Blog Changes: Say Goodbye to Travel and Mental Health Talk

Hello all,

This is just a quick post to update you all on the topics of my blog. As you’ve probably realised, my blog posts are a bit all over the place. Sometimes I talk about travel, sometimes I talk about mental health, sometimes I talk about Star Wars or Assassin’s Creed…it’s a bit of a mess. While this blog is mostly for fun and up until recently I didn’t really care about generating a following, I’ve decided that in order to further develop my career as a writer, I unfortunately need to give in to the machine, to the rat race and to creating a more central blog for each of my major topics.

As such, this blog here (Ranting & Raving) will remain mostly the same. If you’re interesting in my weird theories, random lists, discussions about games and films, ETC then you’ll still find all of that here. It will essentially remain a blog that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

However, if you want more insight into mental health issues and travel then those posts will now be published on my other blog: Travels, Tribulations & Ambitions. My aim for this blog is to go beyond it simply being my own ravings and instead make it a focus of mental health and travel: essentially a space where people can read about my experiences, my plans for the future or my coping strategies for my anxiety but share their own stories. My experience is limited but I want anyone and everyone who has suffered or is suffering due to mental health issues to have a place they can go for comfort or assistance. As well as being able to share travel suggestions. D

So if you have any stories you wish to share or any advice you think people should know, then head over to my new blog. I appreciate anyone who follows that blog as well as this one, especially in these early stages of trying to develop it.

As always, don’t hesitate to comment here or follow me on Twitter!



Anxiety: A Day in the Life of…

Note: This is a re-post. I accidentally deleted the original post when I was trying to take it offline for editing. So if you’ve read this before, nothing new has been added!


Anxiety! A word that seems to be popping up more and more often but what is it? Well it’s a pain in the ass to say the least (not literally…well…sometimes). This isn’t going to be a scientific explanation of anxiety or a representation of the sorts of anxiety that people can experience. This isn’t even going to be a guide on how to work out if you have anxiety issues.

Quite simply, I’m going to walk you thought my anxiety, the good times, the bad times and the many ways I’ve tried to deal with it (both successfully and less so). So if you have anxiety this post could be useful in terms of presenting some new coping strategies and general life adjustments. If you don’t have anxiety and perhaps don’t fully understand what it is, hopefully this will help.

To save you some time, I’ve added titles to separate this longer than expected post. If you have zero interest in my ramblings about my backstory and history with anxiety then feel free to skip down to the title named ‘So what is anxiety?’ Here is where I share what I experience in terms of anxiety and then go on to share the techniques I’ve used to help decrease its effect on my life (the tips are pretty much at the very bottom so feel free to scroll down.


Origin Story Time

I’ve always been a shy person. My earliest school reports consisted of “knows the answers but doesn’t share them” or “needs to speak up more” to “doesn’t engage in group activities”. While most people grow out of this, my generally introverted nature and shyness clung to me like glue. I don’t subscribe to this idea that you’re either an introvert or an extrovert.

I think anyone can display characteristics of both at different times. That being said, I was definitely at the polar end of the scale at school. Outside school, I would have been seen as an extrovert. I never experienced anxiety though. Nerves? Yes. Shyness? Yes. Preferring to stay somewhere to read or play my Gameboy rather than go socialise? Yes. All pretty natural experiences that I’m sure many of us went though.

Even in high school (aged 12-18) I didn’t get any anxiety. I was bulled a hell of a lot and didn’t want to go to school but I never felt a single moment that I could identify now as me being anxious. I could sit exams completely relaxed (perhaps too relaxed), I could speak in front of classmates about as well as the general school populous.

I do think that to some extent the bullying I faced is what’s left me a little “off” mentally. I grew up in a small town where if you hadn’t left by the age of 18, chances are you never would. It was a lovely place (if you were raising a family or on your death bed) but everyone knew everyone. Yet somehow I managed to get randomly attacked on multiple occasions. Always by people who were drunk.

I started to fear walking down the high street. I always compared my town to the film I Am Legend. It was fine during the day but as soon as the sun began to set…these creatures would come out from the dark to wreak havoc. I started to worry whenever I going somewhere alone at night, even by bus. Pathetic, right?

I started to fear people in general. Going to the shop used to make me sweat and if the person at the checkout spoke to me my heartrate would go through the roof. My conversation was usually limited to one word answers. I would wait as long as I possibly could before going to get my haircut or to the dentists.  I got ill a lot and couldn’t go to the doctor. There were times I was convinced I had cancer and somehow, social interaction was worse than death.

I consider myself to be a rational-minded individual. I usually think with my mind rather than my emotions. Despite there being no logic in it, I just couldn’t go out into the world where people were. I used to walk my dog off paths into the middle of nowhere. Up hills and through forests, just wherever I thought people wouldn’t be.

The most annoying thing was that I knew it was illogical. I knew that nothing would happen, that speaking to people wasn’t a big deal. Sometimes I could even convince myself that the next time I did, I’d ooze charisma. Of course what actually would happen is that I’d freeze. It’s like every person was a T-Rex and the only way I could avoid them was to stay still. My mum used to worry about me but whenever she confronted me about it, I always went on the defensive.

Looking back, I think if I’d been honest back then about it, my life would be quite different now. That’s neither here nor there. It wasn’t until I had finished high school and actually started university that I started to notice that I was even worse than I originally thought. I moved to a city where my cousin was at university. This guy was my idol growing up and when I moved there, he still was. After doing modules on psychopathy at university, I can tell you that this dude displayed far too many psychopathy traits. If you have anxiety, here’s a piece of advice. Do NOT hang around with toxic people. I learnt this a little too late. So as a result I spent 3 years of my life (2 of them living with the guy) with toxic people in my life.

I spent 3 of my 4 years at university hearing about how I was too quiet, I came across as weird, that I was ruining people’s image. That’s right! My cousin wanted me to improve my social skills so that he didn’t look bad. I was frequently given the classic lines of “talk more, it’s easy” or “there’s nothing to be nervous about” and of course “you need to stop being shy”. What these lovely human beings didn’t know was that every social event where I was sober was like hell to me. My problem was so bad that up until the point of being drunk (and I mean way past tipsy) I couldn’t socialise. People who had only met me on nights out couldn’t believe how quiet I was.  I guess I gave off a bit if a serial killer vibe.

So it’s fair to assume that my virginity stay intact until my 2nd year of university. Not that my friends knew that. By this stage I was already known as “King Virgin” without them even knowing that I was. It’s difficult to be intimate with someone when you can’t really speak to them. My socialising was even worse with women (clichéd, I know). My 1st and 2nd year of university were around the time (the 2nd time in my life) when suicide became a very easy way out. I know what you’re thinking; it’s a ridiculous reason to want to die. My issue wasn’t that I wanted to die. I didn’t. It’s more that I couldn’t see how it was possible for me to live. How was I going to get a job? How would I travel? How could I do anything without speaking to people?


The Attacks

Funnily enough, my anxiety hadn’t even peaked yet. As I mentioned earlier, I had never had an issue with taking exams in school. Suddenly at university I felt the most uncomfortable I’d ever been in my life (at that point). Somehow I got through first year fine. I mean I’d missed a ton of classes but not enough to raise any red flags with the university.

Sometime in 2nd year, during an exam, I finally snapped. The first full-blown anxiety attack I’d ever had. On top of my anxiety, I have a fear of being sick. I mean it’s not really a fear but more the fear of drawing attention to myself by being sick. Although, I do completely hate throwing up and I avoid it at all costs. So you can imagine that in an exam room with about 60 people in it, how that could be an issue.

My heart was racing. At times I actually thought I was about to die. Was this a heart attack? My breathing was impossible to control but I tried my best. My hands were sweaty. Should I leave? Should I raise my hand and tell someone I need to go? No, then everyone will look at me. Plus, if I do that I’ve accepted that I’m going to be sick or pass out. Speaking of passing out, I did feel pretty faint. Where was the nearest bin? Could I get to that in time if I felt it coming up? I need to focus on something else. I’ll look at the clock. Oh God, I have a full 2 hours left and the earliest I can leave is in an hour and a half. I haven’t even written the first paragraph yet.

Maybe if I focus on the work it will go away. No, that isn’t helping either. By this point I’m screaming internally. I just want it to stop. At times I stopped breathing all together. At others I was breathing frantically. The films always say to take slow deep breaths (incorrectly) but that doesn’t seem to be helping at all. My body was literally shaking. I was going from hot to cold then hot again. I was sweating more and more. If this was death, I figured at least this would all be over. Maybe I should just get up and leave. Do I really need a degree? No, I’m sure I can find something else to do. Maybe I can rationalise with my brain. I can re-sit this exam if I fail so there is literally no pressure.

Regrettably, I suffered through far too many exams (about a year-a year and a half) before I finally forced myself to go see a GP. I needed something I could take before an exam but not long term. I was completely opposed to being on any long-term medication. Why? Well, we’ll get to that later. I met my GP (literally the grumpiest and least helpful I’ve ever met). He told me that I just needed to relax.

That’s right, my GP, a man charged with handling the health of the public told me to relax. Let’s just say that all the advice he gave me was about the same. He prescribed me propranolol which I was supposed to take for a month to see how it helped. I had told him I didn’t have any anxiety attacks outside the exams but he insisted.

