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Goodbye 2022

Well that happened.

All prints from 2022 available on my shop

The fireworks popped off to bring in the New Year. Tiny amongst the twinkling lights of Queenstown and reflecting on the lake. I was watching them with friends from the top of Telecom Tower, 2100m up. The third time I'd been up there and one of my favourite "minimum effort, maximum reward" trips. The difference this time was that I actually I had friends with me so it was a warm fuzzy affair... In theory.

In reality I felt detached. Like the changing of the year meant nothing to me. It had been such a rollercoaster of highs and lows that I didn't really know what I was celebrating. The others stood in a circle singing Auld Lang Syne and I sat alone, staring out across the town. I couldn't really put a finger on my emotions but I knew something wasn't right, so later that week I took myself to yoga. An hour later, it had unlocked aaaall the feels and I walked home feeling like a sad pancake (don't ask, it's exactly how I felt). I'd been so busy revelling in all the excitement of returning to Queenstown that I hadn't really taken any time to check in with myself and take stock of the previous year. I had to admit, it had been a bit of a rough one.

Cue an inevitable "2022 summary". Bear with me!

It had started strong, road-tripping around New Zealand with my girlfriend as my accidental 26 months drew to a close. It felt like the right time to leave as I'd well and truly made the most of every moment I had there and it had been a long long time since I'd seen anyone back home. This came at the price of my relationship though, and breaking up with Georgina was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Being back in the UK hit me like a brick. Everything felt alien. The quaint little cottages. The reluctant summer weather. The sheer number of people! I'd also left a bunch of friends to suddenly find myself completely isolated in small Oxfordshire village. After giving a talk to 150 people at Yestival and balling my eyes out on stage, I realised my time abroad had left some pretty big cracks and I definitely wasn't OK.

Continuing to experiment with being nomadic, I travelled around the country as kind, beautiful friends opened their doors to host me. I had great times on the Yorkshire Coast and reunited with my friend-family in Cumbria. But Scotland turn out to be a step too far. I found myself isolated again and I crawled back into my adventure-anxious shell. It really knocked my confidence and it took a while to crawl back out. Visiting London a few times helped. Reminding me that a decade of my life there had afforded me some really wonderful connections.

All prints from 2022 available on my shop

Then before I knew it I was taking the next huge leap in life. Getting on a flight to Nepal where I'd won a trek to Everest Base Camp. I wasn't planning on being back for six months. The anxiety was high as the last time I'd tried to travel internationally, I was separated from everything I loved for over two years! Not to mention before New Zealand I'd still only solo travelled to Whitstable and Lyme Regis!! I really needed this to go smoothly...

Except the Universe had other plans (as usual). I got altitude sickness. Really really bad altitude sickness. And five days in to the trek I was heli-rescued off the mountain with HACE. Eighteen months of waiting and I didn't even make it half way. Talk about having the rug pulled from under you.

Oh and I finally got Covid. So I spent a week in a hotel room. Cue more isolation. Then the first day I tried some solo exploration I got scammed by a local. Jeez Nepal, give me a break!

All prints from 2022 available on my shop

Canberra provided some welcome relaxation but I was still staying in someone else's space. A theme that has followed me all year. There have been highs and lows galore but they all come with an undercurrent of never quite feeling like I belong anywhere. The people hosting me often being settled in partnerships with houses and/or kids. At 36, I'm not fitting the societal normal and it's admittedly pretty darn uncomfortable!

Everywhere I've stayed comes with a deadline. Two weeks here. One month there. Where do I go next? How much should I settle? Do I even bother unpacking? Every time I'm happy somewhere, I feel the clock ticking towards the next time I pack up my bags, take a deep breath and have to adapt to a new space. For someone diagnosed with anxiety, this is actually BRILLIANT because it forces me to meet new people and adapt to new environments. Exposure therapy if you will. But it's also exhausting. And I haven't really been assigning enough time to rest.

This feels like a rather negative blog. Don't get me wrong, I'm very VERY lucky and considering there was a time in the past where I was too scared to go to Sainsburys, what I'm achieving is astronomical. A future that I couldn't even begin to dream of. Heck, I'm currently sat in Queenstown because I "didn't fancy Winter in the UK"! But I needed to write this for my own sanity. To take a moment to reflect on just how bonkers this last has been. I feel like I could sleep for a week. And to be fair, I've earnt it!


Thanks for reading! My artwork is available as prints/mugs/posters etc.

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1 Comment

Gawd, I hear you, Tom. My daughter suffers with anxiety too. For her, it's all about finding coping strategies... and she hides it well. Too well sometimes. You've achieved so much. I hope you'll be able to put down roots one day in order to settle (if that's what you want), while still finding ways to meet others and garnering inspiration from your travels. You've certainly touched and inspired many people with your honest adventure stories and artwork. Me included! A huge, sincere hank you and here's to 2023 being full of positive experiences. 🤞

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