I go into party mode like this I am pretty wild. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t fun, I had a great few months blow out, I had some fantastic nights out, all night parties, and waking up in some of the most weird places. I could probably write a whole book just about those few months and the mischief I got myself into (even though I can honestly only remember less than half of it because I was so wasted).
So after a few months of partying my bad luck hadn’t been around for a while and I was to drunk to even care or notice. Until, one drunken night ,coming home with a friend for late night extra drinks I fell thru a glass window and serious lacerated my forearm and wrist, blood squirting everywhere (so I was told, as I was so drunk I can barley remember). Next day after, feeling very light headed I was visiting my mum and was showing her the result of my little accident, how I can’t move or feel my fingers. Much to my disagreement she managed to convince me that I had to go to hospital immediately and get it checked out. Turns out it was very serious, I’d managed to slice the tendons in my arm losing the use of my thumb and two fingers on my right hand. It needed operating on and will take six months recovery minimum.
So now I’m an artist (right-handed) who gets drunk a lot and have lost total use of my right hand for minimum six months. The thoughts going though my head that I will never be able to draw or sculpt anything again.
So what did I do ? Go and get drunk some more and throw a few soft drugs into the mix. And with the stress of not dealing with the problems of my business that I was having to now refuse orders and close my business that was leading me to have more epileptic seizures.
Dealing with Epilepsy
Epileptic Fits, seizures what ever you want to call them, they really do suck. I can tell you from my experience that it is the most horrible feeling waking up after one of these fits. First you feel so disorientated, not knowing where you are, who you are, totally confused. Then someone (who was lucky/unlucky enough to have been around me when it happened), sometimes a friend, sometimes a stranger, tells me that I have just had a seizure and I instantly feel the most extreme sadness. Like I am am useless and not in control. I usually then need a day or two of sleep to get my energy back.
Having epilepsy sucks and (with my arm in a sling still repairing from the going through the window incident), no girlfriend, no business, I got more drunk and I guess I wanted to feel sorry for myself.
If anyone reading this was around me at this time I need also to apologize because looking back I must admit that I actually became a real asshole also. I was becoming so screwed up.
The feeling sorry for myself about having epilepsy stopped immediately when I started to research everything about epilepsy. What I discovered was that no matter how bad I thought my epilepsy was, it was nothing compared to some people who suffered from really bad epilepsy.
I was only having these seizures a couple of times a week at the very most and monthly when it calmed down. I discovered that there is a lot people who suffer from serious epilepsy having multiple seizures every hour every day. They have to wear protective head wear 24-7 and have to have someone around them at all times. This woke me up big time. It made me stop feeling sorry for myself and realize that I was actually really lucky to have this epilepsy in it’s mildest form. I believe that this moment of clarity about my condition was the first ingredient of the catalyst that lead me to the amazing (free of epilepsy) life that I am living today.
I’m not sure exactly when but sometime in the next few weeks while thinking deeply about everything I had the second ingredient that led me to where I am today. That was the moment where I thought about the idea of the reality of this round the world trip that I had always dreamed about. I researched as much as I could and was thinking but what about my epilepsy ? But what about my business, what about my friends and family ? What about the international the threat of terror attacks ?
The actual exact moment when I decided to do it started with a, (please excuse my French) “Fuck It !”. (as nearly all of my most exciting experiences ever have started with me uttering those same two words)
Thoughts of Death
Well, I had no business, no lady, my life was in a mess and I not only needed but I dam well deserved a break. But epilepsy and traveling around the world alone was probably dangerous.
I figured that my epilepsy was no way as bad as some people who have suffer from this condition and if I was going to die from some freak accident from having a seizure, falling down and fatally banging my head on something, I would like it to (and I believed that my friends and family would be a whole lot more proud of me) be from falling off a mountain in Nepal or somewhere awesome like that but, defiantly not whilst sitting at home watching daytime TV because I’m unable to work because of my epilepsy.
The Magic Ticket Purchase
My whole frame of mind had changed almost overnight. So in late 2002 I bought the round the world ticket and had a few months to sell all my stuff and work and save and get prepared for my journey of a lifetime.
In these months leading up to setting off on my round the world adventure I was feeling like no one could stop me and the adrenalin mixed with fear of the journey ahead of me, I was totally back on form, focused and feeling great.
So that magic ingredient that was the catalyst for what turned out to be a decade of amazing adventures and experiences was I believe the day I actually purchased that ticket. From the day I got the ticket I had so much motivation that it was no problem for me to sort myself out and everything just fell into place naturally from there. Getting prepared to go, going, doing it, was the easy part, for me it was the committing to actually just buying the ticket. My drinking calmed down and in turn my epilepsy pretty much nearly stopped. Sometimes I think back to that day and wonder if I had not bought that ticket at that time my life, it may have turned out totally different. Who Knows ?
So what is the moral of this story ? To be honest, I really don’t know.
But I have often said since then my quote that I either made up or picked up from some where.
“Life IS a roller coaster. It’s all about enjoying the highs and grit your teeth through the lows.”
If your life is good right now, enjoy and take a moment to appreciate it.
If your life is shit right now, grit your teeth and plow through it because there IS great stuff to come.