Needless to say, I ignored him. The instructions clearly stated that they could be taken prior to the anxiety attack inducing situation. So that’s how I used them and it did work. I still felt the deep-rooted terror bubbling but my heart stayed calm (the purpose of the drug) and so I could actually get on with my exams. Otherwise I would usually spend an hour having an attack and then the 2nd hour would be me doing the exam itself. The only other time I used propranolol was on planes where I found I also got anxiety attacks. I’m not scared of flying but being crammed next to strangers really sets my anxiety off.



When I got into my final year of university, I felt pretty amazing. I had a girlfriend, I socialised a lot more than I used to. To be completely honest, I’d been exposed to the drug scene. I would go to one club and take MDMA, party hard, smoke some weed and go to bed. Those were some of the best nights out of my life. Now, I do not preach that MDMA isn’t dangerous. It certainly can be.

That being said, I love it. I take it maybe once every 3 months at most now but back then it was once or twice a week. You can judge me but MDMA opened my eyes to a world I’d never seen before. I started exploring other drugs, reading about them, watching documentaries, asking people about their experiences. I also had a girlfriend which was new to me.

So life was going very well. I could go to the shops, get my haircut, etc without freaking out. I was still incredibly nervous around new people but I figured that’s something I’d just have to get used to. The issue was that I was about to finish university. I had no plans and knew I was going to have to move back to the black-hole of a town I thought I’d escaped.

One of the things I loved about university was all the different opinions. You could discuss any topic and chances are somebody would have a completely different point of view. My hometown wasn’t remotely like that. Bringing new ideas into their world was like walking into a school with a gun. I had some friends who weren’t like that but only a few.


The Great Depression

Here began my year of unemployment. I was in the previously mentioned black-hole. I was living with my anti-drug parents. I was sleeping in a bed that was about 6 feet above the floor and involved climbing a ladder to get into. My anxiety came back in ways I couldn’t imagine. Some days I didn’t leave my room; other days I would just walk my dog for the entire day to escape.

I’d purposefully get lost in the woods just to take longer getting back. I tried to go to the gym which was probably the only thing that helped me keep my head on remotely straight. My parents wanted me to pay rent (which of course is completely fair) since they thought I was claiming unemployment benefits. So I paid them money every month out of my savings because I couldn’t go on job seekers allowance.

You see I knew that while on job seekers allowance you have to take whatever job you are given. What if I was given a waiting job or a bartender or a cashier? The thought alone made me feel sick and want to cry. To be clear, I I’m not against working. I’m a hard worker but the social element is just impossible for me.

I wanted something I could do and I needed to start earning money. It’s not that I wanted to be lazy or just couldn’t be bothered. The way I always describe it to be people is that it’s like someone else is battling me for control of my mind. Sometimes, even when I have all the will to do something, I just can’t do it.

For example, I missed a lot of classes at university and I knew their policy for sending warning e-mails. I could never bring myself to check my e-mails because I worried there would be some degree of confrontation in e-mail form from the university. Thing is, I simply had to reply with an excuse in order to get out of it. Yet what I did always made matters worse because if they didn’t hear from you, they took it further.

So I created a lot of my own problems simply through an inability to act. It was the same with work. I wanted a job, I needed a job but I just couldn’t do it. After a year of burning through literally all of my savings, I found a job I could do. Costco were looking for stockers. Not luxurious but it was something I could handle.


The Turning Point

What I didn’t realise was that this job was going to represent a turning point in my life. Don’t get me wrong, the interviews and first few months were hard for me on a mental level. Within the first month I almost had to phone in sick because even though I was right outside the store, I’d had a minor anxiety attack on the way in and as a result felt incredibly sick. Costco has a 90-day probationary period where they can basically just fire you for no reason.

I started in summer and by Christmas I was starting to get the hang of things. My girlfriend and I had broken up and I didn’t really have any desire to get back into “the game” as such. I realised though that I still needed to escape the black-hole I was living in.

I hadn’t taken any holidays yet so I applied to take a month off to go travel around Thailand. If you happened to read my post, you’ll know that this ended up being a trip around Cambodia. Long story short: this trip was incredible. It had moments where I was at my absolute worst in terms of long feelings of anxiety but it also forced me so far out of my comfort zone that when I came back, I felt lighter, I guess.

I don’t want to say that it changed me because this isn’t a cheesy movie. It did give me positive and negative experiences though which ultimately altered my view of things at a sub-conscious level. So when I got back from the trip I found my anxiety was minimised. I noticed it more at work but it soon spread to my personal life.

At work, I found that I could work as a cashier without any problem. I soon became quite comfortable in the role actually and would frequently volunteer to go cover when they were short staffed. Something I never thought I would do. I also volunteered to go on trips. Yup, Costco sent me to London to work at a store down there. Something I’d have worried about before. I had been using an online platform to try to meet women. Before Christmas I had been talking to one in particular. We had planned to meet but both of us bailed so ultimately we scrapped it. My anxiety was just too bad and I couldn’t do it. But in the essence of feeling confident, I sent her a message about meeting up and we did.

This woman was incredible. We clicked in ways that I’ve honestly never connected with another human being before in my life. By the 3rd date I was actually worried that she might not be real. Had my mind just conjured up this wonderful human just to trick me into doing things? You see we both enjoyed the same stuff but the difference was that she would actually do it without hesitation.

So pretty soon we’d been to comedy clubs, nights out, parties, I’d met loads of her friends and hadn’t been overwhelmed with anxiety once. Sadly, she would soon be moving. As she moved away, I got sent to Paris to work at a Costco they were opening up. I was hollow when I realised that this woman who was everything I could ask for in a partner was about to leave my life, potentially forever.

In terms of my anxiety though, I was still at the top of my game. I spent a month in France working at the Costco there. I was regularly miles outside my comfort zone. I don’t speak French but I got a lot of roles supervising over the French staff and often had to be in charge of making decisions that would actually affect the store.

By the time I got back home, I was on fire. I was on good terms with all the mangers both in France and at home, I had been trained in pretty much every major part of the store, I was now training new starts who had just joined. The woman who I missed so much came back up to graduate and when we met, we decided not to throw it away. We’d never really discussed what would happen after she left before then.


This may all seem somewhat irrelevant to anxiety but I swear it’s leading somewhere!


So since my girlfriend and I wanted to stay together but now lived hundreds of miles apart, I did something I’d never imagined doing. I went down to visit her at her mum’s house. So I stayed there for a week. Luckily her mum was lovely but I’ve always had an issue with people’s parents. Not just girlfriends but actually anyone’s.

I always got anxiety because I was/am a fussy eater but I also hate being a pain so I often find myself in the middle of a dilemma. The experience as a whole was a lot of fun and I don’t think my anxiety was ever an issue. At this point we said the infamous L word but we also decided that we’d go to Amsterdam together on holiday. We both smoke weed so we figured it would be a fun place to visit.


The Next Level

To sum up Amsterdam: smoking weed in public areas with anxiety is not fun. We were there four days and most times when we smoked, the first hour or two I was in freak-out mode. I’d experienced this with weed to lesser extents but it was pretty full on. It wasn’t so much the weed as it was the environment.

In Amsterdam you have a mix of stoners and “lads”. The lads are getting drunk, being boisterous, and being the usual sort of rowdy cave-dwellers you would expect to find. This is usually what I fear on a night out so being super stoned and in the middle of it just threw me off.  It was an experience though and it was here that we made the decision that I’d move to Spain with her.

I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t have a wide range of skills to use and I’d never really had any desire to live in Spain. As I write this, I’ve been in Spain for nearly 5 weeks. I’m now back outside my comfort zone and my anxiety is definitely creeping back in.

The issue is that conversation for me is already incredibly difficult with people I don’t know well. So conversation with either people who speak a little English or through my mumbling attempts at speaking Spanish is downright awful. Some of my anxiety stems from a fear of ridicule and speaking a language badly falls into that category. The issue I face is that it’s too easy for me to stay in the flat. I work as a freelancer writer so I only need to leave to go to the shop.

This brings me onto my next issue. Doing things like going to the shop, things that normal people do without even thinking about it, are now back to being a big deal for me. I’ve basically accepted that I’ll have to wait until I go home at Christmas to get my haircut. I try and force myself into social situations because that’s the only way I’ll learn Spanish.

The thing is that I find it too easy to use my poor Spanish as an excuse not to speak. I’ve barely spoken any with people. I worry that I’ll spend too much time in the flat and my anxiety will creep back in. I’ll soon be back to as bad as I’ve ever been, especially since I’m not going to the gym either. In fact my exercise doesn’t go much further than walking to the very nearby shop.

It’s strange when you know that you’re about to fall into a pit but still don’t do anything to stop yourself. On the one hand, if I seize this opportunity to be outside my comfort zone but to gain from it like I did in Cambodia then I could come out a much healthier individual. The issue is doing just that. It’s like I’m balancing on the edge of a cliff: if I fall in one direction then I fall far. If I fall the other way then I am safe and can enjoy the wonderful view.


So what is Anxiety?

Don’t worry if you skipped all of that, I got carried away rambling about my past. It was only supposed to be a brief history. So what is anxiety? If you’ve never experienced it, it can be difficult to describe. Think about whenever you’ve done something that scared you. Maybe you’ve been on a roller coaster at a theme park or perhaps you’ve jumped out of a plane.

That feeling you get when you’re about to start and your stomach goes tight, your heart is beating faster than you thought was possible, your mind is racing through a million and one scenarios of how this could end horribly. Now imagine that you get that every time you speak to someone new or every time you have to go even slightly outside your very restricted comfort zone. Even worse, imagine that you feel that constantly.

