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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 44 – Challenges

We’d nailed Pingyao in our first 24 hours [tis about a square mile] so today was spent at a slower pace. It’s been an interesting day of reflection for me as for once I’ve not been the one wired to the laptop.

There’s an ever-more prevalent concern rumbling away at the back of my mind [as always it has plenty of company] wondering whether I’m doing this right. It’s a general unease punctuated by recurring separate concerns.

It’s quite clear that attempting to backpack the entire world within a year is one hell of a challenge. It’ll be both expensive and exhausting, neither of which I particularly care about so long as I feel it’s worth it – like the life I’m living and that which I’m experiencing and feeling is sufficient reward for the challenge.

I say challenge but I don’t mean that it’s difficult to circumnavigate the globe – that the act itself is pioneering. It’s not – it’s all been done before and it’s never been easier. That said, it’s still exhausting, especially combined with the constant culture smash.

Our planned route is also quite rushed. Now it’s again worth noting that with all the places visited so far this has been of little concern. I’ve not wanted to stay anywhere I’ve been so far any longer than I have. China – at the moment – is actually feeling like a bit of a drag. It is, however, the places lined up – particularly the sun-drenched countries – that will have much more going for them I imagine and see me sad to rush through them.

Our attempt to combine photography to such a degree with the nomadic lifestyle is also offering its own obvious issues. Chief amongst these is the weight – we have day bags that weigh as much as some travellers entire gear. This only really becomes a significant issue during the actual travel – I make pack mules look streamlined – but it’s still a daily weight to lug from sight-to-sight, attraction-to-attraction, city and village alike.

Again, a bright side is that this represents the only limited exercise I get at the moment so I can dig this. But another big kicker here is that photography is an activity in itself. A very wise friend of mine preached caution about taking the entire trip in from behind a lens and failing to actually live it. While I’m concerned about this going forward I’m not sure I would have taken in a lot of the places I’ve visited so far if I hadn’t had the camera. It does engage you with your environment in some places as you seek and observe and scan your surroundings, but it can lead to me becoming obsessed with trying to capture what it is that evokes how I’m feeling at that moment.

I am making a conscious effort to drop the camera down and attempt to drink in the places. It feels weird to write this but in truth I’m not yet sure if I’ve got the hang of this yet, but that could well be for a wealth of factors. Moving forward I know I’ll want the camera on hand but I hope that places I find myself in excite me and hold my attentions beyond the desire to record it within a frame to look back at later.

I’m trying not to put too much pressure on the world to bring me to my knees in awe, but it would be bloody lovely if it did!