Monday, 18 June 2018

Problems in Poland, nights in Norway and saving some teens

People always say you make friends for life while travelling. 

A statement I have to say is a little questionable. You do, however, meet enough people scattered around this fucking globe that you're guaranteed a ride from the airport, free place to stay and opportunity to be treated like a Queen when you pay them a visit. 

Which is exactly why I made a pit stop in Poland followed by a long weekend in Norway with the boys I met in Bali before making it back to Manchester. 

Poland was exactly what I'd hoped it to be: really fucking cheap. 

We took an Uber everywhere, ate everything and barely broke a tenner in the process. We stayed in Warsaw which is everyone's second choice when they come to this country, but the flights were cheap as fuck so Steffi, Alisha and I gave it a chance anyway.

The old town was cute, the city could have been any other city in the world with its million McDonalds and shopping centres, and the people weren't particularly friendly. I'm not saying all Polish people are rude, but the ones we met ticked that box. Especially the bloke that kicked us out of our accommodation because he'd messed up his bookings. Ya dick head. 

But with pints for £1 good time was still had by all.

Next stop in my quest to float around the world like I actually appreciate other cultures and cuisines was Norway to reunite the lads. And the only thing you need to know about this country is there's a lot of fucking trees.

"They grow faster than we can cut them down," Simen declared with much pride while stating the absolute bloody obvious as we drove over to his home in T√łnsberg with Thomas and Ashley. 

Everywhere was peaceful, the people were pleasant, the daylight never seemed to disappear and I no longer felt like a bit of pedophile as these teenagers I befriended last March in Indonesia were officially now in their twenties.

During my time in Bali I was clinically depressed, hating life and unsure how exactly I'd even ended up there. And then came Simen and Thomas, both 19, who were even worse off than me. Their love of binge drinking with an inability to sense an unsafe situation meant they'd been repeatedly robbed within literal days of landing and had no money, no mobile phones and no bank cards between them. 

Pissed, penniless and several weeks to survive on nothing until they boarded that flight home. The bank of mum and dad couldn't even save them as they had zero access to a single bank account with no technology to actually contact home. Yet they were still smiling.

"Thank god," I thought as we became acquainted one morning over a shit steak breakfast in the hotel we were all staying. "I'm no longer the most tragic person on this trip." 

I swooped in with a bank card and offered to help. The charity of a lonely Brit bridging nations and making it rain local currency rupiahs. Half of me realising it's easier to buy friends than make them naturally while the other half fearing I'd never see them and my money again after weeks of withdrawals.

“Treat people with kindness,” my old mate Harry Styles likes to say so I hoped for the best.

Thankfully they proved to be as genuine as I believed, and all this time later I landed in their homeland to a heroes welcome. "Are you the boy that saved them?" a grandparent asked in broken English. "Thank you so much," another family member gushed. 

I felt like Meghan Markle. Not like a Princess, but more in the sense of being celebrated internationally for my minimal charity work and not much else.

It was a bit weird seeing how one small and kinda significant act on my side meant so much to a load of people I'd never even met in a language I don't understand. But I suppose it was a nice thing to realise.

Help people where you can, take a risk for the sake of someone else and just don't be a twat - that's the message of this post. People will always fuck you over in life, that's inevitable, but many may surprise you if you extend a hand.

Plus good deeds give you pure bragging points on social media and/or travel blogs like so.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Returning to England, dancing with death and escaping the mountain

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd be typing: I'm going back to England. 

When I left in search of a new life and adventure all that time ago I made peace with the fact I'd never return. So adamant that I'd come to some kind of end while backpacking it alone that I even sold all my possessions and gave my twin my life savings to avoid the costly process that is inheritance tax of a deceased loved one. Kinda regret that now.

A thoroughly thought out plan to an apparently inevitable end.