The physical sides of anxiety can be bad but my biggest enemy is my own mind. You get caught in a spiral that just sends you further and further down. Imagine that you’re flying a plane and something starts going wrong. Nothing major but a little red light starts flashing. It’s easy to solve but your co-pilot starts freaking out. He presses buttons, he’s screaming at you, flailing around like a madman. Suddenly there are 5 or 6 new problems that are slightly bigger issues but it’s still possible to solve it. Unfortunately your co-pilot is still losing his shit. He’s made 8 lights flash now and he’s taken control of the plane and is trying to bring it down to land…on water. You have to solve this but how can you deal with your co-pilot and all these problems he’s created?

This can go on for a while and sometimes the plane crashes, sometimes the co-pilot jumps out the plane with his parachute and leaves you with all the problems, other times you manage to calm him down and bring the plane back into a smooth cruise with zero lights flashing. This can happen to me several times a day depending on what I’m doing. So I’ve tried various coping strategies which I’ll share with you now. I’ll also explain some of the ones I’ve still to try.


Tips and Tricks

1) Get rid of anyone in your life that actively tries to bring you down. This may sound petty and perhaps you wouldn’t want to but in all honesty, you notice a difference. When you can start to just be yourself and not worry about someone picking on your insecurities or trying to manipulate you or anything like that, your anxiety will be less prevalent. It also stands to reason that you should find people who are like you. I don’t mean people with anxiety (although it can help being with people who actually understand) but more people who share your interests. Life is easier when you can just be you.


2) Breathing exercises. If you get into a situation where you start to feel your anxiety beginning to bubble, there are tons of breathing techniques that people claim to work. Deep, slow breathing is NOT one of them! When you get near an anxiety attack, your body begins to take in more air. If you do it too quickly you start to hyperventilate. What you actually want to do is reduce your oxygen intake. One method is covering one nostril and breathing through your nose. This can work but it doesn’t control the breath-rate. My favourite and most effective is box breathing: breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4 and then repeat. I notice the benefits pretty quickly but if you focus on it for a while, it’s also meditative and works wonders.


3) Speaking of mediation, this is another one I would recommend. Meditating a couple of times a week can help your brain de-stress. I’m not suggesting you “align your chakras” or go on a pilgrimage. Meditating is simply concentrating on a specific thing to allow your mind to focus and become clear. If you want to use it for spiritual purposes, you can. I basically use it to see my own mind and thought processes in a different way. I would highly recommend the 26 minute long Sam Harris guided mediation on YouTube. I’ll add a link at the bottom. It is perfect for beginners or those looking for a simple and direct meditation technique. You can actually use meditation when you’re feeling anxious but I personally find it nearly impossible to do.


4) You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult but it is all about small steps. It’s like going to the gym to build strength. You start on a weight and then you move up. As you move up it gets more difficult and you will struggle but after some time that weight becomes easier and then you move up again. It’s the same thing. Move into a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Accept beforehand that it will but know that you will get used to it. You may never feel 100% comfortable doing it but you will start to feel comfortable enough that it doesn’t freak you out quite as much.


5) Find a way to let loose. You need to find a way to let off steam. For me, it’s taking drugs. For the record, I’m not addicted, I don’t take drugs to melt my brain, I don’t take them because I “need” them. I take them responsibly because they can be a lot of fun. I’m not promoting the idea to you but for me, if I smoke some weed then I feel great. I laugh at some stupid shit or I come up with some crazy theories about films and then I sleep like a baby. If I take MDMA I dance to some good music, I chat about crazy shit to people I barely know and I have a lot of fun. I don’t get the “loss of control” feeling that alcohol can give. On MDMA I feel like myself just happier.


6) Another outlet for those of you who don’t think a therapist is a direction you want to go in, is a journal. I know! You probably don’t want to be a grown adult who keeps a diary. I’m not saying that you write in it every day. You don’t have to open with “Dear diary, today Justin…” I have kept one on my laptop for 7 years now. Whenever I have stuff on my mind, I go on, I mark the date and then I just empty my brain. I always write it as if someone will be reading it once I die. I share all my thoughts, feelings, and predictions for the world, what I’ve been doing. I literally just let everything out. Chances are nobody will ever see it. I have left random clues for people to find to get access to it.

For example, when I had a cancer scare last year (when I say cancer scare, I mean there was a lot of blood somewhere there shouldn’t have been and so I was tested for cancer) I didn’t want to tell anyone about my journal. In fact the only person who knows about it is my girlfriend and I’m pretty sure she’s forgotten. Anyway, I left an encrypted message on a page in a notebook for my brother. It had a simple to solve key but would have taken time and effort. It told him my laptop password, the document to open, the password for that and who was allowed to see it. Just write absolutely everything down and put a password on it so you never have to worry about somebody seeing it.

It also means you can go back and see what your frame of mind was like at a certain point in time. For instance, I can look back to 2011 to see all my high school drama, 2013 is my university bullshit; I can see what I was thinking and what I was doing. It’s interesting to see because obviously the human memory isn’t hugely reliable so being able to look back and see exactly what was going through your head 7 years ago is kind of trippy.


7) Stay away from caffeine! Some of you with anxiety may be fine. For me, it was actually what triggered my anxiety attacks (something I discovered years later). The caffeine basically causes your body to react in the same way it would from a natural anxiety attack. Your brain then notices these changes and as your conscious mind becomes aware of them, it does in fact cause an anxiety attack. So in essence, because you detect what seems like an anxiety attack, you get anxious and actually have one.


8) Personally, I would also say stay away from alcohol as much as you can. I find that alcohol is a very easy crutch to use. It can become too easy to just “get blitzed” in order to feel less self-conscious and ultimately less anxious. I find, however, that my anxiety has started to creep up when I feel myself losing control: Those moments where my actions don’t feel like my own but rather someone else’s. I still have the odd drink here and there but when I do drink to get drunk, it’s a lot less than what I used to consume.


9) Exercise can make an incredible difference. It may sound clichéd but it really does. You don’t have to aim to be a body builder but even just going for a run a few times a week or taking part in a sport will work wonders for you mind.


The Future


So I’m hoping to take a trip fairly soon that could possibly show drastic results. I don’t mean a physical trip but rather a drug-induced one. Magic mushrooms (or more specifically: psilocybin) has shown incredible results in treating depression and anxiety. More and more evidence is coming to light that not only is it more effective that pharmaceuticals but it has a fraction of the side effects, if any. This is going to be the start of my journey (depending on how it goes of course).

I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) smoking DMT which I plan on doing again but I want my first stop to be mushrooms. For those of you who are perhaps anti-drug or still have the high school anti-drug campaign fear tactics running around in your mind somewhere, you should know that it isn’t about a high. I’m not taking the drugs for fun or to escape reality.

I want to take them for the experience they can potentially provide.  You see, psilocybin reorganises the connections in your brain. One trip can completely alter one’s personality as it causes them to create new connections that don’t necessarily have the flaws the old ones did. People with anxiety and depression in studies have gone months feeling cured. Imagine if drug companies brought out a drug that had a few side effects but you only had to take it once every few months? It would be revolutionary.

Obviously, I haven’t tried them yet so I’m not speaking from personal experience. Maybe it doesn’t work for me or give me the experience I need. Maybe this is how I discover psychedelics aren’t for me. At least I’ll know that for sure and will have tried, rather than living through my life with a treatment growing right in front of me in nature.

I’ve spent years researching certain psychedelics: their history, effects, potential benefits, potential risks, advice on taking them, etc. So don’t be fooled into thinking this is a decision I came to lightly. Depending on how my mushroom trip goes, my girlfriend and I want to travel to South America.

Not primarily for this purpose but definitely to do it. We want to visit an ayahuasca retreat. For those of you unfamiliar, ayahuasca is basically a drinkable version of DMT. I will post a link at the bottom to an incredible introduction to it. It’s a mind-blowing drug that is not remotely recreational. This drug is a spiritual drug and is not to be taken lightly.


Further Info


If you have any questions or anything, don’t hesitate to comment below or even send me a message. I’m happy to share any of my experiences with anyone so if you have anxiety or just want to know more about it, my door is always open. Feel free to send me a private message if you have something you’d like to discuss that you don’t feel comfortable sharing publically. I’m always happy to offer whatever advice or insight I can. Don’t feel that you have to suffer through mental health problems alone! There are always people you can turn to!


This is a link to the Sam Harris guided meditation:


This one is to a previously banned TED talk by Graham Hancock about consciousness but he also discusses his experiences with ayahuasca:


I’m also including a link to a Joe Rogan podcast where he discusses ayahuasca. If you haven’t heard of Joe Rogan or only know him from UFC or Fear Factor, he is an incredible human being. His podcast is the only one I listen to and some of the guests and topics they discuss are incredibly insightful and educational:

Life in Spain for a Scotsman!

Having spent the first 24 years of my life living in Bonnie Scotland, the time eventually came for me to leave the nest. Growing up near Edinburgh, Scotland certainly has its perks but the miserable weather, the somewhat problematic drinking problem and the familiarity in itself soon became tiresome. So with that in mind, off to sunny Spain I went with no understanding of the language, no knowledge of the culture and without ‘Moving to Spain’ ever being on my to-do list. Luckily, I was moving there with my girlfriend who happened to be the polar opposite on all three of those points. So without further ado, here is my summary of my life in Spain so far!

