Day 1,443: His Dark Materials

Thu 13.12.12:

According to some, in an alternate reality the path I’ve chosen through life puts me in a very different place. Somewhere in the multiverse there’s a Graham who is sitting on this bench in Aswan’s Botanical Garden, his sassy Australian girlfriend Mandy by his side, laughing and talking like we did on this very same bench 13 years ago. But not in this reality. In this reality I’m sitting here on my own.

But maybe it was always supposed to end like this: maybe whatever path I had chosen Mand and I would have split up. Say I had moved to Australia and got a job shelling prawns in the local prawnery (foreigners aren’t allowed decent jobs in Oz, and in any case the strength of the Aussie dollar makes TV and film production vanishingly unlikely as a viable career). Would the gruesome waste of my unique and incontrovertible talents drive me back to Europe anyway? What if Mand had come to the UK for good, would the distance between her and her family drive her back to Oz? I have little reason to doubt it. The more I think about it as I sit on this bench in this shady spot of serenity, the more I think that all roads led here. Some things just ain’t meant to be.

But I have little to grumble about. Last August might have been the end of Act II, the point at which all is lost, but now we’ve passed the dénouement and to the victor goes the spoils. I gambled everything on the successful completion of this journey: last August you might have been fooled into thinking that the whole thing was in folly. I have to admit to having some long dark nights of the soul myself: I had lost my girlfriend of over ten years, after burning my bridges with the mmmmms at mmmmm, mmmmm and mmmmm, the chances of me working in television in the UK was pretty much nil, the powers that be (evil) had stitched it up so the second series of the TV show would never see the light of day and that the first series will never be shown on British TV or made available on DVD (I can only assume that’s because I might actually get a cut of any DVD profits). Furthermore, I couldn’t even put the footage I had filmed after the completion of the first TV show ON YOUTUBE. And to add insult to injury, I was so low on funds that I had to beg my friends for the money to get home to see my dad before his heart operation and, don’t forget, at the time I still had no confirmation that Costa would let me on the cruise ship to Maldives and Seychelles.

If there was light at the end of the tunnel, I was probably the only one who could still see it.

One of the things I always took solace in was that I had inspired people all over the world to pick up a backpack and go travelling. I know this because they write to me, something that buoyed me up during days that I was banging my head against the wall saying ‘what the hell am I doing?’

But now I have a new story of inspiration for you. This isn’t just about travel, this is about pursuing your dreams no matter what. No matter how many people tell you to give up, come home, get a proper job. Because – and pay attention to this – if I had given up last year after my sister died and Australia was conspiring to crush the reckless ambition out of me, I would have left this whole expedition with just some wonderful memories and some great new friendships – but The Odyssey Expedition would have been not much more than a jolly (albeit an admittedly epic one).

But I didn’t give up. I saw it through to the bitter end – and, in that, I have no regrets. Because this is what I have to look forward to in 2013:

• Being signed up by one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood
• Presenting a travel show for NBC America
• Giving a TED Talk in February
• Casey

In short, I gambled, I gambled everything and I won. I won big. I slayed the giant (which may or may not have been a windmill) and, unlike the Man of La Mancha, actually won the girl. In a year’s time I’ll be in a position to reward all the people who stood by me, worked with me, gave me a helping hand. I’ll be hosting CouchSurfers of my own in Liverpool, London, New York or LA. I’ll be working my way up the ranks of Hollywood towards my dream job: shooting movies loaded with aliens, monsters, zombies, explosions and impossibly good looking people hanging off helicopters. And, most importantly, I’ll be with Casey.

So while I sit on my own on this bench, in this botanical garden on an island in the middle of the Nile, the very bench upon which in a previous millennium asked a cute Aussie girl if she knew what was brown and sticky (a stick!), my nostalgia ebbs away in favour of excitement for the future. In just over a week I will be home. I’ll be surrounded by my friends and family. I will spend my first Christmas back in Liverpool since 2008. I will *finally* get to kiss Casey (three months of text messages and Skype can feel like an eternity). And in the New Year… well, I can only imagine what dreams will come.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Chelsie

    Our dreams may be different but our core beliefs are the same. Anything is possible. Thanks Graham and good luck!

  2. segacs

    Your story would make an awesome Broadway musical… just sayin’…

  3. GrahamStalker

    Alright, if you’re going to be a Hollywood bigshot, your next mission is:
    All 50 U.S. States
    and hey the Canadian provinces too while you’re at it

    You can crash on my couch if you want.

    1. John

      Mexican states too.

    2. Graham

      Instead of going to every state, I’m planning to do a ‘lap’ of North America on a motorbike. I’ll keep you posted!!

  4. Cody

    I’m so happy everything worked out for you in the end.

    You’ve certainly inspired me to pursue my own large travel ambitions and to always hold hope for the future.

    Just remember your fans who were with you through your darkest days. 😉

    1. Graham

      Thanks Cody!! Travel safely, if you ever need any help/advice/info from the road be sure to drop me a line.

      My new blog, Development Hell begins Jan 1 2013. Plenty more adventures where this came from!!

  5. Ajax

    “foreigners aren’t allowed decent jobs in Oz, and in any case the strength of the Aussie dollar makes TV and film production vanishingly unlikely as a viable career)” – You know both of those propositions are b.s, right? Plenty of Brits move to Australia and get high-paying professional jobs, it’s all about whether you have the skills and experience to get a good job or not. There’s also a lot of domestic TV production in Australia.

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, and to be honest, you strike me as a supremely self-centered egomaniac. You’ve roped in and used every single one of your friends and family members to help you with your expedition, and you seem to only see other people as a means to an end/ in terms of what they can do for you. Case in point; Mandy waited for you patiently for years as you completed this expedition (which was initially intended to take a year), and helped organise all your travel plans, apparently based on an agreement that you’d marry her and come to live in Australia afterwards. And yet you selfishly and callously decided not to follow through on this, and dump her, because you decided you hated Melbourne (which sounds like it was more due to the fact that you were frustrated with your life while you were in Melbourne, rather than the city itself and the opportunities it offers).

    You’re very quick to justify yourself in your posts, but you come across as very entitled, as if you think it’s entirely reasonable that others should drop everything to serve you and help you out. It seems like women are disposable to you, you met Casey a matter of weeks after you and Mandy broke up, and now you seem to have slotted her into the role of main co-ordinator of your travel plans. I hope one day you find someone you can love for themselves, and not for their skills as your personal organiser.

    1. Nomadic Translator

      Interesting you say you have followed for a while, yet say he dumped Mandy when in fact SHE dumped him.


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