Departing London I was in such a sorry cycle of nothing that I failed to see a future further than a few weeks ahead. Deteriorating metal health, uncertainty creeping into every questionable decision and an emptiness inside as I also struggled with the added decisions every millennial ponders. 

A stressful career or carefree casual employment? To rent or to buy? To live or to die? Nothing to do and no will to live. With so many questions having so few answers, off I fucked. And now, back I go. 

Obviously not for good. Just a month or so to reacquaint myself with my roots and show my mum that I'm no longer a twink - but not yet a daddy. And also to introduce her to the boyfriend I've met along the way.

A friend recently asked why it has been so long since I updated this, and upon reflection, it's because I just cringe now at the idea of being another person sat behind a screen baring their soul online.

It's mental health awareness as I write this, probably won't be when I post it because I'm lazy as, and to break free of the usual cliched sentiment of 'it gets better' for a moment: It doesn't.

Social media seems to have become some kind of safe space of self-diagnosis, self-loathing and self-destruction more than ever these days and everyone's got something they're oversharing while wanting some sympathy inboxed their way. Yet most of them are doing fuck all to actually sort themselves out.

The lack of action behind the online breakdowns and tweeted and deleted cries for attention is actually a bit alarming. Your issues will never leave you, you need to leave them - and if action doesn't follow acknowledgement, you'll drown in that depression as soon as the likes stop rolling in.

That's my advice anyway, kids, and that's what I've learnt from actively trying to spend less time online and more in the real world. Let's make this slightly less fucking miserable now though, yeah? 

This year has been consumed entirely between a quiet life with my dearest boyfriend William and the life we're building together in our new house with Winston the dog - while causing all kinds of showbiz scandals with the work crew at NW. The two rarely cross, the balance is healthy and things are, dare I say it, kinda decent.

And before embarking on this European adventure (which apparently sounds like the start of some old Mary Kate and Ashley movie), I thought I'd spend my final week in Sydney for a while living my best life with Will.

Which quickly went to shit as we found ourself fleeing the quiet mountain getaway I'd booked us after finding ourselves in the centre of Australia's now infamous circus sex abuse cult.

Yep, bare with me on this one.

So off we drove into the picturesque Blue Mountains in New South Wales for some loooving in a little wooden cabin type thingy I'd found. We're talking big fireplaces, Emmerdale village vibes and nothing around but crazy views kinda romance.

Just call me Romeo, right? And it truly was perfect... for approx 0.8 seconds until we discovered the owner of the property was a little eccentric. And by that, I mean, she wouldn't leave us the fuck alone to enjoy some mini-break bum sex.

Within minutes of confining us in a small kitchen she'd rattled off stories covering everything from her life on the streets as a homeless teen and travelling with the circus to her disappointing sex life since her hubby decided to go all Call Me Caitlyn and identify as a woman. She seemed lonely, we apparently seemed interested? It was a heartbreaking battle between us not wanting to seem rude and her doing her best to make us feel uncomfortable.

Things sadly then took a sinister twist as she accepted a phone call while urging us to stay put. “I just have to take this it's my friend in prison,” she said with such pride. “I have a lot of friends in prison.” Held hostage by her refrigerator and unable to hide our growing concern - she didn't stop there. “They're from town too... they've all been arrested for satanic rituals and stuff.”

Of course they have.

As we finally broke free with a forced smile on our faces, now sweating a little, we fired up Google as we got to our room and discovered the casual “other stuff” her dearest and nearest were awaiting trial for involved 127 collective charges of raping and torturing children at the local circus training school.

Katoomba, the small town we'd randomly selected to spice up our love life, which apparently is big enough to have a circus training school but not a McDonalds, has been at the centre of the world's media for months now as the case awaits trial.

But obviously slipped right past me, the journalist, that freelances across publications in Australia, America and England, literally in the middle of the world's media on a daily basis.

