2009 vs 2019
I sit in a camper van somewhere in the Australian Outback. I stare so intently at a map that I probably look lost to anyone who passes. But, A: I'm not lost, there's only one road around Australia and I'm on that. B: I haven't seen another person for hours.
The reason I'm looking at the map like this is for a more abstract form of direction. I'm not checking that I'm still driving along the correct road, of which there is only one. Looking at the map just helps me to feel less lost, even when I know exactly where I am.
Feeling lost is the reason that I'm here in Australia in the first place. For the past 4 years I've been sitting at the same desk. Going nowhere, but somehow feeling more and more lost with each passing day. I've been searching for direction for a long time, without ever really knowing where to look. I go home each night and eat dinner in front of Hollyoaks, and I wonder if this is just what life is like for everyone else too. I wonder if I'm searching and hoping for something that doesn't even exist.
I have been living with my new flatmate a little while when she shows me a map. There is one line drawn around the world on this map in black Sharpie, from London to London, with 10 points marked. "It's an around the world ticket!" she says. Along this route there will be a lot of smaller routes, deviations, alterations, and countless unknown things. She has a basic direction, and will see what happens along the way. "You should come too!"
The next day I quit my job. The following month I sell all of my possessions and buy an around the world plane ticket. Something I didn't even know existed a few weeks ago. A month or so later, I'm on a plane to Delhi. From there everything goes exactly as planned, especially the unplanned parts. I get lost often, and in more ways that I ever imagined possible. I realise that's what I've been looking for this whole time. I've been feeling lost in a bad way, and all I needed was to actually get lost, in a good way.
Now I'm here in Australia. Looking lost, but feeling found. Ready for anything.
I wake up in a different place, both literally and figuratively. A: I live in Berlin now. B: The world is definitely a different place.
Maps live on phones now, for one thing. Well, everything lives on phones now. Especially people. The world feels...weird, to say the least. Great Britain wants to leave Europe. Donald Trump is the president of America. I try to think of something that's better now than it was 10 years ago...
I make coffee.
I feel lost again to be honest, in a bad way. It's been creeping in for a while now. I feel like I need some direction. The strange thing is, this time it's not because I sit in front of Hollyoaks every night eating dinner, after coming home from a job I hate. Life is really good. It's great, in fact. So I'm not sure where this feeling is coming from. But, I guess that's the thing about feelings isn't it?
I open Maps and stare at my phone. It's not the same. There are thousands of yellow stars all over the world, stars that I've put there. There is no route drawn in black Sharpie anywhere on this map, as far as I can see. This is no good.
I feel overwhelmed.
I start to tidy my desk. I haven't watched Marie Kondo's show, before you ask. I remember I'm supposed to be emailing about my new book, Get Lost! There's a copy here on my desk. It looks like this...
It's my fifth book and it's released next month, on the 5th. I stare at the book and the yellow line on the cover, weaving around the Earth. The line that actually weaves through the whole book, if you stack the pages from top to bottom. The line that deviates every now and again. Drawing pictures, changing shape, or changing colour. The line that keeps going in the same general direction, regardless.
I hadn't thought about it too intensely when I was making the book, but this is the line I've drawn in black Sharpie for the reader (yellow just looked better). This book is a travel guide that you can use anywhere in the world, but it's also more than that. You can use it when you're sitting at your desk feeling lost in a bad way, when you hope to be lost in a good way.
To use the book, you flip to a random page and answer the question on the right. I'm doing it now...
The question I get is: are you feeling lost?
I wish that was a joke, or a fix. It's not.
I answer YES and turn to page 12 as instructed. Page 12 says: Follow these directions (↑ → ↑ → ↑ ← ↓ ←). Follow them until you feel ready to stop.
I put on my shoes.
Get Lost! A Travel Guide for Anywhere is released March 5th (in both paperback and ebook formats). You can pre-order it from any of your favourite bookshops, click here for some handy links to do that.
PS: If you do pre-order the book please save your order confirmation, and keep an eye on my Instagram for details of a pre-order reward.