The Language Barrier…

As I already mentioned, my grasp of Spanish didn’t extend particularly far past “Hola” before I moved out here. I’d always wanted to learn another language but had always lacked the motivation and the aptitude for picking one up. I had studied French for most of my high school life and had barely learned anything. One thing I commonly heard people say before I left Scotland was “It’s always easier to pick up a language when you live in the country”. Of course, this may very well be the case for anyone who socialises at a normal level but for someone who deals with social anxiety 24/7; it’s a little trickier than that.

…with a Scottish Accent

That being said, I’ve started to learn the basics. Duolingo and Rosetta Stone have been useful enough for a basic understanding. I have the good fortunate of living with my girlfriend who speaks Spanish practically fluently. So whenever I encounter something that just doesn’t make sense to me, she’s only an elbow’s nudge away! Of course, that isn’t the only language barrier. In Pamplona, most people who do speak English have learned it in school but even when they’ve had real world experience with the English language; it’s usually accompanied by an English accent. My Scottish accent isn’t even that strong as far as I’m aware. Yet many people have told me my accent is impossible to understand. One hilarious moment was having a group of American’s question whether I was speaking German or English.


Since finishing university, it had always been my plan to do a TEFL course and go to China or Japan or just somewhere far away from the UK to teach English. So with only a month or two between me deciding to move to Spain and actually moving, I managed to squash in a TEFL weekend. The weekend itself was incredibly helpful but I went all out and paid for the 140+ hour course. Meaning I still had 120 hours online stuff to complete. My plan for work was to spend the first couple of months living off my savings while I complete the TEFL course and then give private English lessons after my initially optimistic teaching assistant application was turned down on multiple occasions.

Of course it’s one thing to have a plan in your head and it’s an entirely different thing to act on it. As much as I want to eventually get around to finishing my TEFL course, I stumbled across a different way to earn money that would also not require a grasp of the Spanish language: freelance writing. I won’t go into huge detail about that as I’ve written another post on it already. However, what started off as hugely unsuccessful and extremely frustrating turned out to be my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’d always wanted to write and I am now earning more than I was working part-time with Costco in Scotland.

The only real issue with this is that the work isn’t necessarily steady. I have two projects for this month that will earn me enough to cover my time so far in Spain but what about next month or the month after that? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Things to Do

Pamplona itself is a decent size with what would seem like a relatively large student population. I just moved here from a small town which basically comprised of retirement homes, charity shops, churches and pubs. So anything near to a club would be an improvement. I was shocked to discover that actually Pamplona doesn’t have a great deal to do. We’ve been to numerous bars and a couple of the clubs and it just seems a little dull if I’m honest. One of the clubs did show potential but in order to get to the good music (in my opinion) you have to worm your way through a sweaty, testosterone-oozing mass of “lads, lads, lads”. You step outside and there is vomit left, right and centre.

I mean maybe this is the point in my life where I just put the drink down, forget the clubs, buy a pipe and do my crossword puzzles in a rocking chair. While the pipe part doesn’t sound so bad, I’m not quite ready for the rest. I guess I had the impression that Pamplona would be a bit more ‘hustle and bustle’. I mean this is the city where once a year people literally get chased by bulls down the street.

Surrounding Area

There certainly seems to be plenty to do in Spain itself. My girlfriend has repeatedly suggested we go to Barcelona for a weekend. We have plans to go skiing after Christmas in the nearby mountains bordering with France. As well as that, I’ve been dying to see some cave art, like that mentioned by Graham Hancock in his book Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind. It just so happens that the Cave of El Castillo is only a 3 hour drive away from here. So I definitely want to get around to doing that at some stage. We’re also not that far from the North Coast of Spain so there are a huge number of sea-side towns to visit.


As a partaker in the consumption of marijuana, I was relieved to hear that there exists a sort of loophole in Spain whereby it’s legal to own, smoke and even grow weed in the privacy of your own home. You’re not allowed to sell it or grow it where members of the public can see it but other than that you’re safe. To me, that translates as “it will be easy to get hold of weed” when in fact, it’s easier in Scotland! It doesn’t help that Pamplona is a very traditional city. Places like Barcelona have weed clubs where people go and smoke together whereas Pamplona still butchers bulls for sport and entertainment.


For starters, when I arrived here at the very end of September it was 29oC. To put that in perspective for anyone not from Scotland: the highest temperature EVER recorded in Scotland was 32.9oC and that was at the start of August. Average maximum temperatures for a Scottish summer are between 13oC-15oC. The weather in Pamplona stayed in the 20s up until about 2 weeks ago where it dropped to between 9oC and 12oC. Not to mention that the total number of days it has rained would fit into one week. While for Scotland the total number of days it rains per week is 7! So yeah, the weather is certainly a plus.

Another pro is the food. I’m somewhat of a fussy eater but going out for pinchos is great for me. There is always a meat option so I’d never go hungry. Following on from food is the drinks. I don’t mean soft drinks (we’ll get to that in the cons) but the alcoholic drinks. In Scotland, if you order a vodka and coke, you get this tiny measure that’s not even slightly more than what it’s supposed to be. They chuck a slice of lemon in and pour some semi-flat coke into the glass. When you’re at a club or bar here, each drink is like a work of art. The measures themselves are like twice that of Scotland, you get a lime rubbed round your glass and squeezed into it with some mint or other additions. I couldn’t believe how refreshing a drink could taste.

While it being a traditional city can be a downside, I love walking around old buildings. There are a lot of sights in Pamplona to explore such as The Citadel which is a huge fortress that was built in the 16th century. People also seem a lot more cheerful and friendly here. That could just be due to the weather, and I don’t think any place is free of its grumps or angry teens but certainly everyone I’ve met so far has been extremely welcoming and hospitable.


To keep things balanced, there is also a cons list. One of the few cons is one that’s very close to my heart: Irn-Bru is only brewed to its original recipe in Scotland. So even if it existed out here (which it doesn’t) I wouldn’t be drinking the same drink. I’m also an avid cinema goer which isn’t an option for me here as I don’t speak enough Spanish to watch the films I want to see. I recently watched a disturbingly poor quality version of Thor: Ragnarok just so I wouldn’t have to worry about spoilers (not that that ended up being an issue, you’ll probably see a blog post about it soon enough).

My Personal Goals

I guess the root of all my problems lies more with me than with Pamplona, Spain. Now that I have a taste for writing, it’s all my mind is really focussed on. So completing TEFL is on the shelf, learning Spanish is still on-going but has certainly stepped away from 1st position on my priorities list. I have so much that I want to accomplish and do, yet I can’t have time and money. So I need to either sacrifice time into work in order to fund trips to Barcelona, skiing, ETC. My other option is accepting that I can’t really afford to go anywhere but I’d then have more time to concentrate on my Spanish, focus on expanding my personal writing and creating some sort of following on that absolutely nonsensical social media platform they call Twitter, and perhaps pick up some extra skills along the way.

The simple option, of course, would be to get a job that involves learning and speaking Spanish. The issue with that being that my ability to socialise is about as high as my ability to speak Spanish: Meaning that the two combined together would lead only to disaster. Yes, I would probably learn as I went but until that point I’d be a flaming hot ball of anxiety, slowly melting into a puddle.

To sum it all up, Spain shows a lot of promise. It might not sound it from the content of this post but I’ve a realist and I’m only expressing myself in the way I feel is most honest. I’m not trying to sell the idea of moving to Spain but neither am I trying to convince people not to. While there are still things for me to see and do here, Spain has not been thoroughly enough explored yet.

I’m thinking of doing a post based on the idea of moving to Scotland. Not for myself of course but for those thinking of doing so. If that is something you think you’d be interested in then let me know!

Be sure to follow me here and on Twitter: @BakedHaggis

Alternatively, if you’d like to take a look at the work I’ve been doing on a Pompeii travel blog, you can check it out here:

Similarly, if you want to see my first guest appearance on someone else’s blog, you can find that here:


My Meditation Experience


I had this weird experience while listening to the Sam Harris guided meditation on Youtube (find a link at the bottom). Just to clarify before I go any further, I’m not religious whatsoever. I would class myself as spiritual but I’ve never really had any major experiences with my consciousness, even while meditating. I’d meditated many, many times and while it has been beneficial, my experience was never particularly bizarre. So for maybe the 10th or so time, I listened to this track. It also started off fairly routine with the focused breathing and becoming aware of sounds in the room. But when I first started becoming aware of my consciousness, I felt it expand.

Imagine the sun expanding and swallowing the Earth but rather than being yellow, its black, or at least very dark navy blue. It was like I was sinking into an expanding sun. Maybe it was more like a black hole. It got darker and darker the further I sunk.My heart rate actually increased and I could feel myself beginning to sweat. I almost lost my focus at this point because it was such an unusual experience for me. I guess it’s kind of similar to when you realise you’re lucid dreaming and get too excited and ultimately wake up. Luckily, I managed to concentrate on my breathing enough to continue.

When the audio reached the part where you open your eyes, I felt like what I was seeing wasn’t there: Like by opening my eyes I wasn’t seeing the outside world but more a projection of it. Like it could be real but more than like a screen was just turned on in my consciousness. I guess it could be compared to when a blank tv is turned on or a game loads up. The difference being that it was connected to the very base level of my mind. This was one of the creepy parts of the meditation as it made me feel like someone had just loaded reality onto my brain’s TV screen. I may not even be where my eyes are seeing. It could be like controlling a drone as it flies miles away. I guess that is kind of similar to how vision works.