“Just going to grab some food in the town,” we explained to our host while hurrying past and back to our car while fearing for our lives. “Will I even make it back to England?” my mind pondered while expecting some kind of hellish clown with his cock out to catch up to us first. “What if I never taste a Greggs sausage roll again?”

It's odd where your mind wonders in an emergency, isn't it? It's also odd how I arrived in this country expecting to die - yet as the end started to seem nigh up that mountain, I suddenly had everything to live for.

Over and out for a while, Australia.
And shout out to the NW crew (and MAFS cast) for such a wondeful six month's on this countries best magazine.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Keeping content, missing ya mum and a year away from home

It's been a year now since I sold all my shit, left my family and friends and said goodbye to everything I've ever known. Which you probably realised from the title of this post. Unless you're a bit slow.

And am I now a man of the world full of wisdom and wonder?  Am I fuck.

When I first got on that plane I had this whole vision of my reinvention. The new and improved me. I'd swap my love of Harry Styles for history and shit, I'd learn a different language, learn about things that matter and meet people I'd never have mingled with before. I'd grow my hair, broaden my horizons and help make the world a better place. I'd play the hero in the movie of my brand new life.

Spoiler: That was really fucking exhausting. 

I tried to pretend my biggest passion wasn't popular culture and focus on more serious things. I tried to converse with people I had nothing in common with and form friendships with foreigners I didn't find interesting. I even tried to learn Italian. But it just wasn't me. None of it.

The new Josh was about just about as fun as a gluten free dinner party and I spent a while being disappointed at this. Sad that I had more interest in what's in Kylie Jenner's womb than what old Trumpy has been tweeting. Frustrated that I'd rather binge something on Netflix in bed than go meet new people and "do brunch."

Then I stopped for a moment and realised what a dick head I was being. No amount of midmorning overpriced eggs, basic pleasantries and empty conversations were ever going to keep me content. 

Don't ever try be something you're not, neglect what actually makes you happy or live a life you dislike because you think it makes you look more appealing to other people. Follow whatever the fuck you wanna, no matter how small or insignificant some may see it and sack everything else.

By all means better yourself but that doesn't mean you have to change yourself in the process.

I left everything behind to start a new life that'd be happier that the one I had in England but kinda lost the things that actually made me happy for a while along the way. So to all you people still chasing that "new year, new me" thing or thinking of embarking on your own adventure, take note. The old you may not have been that bad after all.

Unless you were like a pedophile or something.


But, yeah, I didn't really realise how long I'd been away until Christmas came round. That wonderful time of the year where we celebrate the birth of a magical carpenter none of us particularly believe in. And for the first time in my life, I found myself without any of my family to fake my seasonal Christianity with.

Thankfully my boyfriend William and his nearest and dearest took their place as we sailed up to join all my future in-laws at their beach house for the big day. I also had three dear friends from Britain that have since relocated here too to hang with, but fuck, sometimes a girl just misses her momma.

The scheduled FaceTimed home was as chaotic as expected. A load of family members squeezed onto the front camera live from a North Manchester council estate. Talking over each other, not sure where to look and Corrie blazing in the background.

"What's the weather like?'
"What time is it over there?"
"Where's your tan?"
"Is the food nice?"  

All the usual questions. 

"Nicole Kidman is staying round here too," I explained to my mother while showing off the scenic surroundings we were in. Mainly just cause a set of pictures of the Aussie actress holidaying in the same area hit the Mail Online before I made the call and I was praying for a paddleboard encounter. "Josh is having Christmas with Nicole Kidman," she then shouted to an uncle that had walked into the room over on her end. "He's had Christmas dinner with that actress from that film," I then heard my uncle say to someone else that had now arrived.

One year later, thousands of miles away and some things never change. Like a mother's ability to twist the truth to make up a far more exciting ending to a story about her children.

PS: Sadly I didn't see Nicole
PPS: The only Italian I learnt was how to say "hello sexy daddy"
PPPS: I'm yet to use it on an actual Italian in every day conversation