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#11 - The end of the beginning.

THE FINAL CULMINATION – The end of the first three years

I was on a high.

The past few years had been a complete turnaround from my former self. My old world disappeared and a new one had opened, a new path for me to walk upon.

I'd moved to the coast, had an amazing group of friends. I learned to fly a plane, got laser surgery on my eyes, gave up smoking, travelled, read self-help and growth books, started writing my own book, got better at my job, paid off debts and built savings … I was steamrolling this thing called life. The crash made me a better person. The crash was the change I needed ...

Why then did I throw it all away?

After my first trip to Asia, which I loved, I lived up to my promise to return. I remember my boss laughing at me when I asked for two months off so I could travel, so had to settle for 6 weeks to cram as much adventure into my life as I could.

I had no idea that trip would kill the person I had become. That I, once again, was about to change.

I was lucky to enjoy, for the next six weeks anyway, the freedom of waking up each day and saying to myself ‘where am I going and what am I going to do today?’ I’d made a rough plan in my head, but the only solid plans I had were meeting friends from my previous trip to Bangkok and meeting another later in Beijing. The rest of that time was my own.

I enjoyed Singapore for a few days. Then whilst in Penang received a message on Instagram (after posting about the trip) from a German friend I’d met nearly fifteen years earlier when I lived in Egypt. She was traveling nearby.

We hadn’t seen each other in so long, so at random I decided to meet up with her, travelling to Koh Phan Gan. It was only meant to be for a couple of days but it turned into a week as we were having so much fun.

It got my friend who was waiting for me in Bangkok a little offside as I arrived late, but saying yes to a random encounter in an island off Thailand was something I couldn’t say no to … it’s the road, and you have to follow the signs that promise adventure, right?

I met up with my friend in Bangkok and we moved onto Saigon where he continued to be a grump, the kind of person who's a tourist not a traveler. Thankfully I only had to tolerate him for a couple of days more.

Some people just don’t get it. They travel as if they’re important. They want to stay in hotels, be lorded over and take what they want as if they are entitled to it. They've spent their past year miserable in their lives and come over to another country to collect what they feel they've earnt, inadvertently spreading the negativity that's built inside of them.

If they don’t get what they want they judge and curse because they haven’t got something they feel they deserve, so they make people feel like lesser beings in their own country.

This wasn’t how I travelled.

Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they are going - Paul Theroux

I moved on. My rough plan was to keep heading on up the coastline of Vietnam for the next two weeks, until I was scheduled to meet another friend in China.

Only I’d met a girl on my last night in Saigon and nothing would be the same afterwards.

The morning after meeting her I left Saigon on my trip up Vietnams coastline. It lasted all of three days before I flew back to Saigon, just so I could meet up with this girl again. I booked for a two-night stay, which then extended out to two weeks. After that I couldn’t stay any longer, I'd already locked in a plan for China with a mate, so I had to leave her behind.

Two weeks of China (amazing by the way) and our last few days of the trip are meant to be in Hong Kong before we fly back home. Young Michael decides in his infinite wisdom to ditch his mate and fly back to Saigon just so he can see see said girl one last time. He returns to Hong Kong to get his flight home and the trip ends.

I returned home after my six weeks and things started to change very quickly in a short amount of time. Change seemed to like me and it decided another one was due …

- The company I worked for had another re-structure that saw me lose one of the best bosses I’d ever had, only to be replaced by possibly the worst. Thus I began to hate my job very quickly.

- I began training, basically full-time, in preparation for the Ironman Mooloolaba 70.3.

- My mother, after nearly nine years of battling cancer, lost the war over her body and departed this world on her next adventure.

- I’d met a girl and couldn't get her out of my mind … only, she didn’t live in my country.

It was the culmination of these things that broke me.

I was in the final leg of the Ironman race, that last kilometer before the end, which seems so close but so far away, that I broke.

I’d already spent the majority of the race crying, unable to stifle the emotion from erupting as I swam , peddled and ran. Mum had only passed away two weeks earlier and the memory was still very fresh in my mind.

But I also cried out of sheer pain and exhaustion. Before mothers inevitable departure, I stopped training in the weeks prior to the race in order to spend as much time as possible with her, meaning I was not prepared come race day.

Regardless, I pushed through it. Pushed through the physical pain ; pushed through the dread of knowing I’d be back at work on Monday and that prick would be on my ass over something trivial ; pushed through the loss of mum ; pushed through the pain of being separated from the girl I’d fallen for.

I was spurred on by my friends, who cheered and supported by running alongside me, up the final hill in Mooloolaba, the last leg of the physical battle. As I hit the top and came over the rise, they left me to my own. Charging to the end I looked out over Mooloolaba and seeing the finish line, I sighed with relief. It was over.

As I approached the end I made a solemn promise to myself;

1. I am never doing another triathlon, ever!

2. First thing Monday morning I am quitting my shit job and telling my shit boss to get stuffed.

3. First thing Monday afternoon I am booking a flight out of Australia to go see my girl.

This, in effect, was the end of the start.

If someone were to ask me, in retrospect, what drove me to this decision I wouldn’t be able to answer them clearly. It’s not like I was sitting there looking at the metaphorical crossroads, on one side seeing myself as my parents would have like to have seen me … you know the way it goes, school, job, marriage, career, white picket fence, follow what everyone else is doing like a sheep in a paddock. It was the path that I was finally living up to, I was fulfilling what other people expected me to be.

Looking at the other path (the one I didn’t take) I realise now it had never appealed to me, and by instinct alone I moved in the other direction. I didn't want what everyone else wanted, so I gave up what I had built in the first three years and marched in the opposite direction - the unknown.

Again, there were little signs. We all get them if we learn to look. The most influential sign popped up for me about a week before my last race. It came in the form of a young man who decided to ride his bike from Oregon to Patagonia. I’ve included the video that acted as a beacon in my head, reminding what was important in this life. Resonating within me the right path to take. I’d nearly signed a mortgage just days before I’d seen this ... afterwards I would never look back.

I did quit my job Monday morning. I did book that flight to Vietnam.

I had a week to pack up everything I owned, say goodbye to the life I had created and look forward to whatever was to come next.

No more routine's, no more following the norm, it was time to take the road less traveled by.

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