When I closed my eyes again I started to notice bizarre feelings. Why were they bizarre? Well not only could I feel them, but I could also see them. The pressure on my back from the seat I was leaning against was a red wire or rope going straight from the bottom of my consciousness right up to the top. The seat colour itself was also red but that may have just been a coincidence as I couldn’t see or really remember the seat at this point in time. I could see my feet touching the floor as a green string, also going from the bottom to the top of my conscious field. I could see my hands touching my knees as bluey-green wire. This is where things started to get really trippy!

As I moved my hands, the string moved. Not necessarily because of the movement itself but more because of the change in sensation. Wiggling my fingers made the bluey-green strings vibrate. The more sensations I created, the more they vibrated until they became a sort of wiggle. They resembled a fluctuation chart going from its highest point to its lowest point over and over again: Like rolling hills that swoop down into sunken valleys. The weird thing was being able to experiment with this. Moving one part of my body and watching as the coloured string vibrated differently depending on the physical sensation I was feeling.

As I reached the second part where I opened my eyes, I felt my consciousness expanding (the same feeling of the sun expanding). I felt like I was in my head but also leaving it at the same time. Like my point of view stayed the same but the reach of my consciousness grew. It soon felt like I could reach out with my consciousness. Like at any moment I would make contact with the ceiling or the floor or the piece of paper that I could see. That at any moment I’d feel it as if I was touching it with my hand. I felt like my consciousness was a balloon gradually inflating. The centre of the balloon or sun stays in the same place; much like my centre but it is still expanding and reaching further.

So yeah, this was my most interesting and unique meditation experience (up until the day before I wrote this, I’ll write about that one soon). I’d had times where I’d come out of meditation at the end feelings a little strange or different but this was the first time I’d had proper visuals. Not to mention the whole expansion of consciousness feelings. I’m not sure that’s what people mean when they use the term ‘expansion of consciousness’ but that’s how it felt to me.



As always, feel free to comment with any questions or opinions. Hit the subscribe button to see more of my random-ass posts. Alternatively, follow my new and still empty Twitter @BakedHaggis to keep up to date with what I’m doing. Thanks for reading!


Sam Harris Meditation Link:

Also, check out Sam Harris’s book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion which is where I first found this guided meditation and learned that I could be spiritual simply by viewing consciousness differently and without having to believe in a God.

Freelancer: Why get paid FOR work when you can pay TO work?

So I recently moved to Spain with my girlfriend. I don’t speak Spanish (although I am learning, just very slowly) and I have yet to find a job. I’ve only been here a week but I came to terms with the fact that without a basic understanding of the language, finding a job could be quite challenging. So my solution was to find a job online. I’d started looking before I moved out here and had discovered two freelance writing websites that basically allow you to do writing, data entry, proof-reading, etc for people and get paid to do it. Now, my writing ability is at an average level. It certainly isn’t the highest quality but I can manage the basics at least. So off I went and created my profiles on these websites. The first one, called UpWork, has repeatedly rejected my profile from being accepted onto their website. Apparently they have too many people who match my skills and experience level. So I moved onto the follow-up: Freelancer. I entered with optimism and I left wondering why I would ever have viewed it as anything but a waste of time and money. It all sounds perfect in theory but time and time again I learnt a valuable lesson: People are pieces of shit and controlled by either morons or scum…quite possibly both!

So let me admit that there are definitely some positive aspects to the site: For one thing, it seems to be very easy to use and navigate your way around, everything seems to work how it’s supposed to and their systems for finding work that match your skillset are pretty good. Of course, that doesn’t remotely begin to make up for the rest of the bullshit you have to wade through.

First of all, in order to get a job you have to “bid”. Now as a free user, you get something like 8 bids which slowly build up again over time. Every project you bid on will have anywhere between 15-120 other people bidding on it as well. If any of these people has a reputation then it is automatically seen as better than your lack of one. So automatically you start off at a disadvantage. Getting your foot in the door is nearly impossible and you end up having to take on huge workloads for practically nothing. Of course Freelancer offers the opportunity to take their tests in order to display your ability. For example, the most frequent one I saw was a ‘level 1 English (US) Test’ which, even as a UK native, I think I could pass. On UpWork you can take as many tests as you like, all of which are completely free. On Freelancer however, this is not the case. This absolutely basic test costs you £5. That might not seem a lot but just keep track of these small costs as we go along and you’ll begin to see why it’s an issue. Luckily for me (or unluckily) Freelancer were offering a 2 week free trial of their “premium membership” which gives you 300 bids. Considering I had used all 8 of mine up in one day, I figured I may as well agree to the free trial and just make the most of it for those two weeks. I mean if it works out then it might even be worth paying for: this premium membership usually costs £19.95 per month. You apparently receive a list of benefits with it but from what I could see, the only useful items were the extra bids and the shiny orange logo that appears on your profile to display your premium status!

So I got to work bidding on projects, contacting people and trying to make my profile a bit more sellable. I added examples of my writing from my blog, as well as some of my academic writing and I even cut down a research report to make it a bit more manageable and uploaded that as well. So as far as I could tell, I displayed my experience and ability for all to see. I didn’t get much of a response on the first day but on the second I thought I’d found the ideal job. An “employer” wanted me to write 5-6 500 word articles every day, 6 days a week. I mean the articles themselves were hardly riveting but it allowed me to work on my writing and research a little bit and get paid to do so; I wasn’t going to start complaining…yet. The issue with this first person was that they’d asked to take communications off Freelancer which I now realise is a major red flag. At the time, I figured that maybe people preferred to discuss things off Freelancer as the site’s chat function is incredibly annoying and tends to be more of a hassle than anything. So I completed my first article, sent it to the guy and got ready to start the second. This was when I received a job offer from another person. The pay was better, they were going to set up the payments through Freelancer and the articles seemed a hell of a lot more interesting. I figured why not do both? So I got to work on this new article, finished it quickly and sent it to the guy. This is where I started to realise how naïve I had been. I messaged the guy on Freelancer and soon discovered that his account had been closed. I had already received an email from Freelancer stating the amount of money I’d earned from that job so I figured that at least I was going to get paid…no. You see, despite the fact that Freelancer takes a percentage of any job from the employee, that money is taken BEFORE you get paid for the job. I mean if they don’t’ have the sense to see the very obvious solution to this then perhaps they are just a group of people who share one brain among 30 of them. So in essence, I had just paid Freelancer £5 so that I could write an article on headphones. I made my first contact with Freelancer via the live chat function and explained that I just didn’t understand: how could they take money from me if there was no guarantee? Obviously (I say obviously, but clearly you require significantly more brain power than those behind the curtain at Freelancer) the smart thing to do would be to take that “deposit” from both parties and in the event that one side bails or turns out to be a scam, then the innocent person gets their money back and Freelancer keeps the other. That doesn’t even cover the time and effort already wasted. I was in the unfortunate position of still having to do articles for the other guy but I wasn’t about to have my time wasted any further: I told him that unless we did it on an article to article basis, then I wasn’t about to complete any more for him. He started preaching about how he wasn’t a scammer and how I’d get all the payments at the end of the week but considering this was all off Freelancer, I decided not to bother. At least I hadn’t paid any moronic deposit for the opportunity to do his work. I mean if Freelancer can’t even provide any sort of guarantee then I wasn’t going to hold my breath for dealings going on outside the site.

So off I went again, searching for some more reliable sources of work. I quite quickly found a man who needed several pages of text proof-read and corrected. He didn’t have any ratings but he agreed to pay in milestones. So I figured that this time I had nothing to lose. I started sorting through the work, making all the corrections and I messaged him as each page was done. At the start, he had told me that he needed this work completed within 3 hours. I went by that deadline and within 3 hours I messaged him to await further instructions. No reply. I messaged again and again, getting more annoyed with every hour that went by until I just took a deep breath and moved on. So now I’d been scammed out of work but I’d also been scammed out of work without even sending it to the person. Who are these people that go on and just waste people’s time and money like that? I’d just lost another £5 to Freelancer for doing work that I didn’t get paid for. I messaged them via the live chat again to find a solution to this problem. The person I talked to didn’t seem to grasp the concept at all. I mentioned the 3 hour deadline and kept getting responses like “it’s only been 3 hours, they might be busy” and “give it more time”…what they couldn’t or wouldn’t admit was that I had been ripped off. Not so much by this employer but actually by Freelancer.

Finally, I found a job with someone who had high ratings. Was this about to be the moment my Freelancer experience finally turned around? No, no it was not! This individual was going to pay me $2.50 per article (about 250 words each) which is about £1.91, meaning I’d have to do at least 6 of these just to cover the losses I’d made so far on the site. Since only geniuses such as them would charge you a percentage of what you’ll get paid before you do get paid. Anyway, I would have 9 articles to do in total which would at least bring me back up to breaking even. I got to work writing the articles but as experience had taught me, I wasn’t about to do all this work without some sort of guarantee. I messaged this new employer and explained that I’d send him one article at a time and he could release the funds as we go. No reply. I figured I’d write a few more articles while I wait on a response just so I can be ready. He’d given me a deadline of 20 hours and since I’d been busy for most of that, I didn’t have a huge amount of time left. No reply. I messaged him again explaining that I would even send two articles at a time if he released $5 afterwards. When he did eventually reply, it was to complain about the fact that he didn’t want to release the money that way. I explained that I’d already lost money on this site and that I wasn’t prepared to do so again. He just kept telling me to send the rest of the articles and then I’d get paid. A whole day went by of me explaining to him that I’d only send more if he paid me for the ones I’d already sent him. After a day or so, he finally told me that he would find someone else to do the work if I didn’t send it. The most annoying aspect of this wasn’t even doing the work without getting paid: it was that I couldn’t even leave the guy a bad review as he could just respond with an equally as negative one and it would make my profile look horrific.

