The Importance of Plan B

Every now and again I get home from a day's work to find a brace of pheasants hanging from the front door handle. Dave, the local gamekeeper, leaves them for us after every shoot with a note that simply says “Enjoy”. Dave never goes anywhere, he never travels and he’s never had a passport. He is one of the most contented people I have ever known. We often chat and put the world to rights over the garden gate and even though I have seen some amazing places around the world and met many equally amazing people I find myself being envious of Dave. He doesn’t dream of new horizons and new experiences, instead he’s happy feeding his pheasants in the rain and training his gun dogs. I know of no happier man.

I sometimes think that a thirst for adventure and new horizons is as much a curse as a blessing. I would dearly love to be one of those people who’s happy with my lot, settled, content with a static life, but I’m not. I have to quench the thirst for new horizons and cultures. I’m always either planning the next big trip or paying off the debt of the last one. I’m lucky to have a partner who is exactly the same and she throws herself into the pursuance of travel every bit as much as I do. These last six months has been consumed by two things for us.

1. Nursing our young dog and travelling companion, John, back to health, and;
2. Shaping our latest travel endeavour – Finding Manchester.

I’m pleased to say that John does appear to be on the mend, however, Finding Manchester is ailing. The idea was to visit 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks, document them and create a permanent archive and exhibition for generations to come. We’ve been carried along on a wave of interest and support from all quarters (well, most), but public funds are needed to shape the archive and they have not been forthcoming, despite the efforts of our project partners. When you put your heart and soul into something and it becomes apparent that it’s not going to happen, for the moment at least, it’s imperative to have alternatives. Whether it be planning to document fifty-two Manchesters or cycling the length of the Americas or swimming the English Channel, or anything else in life, if it becomes apparent that it’s not going to become a reality, what then? You’ve spent months, years working to this point and it all comes to nothing, how do you move forward from that. It’s simple, in theory – take stock, re-group and start planning again.

For us Finding Manchester is not the first travel project that has not got off the ground or gone to plan. When we bought a three-wheeled motor-taxi on the black market in Peru and then attempted to drive it over the Andes it was an utter disaster (we did give a lot of people a lift though). Imagine what Ernest Shackleton was thinking when it didn’t quite go to plan. However, it’s when it is all going wrong and when we are tested that we find out about our true and inescapable selves. We put our hearts and souls into getting Finding Manchester off the ground and it has taken quite a period of reflection, mourning and acceptance to get us both to the point where we can say “Ok, it’s not happening for the moment; right then, what can we make happen then?” Someone wiser than me once said, “Strength doesn’t come from what you CAN do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t do.”

So, we have reflected on what we do have, what we can do and what the alternatives are. We still have a 4x4 to use, we still have our own funds and we still have the time-slot open to us. So we’ll be going to Central America and putting our skills to use with a charity out there and entering the 2012 Maya ‘End of the World’ Rally. We’ll still be making efforts to get Finding Manchester off the ground but we will be using our time and assets to our advantage as well.

Meanwhile, I’ve never had the heart to tell Dave that I don’t actually like pheasant.

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