FOR MOST PEOPLE, TRAVELLING USUALLY TAKES THE FORMAT OF AN ANNUAL HOLIDAY TO SOMEWHERE SAFE AND TOURISTY AND WHERE EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS ENGLISH. THE MORE ADVENTUROUS MIGHT EVEN EMIGRATE AND START A NEW LIFE OVERSEAS. YET, THERE’S A TINY PORTION OF OUR TRANSIENT POPULATION FOR WHOM TRAVELLING IS, QUITE SIMPLY, THEIR RAISON D’ÊTRE.
It’s almost as if these folk exist solely for the thrill they feel by moving on. Constantly. As potent as any addiction, the relentless search for pastures new while clocking up unpredictable tomorrows is a deep-seated requirement for their very equilibrium. The insatiable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar is assuaged only by being on the road Kerouac-style.
These travellers don’t conform to any particular gender, race, or age group but they all have one thing in common: Wanderlust. They are the modern-day explorers for whom nine-to-fiving is anathema and “settling down” is rarely an option. Not so much the holiday of a lifetime then, but more a lifetime of the holiday… with perpetually itchy feet.
I discovered such travellers for the first time during my late teens, but that random meeting would have a lifelong impact. Camping in the south of France for a week with a Jersey friend, we met some Australian guests staying in a nearby tent. In conversation, I asked them how long they were on holiday for and their matter-of-fact response was, “Oh, probably for a couple of years or so!”
By all accounts, they were experiencing some amazing adventures travelling around the world, living as cheaply as possible and picking up casual work along the way. Wh
at a great life! I thought. The almost vampiric bite of their travel bug had nipped me good and hard and my life would never be the same again.
It’s not for everyone, of course, but I suspect that on a typically British dreary November day, many an office worker gazes out of the window to the murkiness
beyond and dreams of exchanging their routine for something quite escapist – like running a beach café on a tropical island or similar – but most lack the courage to do anything abo
ut it. Courage aside, you also need resilience, determination, optimism and the ability to appreciate the difference between loneliness and being alone. Obviously, you also need ample spar
e time and some rather deep pockets to sustain long-term excursions as one Jerseyman, David Priddis, learned from experience.
David’s wanderlust was triggered during his last year of studying electronic engineering at Hull University some ten years ago. He had read two autobiographie
s that would change his life forever: “Living Dangerously” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and “Thrust: The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Quest for Speed” by Richard Noble. The achievements contained therein would prove the catalyst for David’s own quest for living dangerously.
I WAS FILLED WITH MIXED EMOTIONS, BUT AS THOSE WHEELS ROLLED FORWARD ON THE FERRY THERE WAS NOWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD I’D RATHER BE – AND SO STARTED MY FIRST GREAT OVERLAND JOURNEY
To this end, he secured a full student bank overdraft and borrowed money from his parents and girlfriend in order to purchase a 1992 TDI 200 Defender. The vehicle was in good mechanical order but the body work needed attention. So David returned to Jersey with the nomadic seed in his soul no longer dormant and a Land Rover needing much repair before it would be roadworthy, at least for the sort of trip he had in mind.
“It took me nearly two years to rebuild the Land Rover, kit it out, pay off the loans and save enough money to go,” David confesses. “Along the way my girlfriend got cold feet about the trip and with only three months to the off, she pulled out. After two years of working and dreaming towards this trip – girlfriend or not – I was determined to go”.
He recalls, “So there I sat on the 20th March 2004 with the Land Rover ticking over, staring at the on-ramp of the ferry leaving Jersey. I was filled with mixed emotions: Excited, scared, and proud to have seen the project through this far… but sad to be leaving friends and family (plus girlfriend) behind. But as those wheels rolled forward on the ferry, there was nowhere else in the world I’d rather be – and for better or worse I was going to see it through. And so started my first great overland journey.”
After a year-long drive around Africa – in which he confronted situations evoking emotions ranging from fear (when his life was endangered) to happiness and exhilaration (living his dream) – he finally returned to Jersey, somewhat wiser, more philosophical and presumably, stone broke. But the pattern was set and the burning desire for travel flickered away like a pilot light awaiting its re-ignition.
After resuming work in telecommunications in Jersey, David then enjoyed a stint of employment in the Seychelles as a mobile network manager. His career helped him finance the second of his major journeys in 2011 which would encompass much of mainland Asia.
During his overland trips, he has pursued his many hobbies along the way. As a keen photographer, David has produced a visual diary of his travels, and, not just an observer of the landscape before him, he’s also surfed those pounding Pacific waves, kayaked the lonely Yukon, hiked up glaciers, into deserts and along the mountain trails.
Using his IT skills, he maintains a blog of his travels at www.walkabout2408.com keeping family, friends and numerous followers updated of his whereabouts. Occasionally too, his mechanical skills have come in useful for necessary repairs to the Landy.
Mostly though, he is enjoying the pleasure and unpredictability of life on the road and the awe-inspiring beauty, colours and diversity of Nature along the way. There are also the simple things like sharing a beer with friendly strangers eager to swap stories that add an extra dimension to the experience.
When I last checked, David had reached Belize on the third of his epic overland journeys, still in his white converted Jersey-registered Land Rover. His current quest to explore the Americas from tip to toe is going well …. So far he has covered some 30,000 miles, consumed nearly 5,000 litres of fuel, and spent several weeks on the road during which another birthday came and passed by.
It seems that the thrill of constantly moving on and discovering new places and meeting fresh people never wanes. And I, for one, know that feeling only too well.