In the end I did finally get a genuine job. I was hired to proof-read and correct a website and the dude paid me in the end. So you would think that I’d be ending this article on a happy note? Not even slightly. I end this post with a warning: Stay as far away from as you possibly can! Use UpWork or any other freelance website but NOT My only successful job paid $30 and while most of this would just cover the losses I’d made trying to find one genuine job on this site, I still viewed it as a moment of success. I wasn’t any more optimistic in relation to the sites functionality and I certainly wasn’t any more trusting of the staff behind it or the employers hiring on it but still, one tiny moment of sunshine breaking through the grey. To avoid any possibility of losing these funds, I immediately went on to withdraw them. Keep in mind that Freelancer had had absolutely no issue whatsoever in taking funds from my account without actually warning me about it (apparently it’s hidden away in a section of their website) yet when I went to withdraw money, my Paypal account suddenly “wasn’t verified”. So they had been trigger happy in draining some Paypal account that hadn’t been verified but when it came to putting money into that account there is suddenly an issue. Once again, I sought the wisdom of the single brained staff (although maybe I’m being generous in assuming that they have one brain between them) of Freelancer’s live chat support. Over and over again I was told that I’d have to contact Paypal. Now, I had been on Paypal over and over again and hadn’t seen a single issue with my verification. I told a little white lie to this barely functional zombie typing on the other end of the chat and suggested that I’d already been in contact with Paypal. I remarked on how confused Paypal had been that Freelancer would be able to take funds from an unverified account but not deposit them. This swiftly led the cave-dweller to send me a link that allowed me to withdraw me funds. Of course, for security reasons, I was required to wait 15 days before said funds would leave Freelancer. This is yet to happen and I can’t say I’m holding my breath. What I expect to happen is that my account will get blocked or suspended for some ridiculously moronic reason and my funds will be lost to limbo *cough* Freelancer’s wallet *cough*.

To my shock yet not necessarily to my surprise, I ended up being unable to withdraw this $30. What happened? Well, I received a job that would pay me $200. Somehow, God knows why, despite all the failings so far and all the scams, hoodwinks, bamboozles, high jinks, etc that I’d already been dragged through, my brain lit up with excitement. Do I even need to tell you what happened? I guess I sort of do as this was once again a whole new situation that cements just how useless I had received the payment, it was right there on my account and just as I went to withdraw it, it vanished. Gone! Poof! Up in smoke! What happened? The transaction was reversed…not because of anything I’d done (other than fucking hard work) but because apparently the user who had sent me the money had violated the site’s terms and conditions in some way and since his account was now blocked, they had to reverse the transaction. A transaction that cost me $20 to accept in a non-refundable deposit that helps pay the wage of money-hungry troglodytes who have been soulless since agreeing to work for Satan’s website:

So why is so popular? I’ll tell you why: You get people going on to rip off others who are looking for work. Freelancer have little reason to try and solve any of the problems because they make money from people like me. If they don’t even have the common sense to take deposits from both sides in order to cover the losses when one party bails then perhaps they are just a group of people who share a single brain cell among 30 of them. It really isn’t that difficult to organise. I mean you could have both parties put forward say 50% of payment which gets held in limbo. In the event that the work isn’t completed, then the employee loses their deposit. In the event the employer vanishes or runs off with the work, at least the employee gets something to cover the costs of the retarded fee system that Freelancer runs; At the absolute very least, they should wait until payment has been sent and a job has been successfully completed before they start charging people money. Especially since that is what all their information implies as you go through the process. may sound (at first) like the ideal situation for any writers but it’s a black hole full of sick and evil people who only exist there to rip you off for everything that they can. If you want to get some people to write articles for free for you, then by all means, visit the website as the staff there will be more than willing to assist you in your schemes and scams. I’d even recommend you message them via the live chat and explain your plans to them. They’ll probably offer you a VIP membership or pay you to act like a genuine employer just so they can make even more money from the sorry sods such as myself…

Lust, Longing and Bouts of Anxiety

“If you meet somebody and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that’s not the one. When you meet your ‘soul mate’ you’ll feel calm. No anxiety, no agitation.”

– Random quote apparently from a Buddhist


Until recently I don’t think I would have appreciated the value of this quote: we see in films people talking about their hearts racing, how they’re so nervous that they’ll make a mistake, that they go weak at the knees when they see someone they “love”. So when we feel these similar emotions we believe that it’s a sign that we’ve met a compatible partner, someone to whom we are physically and emotionally attracted to. For me, the idea of having weak knees, shaking hands and a racing heart sounds a lot more like something negative (my first thought being an anxiety attack) rather than a moment I’d look back on fondly. This is ultimately what I want to talk about today: “love” or at least my own version of it and the effect this has on anxiety (based on my own experience).


I always feel a bit hesitant to use the word “love” (never mind discussing it on a blog) because I feel like it has certain connotations that should be positive but are often perceived as negative. I mean you can love a dog, love a family member, love a friend, love all people, a band, a food, a drug, the fact that it’s not raining, sand, you can say you love pretty much everything in the world until you get to someone with whom you are romantically involved with and then it becomes this weight of pressure. It’s almost like using the term “love” is a quicker way of saying that you want to marry someone, have children, spend your retirement gardening together before being buried in the same plot of land that you’ve already purchased…maybe it’s the fact that I hate the idea of doing all those things but I’d like to think that I’m not the only one who sees it that way. As soon as the word love is used I find it creates complications or can cause the same feelings as being stuck in an elevator (when it’s not completely mutual that is). I think that love is tricky to discuss because not only does everyone have their own image of what “it” is but we’ve all experienced it in different ways from different sorts of people and our own experience of it won’t always be positive. Some people fall in love instantly, some never do, some people think they’ve loved only to realise they haven’t and for some it’s the opposite way around. I think love in itself is a combination of emotions which makes it more difficult to pin down because one might feel different emotions when in love than someone else would. I’d say that love is trust, happiness, comfort, lust, etc. Is that all love is though? Love can involve sadness but you’re not sad because you’re in love, you’re sad because you can’t have love. Maybe the person you love is with someone else or maybe they’ve been chosen for the first mission to mars. Anyway, I’m getting off topic here so let me get back on track: how does all of this relate to anxiety and mental health in general?


I’ve mentioned previously in a post that I suffer from varying forms of anxiety: I have incredibly debilitating social anxiety (slowly improving) as well as anxiety attacks that can be triggered by certain situations. Physical contact with other people used to be a challenge for me as well but I’ve mostly overcome that now. I’ve been in relationships before where I’ve initially felt anxious but quickly got past it only for my anxiety to still be rather prevailing in any other situation, even when with this person. So it came as quite a shock to me recently when I met someone, a complete stranger, with whom, from the get go I seemed to just feel comfortable. I mean there is always going to be that initial awkwardness of having to use the typical starter questions but once we were past that we got on like a house on fire. The real challenge was meeting friends of this person in social situations that would usually have me sweating and feeling at my most uncomfortable but nope, I felt fine and actually felt confident to a degree. Something about being with this person and knowing that they are there just removes some of the fear. I mean I’m sure a therapist would probably tell me that most of my anxiety stems from a fear of humiliation; I mean I can even think of examples off the top of my head quite easily of when this deep-rooted issue would have been cemented in place. So I guess when you are with a group of people and know that the person there who means the most to you isn’t going to put you down or view anything you say or do as weird, stupid or abnormal then you can just relax and be yourself. Perhaps it is the societal pressures to conform to the norms that lead us into these anxiety-ridden black holes.


This change isn’t just limited to situations involving that person though. I started noticing it in other areas of my life: at work I have a supervisor who other than being a racist, homophobic, bigoted alcoholic, caffeine-addicted chain-smoker is also just a bit of a dick. When I first started working there I would put up with it, I’d pretend to laugh at his awful jokes, I’d agree with his narcissistic and ego-inflating statements about his “skills” and my hatred for this man just built up with each day. Along comes this person and without even being aware of it I start taking on the views and opinions of this fossil to the point where he starts saying things like “you need to go back in your shell” and “I’m not liking this side of you”. Areas of work that I used to dread and actually fear became sort of “meh” and I quickly adjusted to them being part of the job. People who I used to avoid talking to I’ve since became quite friendly with simply because I found it easier to talk to them without freaking out about what to say. Most of this took place without me even being aware of it and I believe that it’s down to not only the physical side of being with someone (I don’t mean just the sex, although obviously that does play a major role in altering brain chemistry in such a manner) but also the emotional side. It’s not often that I can spend time with someone and be completely myself. I mean I’m exaggerating a little bit here but it’s certainly true that I usually have to keep some things locked up inside my brain or at least control certain aspects of my personality. SO I guess just being able to release all my built up “me-ness” is therapeutic to such an extent that I am able to relax a bit in other social situations.


I am of course not implying that you should be with someone just because they make you feel more confident and comfortable than you usually would but I am saying that for me, this is an incredible feeling to experience and it is certainly a lot more enjoyable than being with someone where you are constantly worried that you might fuck up. I mean isn’t that the dream relationship? I remember it being said pretty well in How I Met Your Mother when the mother (whose death was some of the most ridiculous writing ever and led to the worst ending of any TV series) says that she wants someone who not only tolerates or accepts her quirks but wants somebody who actually enjoys them and encourages them (I’m paraphrasing but it’s something like that). As any of my fellow introverts will know, there comes a time after socialising where you just need to be alone for a little bit to recharge. I can get to the stage pretty quickly given the right situation and often if I can’t recharge my social battery, I struggle to function and ultimately just get a bit irritable. One thing I did notice with this person is that I could spend days with them and I didn’t once think that I needed to leave to be alone. I mean it’s not like we were just in the same room for that time either, we were in each other’s personal space for prolonged periods of time. I remember leaving a party we’d been at and going back to the flat to just relax and that’s exactly what we did: relax. I left for work the next day without feeling even slightly exhausted (at least mentally) and didn’t need to hide in my cave for the next two days to recover from an evening of social interaction.


There is another issue that i’d like to mention quickly that i’m sure some, if not all of you have experienced at some stage. Remember when you’ve been attracted to someone and you start messaging them and every time your phone goes off you get a little wave of excitement run through your body then one day you send a text that might be a little risky or might be “make or break” and you get more nervous than you thought possible. Your phone goes off and you don’t even look in case it’s the reply and when it is you can’t even bring yourself to read it because you’re genuinely terrified of what it might say. Know what I’m talking about? Well there is also the opposite of that: where you enjoy chatting to someone but you’ve kind of grown weary of the conversation and when you see they’ve messaged you, you swipe away the notification usually to forget it was even there. I have great news: there is a middle ground and it’s a lot more enjoyable. You might say you like the “thrill” of the first option but I absolutely hate it. I get more stressed with stuff like that than anything else in the world. I nearly got kicked out of university on several occasions because I literally couldn’t open my e-mails out of fear i’d been kicked out…ironically enough the fear of being kicked out was the real cause of me nearly getting kicked out…anyway, back to the point: the middle ground is getting the thrill of that person messaging you but also not feeling like you need to respond straight away. You can send somewhat risky messages but still not feel like the Earth would be doing you a favour by opening below you and swallowing you up. This was just a minor point I wanted to add that doesn’t really have any relevance but still seemed worth a mention.


Anyway, this is a different sort of post from what I’d usually write about but what can I say? My brain took me in this direction today and I’ve just sort of let it type until it feels like it’s got it at all out. As usual, if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask. I love responding to any queries and comments and knowing that at least one person reads a post of mine and enjoys it or takes something away from it just makes it worthwhile.




My Adventure: The Good, the Bad and the Unforgettable

So having made it back home, all be it rather reluctantly, I figured I may as well update those of you who are interested on my recent trip to Thailand. I’ll admit that it wasn’t as much a trip to Thailand as it was a trip to Cambodia but I’ll get to that later. Ultimately there were some high points (in some instances quite literally) and some low points but I have survived. Don’t worry, I’m going to try to avoid simply writing about every tiny little thing I did. I mean I could discuss the temples i’d visited or the complete shock of visiting the killing fields or any number of things but instead I want to focus more on the experience and the emotional ups and downs that were part of the journey. Anyway, here we go…

So as I already mentioned, my trip to Thailand was rather short lived. My first day there was a bit overwhelming and if I’d written a post on that day it would have been largely negative. Ignoring the 14 hours of travelling, the lack of food, the tiredness, dehydration or the fact that it was more than 30 degrees hotter than where I’d left, I was in pretty good spirits when I landed. I liked that I was on a little adventure and looked forward to kicking it all off. That didn’t last too long though as I quickly got crammed into a train to the point that I didn’t even have space to pull my phone out of my pocket but getting off only added to my general discomfort: even with google maps I was incredibly lost and had 6 hours to kill before I could check-in to my hostel. I won’t write about every single day of my trip but I feel like I need to take you through this one as it was quite an experience. I got talking to a very nice local man who gave me suggestions of what to see and where I could go to kill some time and who ultimately bargained with a tuk-tuk driver on my behalf. He had suggested that I visit the ARC reservation centre (or something similar) where I could ask about booking buses and other such things. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was somewhat foreshadowing for how my day was to go. Arriving at this place, I was greeted with an open door which I immediately walked away from as I had zero interest in booking anything right there and then. Instead, I chose to walk to my hostel which was about an hour away. Along this journey I met another friendly local. He began telling me all these things I could see such as the lucky Buddha or the Standing Buddha, both of which intrigued me. He then started telling me about this fabric shop that for one week was allowing members of the public to go in and see how everything was made, he also recommended a tourist information as they apparently would help me see what else I could do in and around Bangkok. This man waved down a ride for me and for only 30 baht (less than £1) he would drive me to all these places. So I went to the lucky Buddha and then the standing Buddha and even though I was supposed to have two stops in between, I told the man that I wanted to go straight to the Golden Mount which was pretty near to my hostel. Apparently that wasn’t really an option for me and I was practically kidnapped to this random factory shop which in actually was a suit store. Suffering from exhaustion and dehydration, my brain was not at its most functional and it didn’t really click what was going on so on I went into this “fabric factory” with no idea what to expect. What I got was a man trying to make me a suit. He gave me a nice cold bottle of water and started asking what colour of suit I wanted. I tried my best to explain to him that a) I was clearly very confused as to what this place was and b) I really had no interest in buying a suit. Of course “no” doesn’t mean no in such instances and so he kept selling and kept selling. When he did finally realise that I was never going to part with my cash, he went off in a huff. He didn’t say goodbye, he didn’t even say he was done talking to me, he literally just wandered away; taking that as my cue to leave I went out and continued my Bangkok tour. The next stop was the tourist information and once again, despite my protests, my driver insisted that I go and get “free information”. I was beginning to wise up a little at this stage and as I entered the tourist information, I knew what to expect. In fairness, the women here were actually pretty helpful and were a lot more understanding about the fact that I’d basically just been kidnapped and brought here and really had no intention of buying a tour to the jungle or a waterfall right there and then. Leaving, I was ready to head to the Golden Mount but nope, my driver insisted we visit a 2nd suit shop. This time he was honest with me and explained that if he takes customers to these shops he gets a fuel coupon and he assured me that it didn’t matter whether I bought a suit or not. Somewhat sympathetic and in all honesty just too tired to argue, I agreed to go to this place. I was however beginning to lose my patience and as I walked into this shop and had the man explain to me that their suits were amazing quality and super cheap, I told him the truth: “I have absolutely no interest in buying a suit right now. I’m not going to bullshit you because I don’t want to waste your time but I’ve only been here a day and I’ve been taken to two of these shops under false pretences and if you don’t mind I’ll have a look and see if there is anything I like but I’d be buying it another day.” Apparently honesty is not always the best policy as I was quickly thrown out of the shop and my driver did not get his coupon. He then reluctantly drove me to the Golden Mount and I gave him like 50 baht because I felt a little bad since he was after all just trying to earn some money. I’d never even heard of the Golden Mount (mainly due to the lack of research I’d done before this trip) but as I ascended the steps, I couldn’t help but feel that I was doing some sort of test. I hadn’t eaten since the start of my 2nd flight which had probably been about 8 hours ago at this stage, I definitely hadn’t drank enough water and I was carrying everything I had with me on my back. Each step made me feel more and more light-headed and by the time I reached the top, I really couldn’t appreciate how wonderful it all was. It was just too warm and so I made my way back down and decided it was time to get to the hostel before I fainted. Other than going for food with a Canadian guy from my hostel and then being shown around by a local woman, that pretty much sums up my day. I’ll admit, at that point 3 weeks felt like an eternity and in all honesty I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I would feel that way another two times on my trip.

Just to get the negativity out of the way, here are the other two times I doubted I’d survive the rest of my time in SE Asia: the second time was my final night in Bangkok. We’d been out on the infamous Khao San Road until everything closed and had then stayed up at the hostel for another couple of hours. We had to get up at 7 for a “9 hour” bus journey to Siem Reap in Cambodia and at 5 or 6 in the morning everyone in our room was awake because some guy had come back drunk and pissed himself in the bed (I’m still not sure if he was on the top or bottom bunk). At this time I felt awful: I was tired, a little nauseous and the thought of being on a bus soon just filled me with dread. I remember wondering if my whole trip was going to be like this? Should I just book flights home and call the mission a failure? I felt better in the morning but I still remember the feeling well. The third time I felt this way was for a much more valid reason: After staying on Koh Rong I made my way across to Koh Rong Sanloem with plans to attend a jungle party the night before the full moon party. I missed what sounds like the best party ever because I started being as violently sick as a person can be: Barely making it out of the room, id fall down the 4 or 5 stairs and just collapse to the ground as I threw up in the bushes, practically dragging myself in the dirt up the rocky path that led the 100 or so yards to the toilets. Most of the time I’d be done being sick by the time I made it there but every single time I’d be in extreme physical pain as my body contracted as if I were being dosed with high voltage electrical shocks. When I did end up in the toilet I’d be so nauseous and light headed, the world spinning around me as if I could suddenly sense it spinning through space, that I’d be physically unable to walk back to my room. On one occasion I had to actually ask two random girls if they could help me. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone and that was without a doubt the most ill I have ever been in my entire life!

So for those of you who read my previous post (and for those of you who haven’t) you’ll remember that I had a few major anxieties related to this trip, 3 in particular: 1) The social aspect. I wasn’t sure how well I’d cope being forced into social situations with lots of new people and having to live in small rooms with strangers. 2) The food. As a VERY fussy eater I had no idea how well I’d deal with having less access to my usual diet and it worried me that I might literally starve to death. 3) Spiders. Without a doubt spiders are my biggest fear and given what I’d heard about surrounding areas, it concerned me that I might have to deal with what would be giant, potentially man-eating spiders. So how did I cope? Surprisingly well actually! The only time I had any real issue with spiders was on Koh Rong when we were staying in little thatched huts that basically just had a mattress and a mosquito net inside. Walking past the toilets at one stage I noticed a massive spider on the wall which didn’t make me fully confident that I’d be able to enter those toilets the rest of the time I was there. As I reached my room just after this moment, one of the guys I was travelling with proceeded to point out that a pretty big spider had just ran under the bed. To top it all off, after a night on the beach that ended with me being drunk and high, I walked back to the room with the same travelling companion only to notice a massive spider on the net. If I had been sober, I would have freaked and probably wouldn’t have slept but that night I slept like a baby! After that, I wasn’t too bothered about spiders. I trekked through the jungle without any anxiety, I slept in the huts without worrying about any night time spider attacks, I even hung clothes on the hut walls and managed not to be overly concerned about the very real possibility of spiders crawling in.

The next issue was of course the food which I did try to get over as early as the flights. On each flight we were given an option of three meals and both times I went for something that I wouldn’t have eaten normally. I’ll admit that my first meal in Bangkok was French fries but after that I tried various street foods and ordered stuff in restaurants that I’d never tried before. Did I try every single thing? Of course not, there was still some foods that even just the sight or smell of made my stomach churn. That being said, I tried snake which I hadn’t expected at all. Did it taste bad? Definitely not, I actually seemed to be one of the few people who enjoyed it. The texture however was a little off-putting. I’m not sure all the chewing gum in the world could have prepared my jaw for how long I’d have to chew that snake for before I could swallow it. While I did try new food to begin with, Western influence is very prevalent and in some places it’s easier to find steak and chips or a cooked breakfast than it is to find a local meal. When you’re hungry, sometimes a little hungover and often feeling a bit lazy it’s all too easy to simply eat at your hostel rather than go hunting for some food that you may or may not like. There is one food that I did go hunting for though: a happy pizza…but more on that later. So spiders, check. Food, check. How about the social aspect?

Really my first hurdle to jump was the flight itself. In the past I’d had anxiety attacks not from the flying but from being crammed into a small metal tube with strangers who ultimately invade your personal space. The last time I’d been on a plane I’d taken propranolol and even though I’d brought it with me on this trip, I never had any need of it. So I view that as a mini success. I’ll admit that meeting new people wasn’t super easy but it also wasn’t difficult either. At the end of the day everyone is in the same boat and nobody really wants to sit on their own the entire time, not even me, so once you get talking to someone you pretty quickly feel like you’ve known them for a long time, especially if you truly connect with them (this does have its downsides though which I’ll discuss later). I met some people on this trip that were just incredible and I’ve never been surrounded by as many like-minded individuals in all my life. Being able to start a conversation about something rather controversial back home might raise a few eyebrows but out there it was encouraged. Sharing different opinions was just seen as part of the experience and as someone who loves to voice his opinions, I couldn’t have felt more at home. Nobody wanted to discuss football or who slept with who at work or whether we should go to the same pub or club that we spend all our time in anyway. Instead people wanted to talk about drugs, politics, religion, entire philosophies about life and the universe. I was travelling with a friend who arrived on my 2nd day in Bangkok and before the trip I hoped it would stay just the two of us for the entire duration we were travelling together. By the end, I can’t imagine how horrific that could have been. We amassed this group of wonderful individuals from all around the world who we travelled with at different points of our journey. It might sound a bit clichéd but they felt like family or like I’d known them my whole life.

In the nature of trying new things, I had my eye out for any new experiences that may be offered in Thailand or Cambodia. Considering I’d stopped off in Abu Dhabi where the penalty for bringing drugs into the country is literally death, I wasn’t sure how Thailand or Cambodia would handle the concept. On Khao San road I experienced “laughing gas” for the first time which to me was a bit of a stupid drug. I’ll admit, I had a lot of fun and probably bought 8 or 9 balloons while there but it felt a bit like a tease. As someone who has partied with MDMA, I found that laughing gas momentarily gave you the feeling of coming up: you get pins and needles in your extremities, your head goes a little fuzzy and you find yourself feeling a little euphoric. For someone who has never taken drugs I can see the attraction but for me it was a bit like being promised sex, getting a lap dance only to find out that that’s it over or being promised pizza, watching it being made and then being given a crust. Like I said though, it was fun just not that fun. It’s very obvious why it appeals to the tourists, especially on Khao San Road. While in Siem Reap, I encountered some wonderful people (one of whom was a doctor) who before we all left for an 8 or so hour bus journey had informed me of one major area that was rather lenient in Cambodia: pharmaceuticals. Now I’d never taken Valium and my only knowledge of it was based on US films so the idea of taking some had never really crossed my mind until it was explained that taking one before a night bus journey would help me sleep, something I have great difficulty doing while travelling. For $1 I got 10 10mg Valium pills and as we all got comfy on our beds on the night bus I broke mine in half (following the advice of my new doctor friend) and sure enough, I slept pretty well initially. After two hours we stopped for a toilet break which it turned out I was in desperate need of and after getting back on the bus, I decided to take the other half. I’m not sure how much everyone else took but when we all woke up, we’d already been at our destination for 45 minutes and the driver simply hadn’t told us. I did this another two times on my trip, one time where it had been essential as I had a “12 hour” (turned out to be 16 hours which was a common theme with Cambodian travel) in what seemed like a single night bus bed with a fairly large Cambodian gentleman. I do however see why Valium users have a problem with addiction. I binned mine before my flight not because of security but because I knew that it would be all too easy to take one whenever I was struggling to sleep or if I needed to relax. I’m not even sure what the risks are but it’s something I don’t plan on taking again anytime soon. One thing I wouldn’t mind taking again soon, however, is a happy pizza. I’d missed out on trying one in Siem Reap because despite searching I just couldn’t find anywhere until the day we left. Luckily, by the time we got to Kampot I was travelling with several people who were also very eager to try one. Finding a place wasn’t a problem and so we ordered a pizza and I also ordered a happy shake which didn’t taste too bad but involved more chewing than a typical shake does. A couple of hours after consumption none of us seemed to really be feeling anything. We were told that the happy pizzas here weren’t prepared properly and that Siem Reap did them better but having eaten at around 10, I found myself playing snap at 2 in the morning with one of the other happy pizza triers and we were both definitely very high. I remember lying on my back just looking up at the stars for an incredibly long time. I mean I do that normally so that isn’t an indicator of whether I’m high or not but the thoughts that were going through my head were: I was picturing all these different stars and what sort of planets they might have and whether there are little aliens on these planets that are also high and looking up at our star, wondering the exact same thing. There is a star on the shoulder of the constellation Orion known as Betelgeuse which gives off a red colour and could literally supernova at any minute. While looking at this star I was imagining what it would look like and how I’d react if it happened right now. There were even times I thought I saw the stars move which was probably more due to tiredness than anything else. So my experience with happy shakes and pizzas is definitely something I’d recommend and would repeat without hesitation. The one thing I would be less confident in repeating would be smoking the weed down there. While on Koh Rong we stayed at this lovely little hostel where the thatched huts and spiders were located and they sold big joints at the bar for $3.50. I hadn’t smoked weed in a while and this was before the happy pizzas so one day I bought one and decided to smoke it pretty early on in the day while we chilled at the beach. Only one of the girls I was travelling with wanted to partake so we shared this joint and decided to kick back and relax. I knew after just one toke of this joint that it wasn’t going to be all fun and games but by the end I basically knew how it felt to be a vegetable. Of course the rest of our group chose this moment to inform us that we’d be walking round to the next beach to get some food. The journey itself is a bit of a blur but I remember sitting at the bar ordering garlic bread which was the driest thing I have ever eaten. I rarely get paranoid when I’m high and I’m not even sure I’d describe this moment as paranoia so much as just confusion but while at the bar these two girls sat to my left, pretty close to me, while all my group was on my right. My bottle of water (which is of course as important to me then as air itself) was to my left. I’m fairly sure one of the girls drank from my bottle which threw me down this rabbit hole of asking whether that bottle was mine? Should I drink from it again or just buy a new one? If that isn’t my bottle then where is my bottle? I then started to think they were trying to steal my bottle from me because they thought it was there’s when in fact it was mine. It was a lot to deal with but after a nap on a hammock I felt a little better. That was until I learnt of the hour long walk to another beach we were about to do. The distance itself seemed bad enough but as we walked we ended up clambering over rocks (which I usually love) and walking through the jungle. It was all a bit much and eventually we had to get a boat from some sketchy hotel we’d come across and I didn’t actually feel completely there on a cognitive level until we arrived at our final destination. Maybe it was just strong weed, maybe it was because I hadn’t smoked in a long time or maybe there was something else in it but without a doubt that is the most high I have ever felt in my entire life and it’s certainly the longest lasting high. After the first hour or two it was enjoyable but I just didn’t think I could cope to begin with. I didn’t make things better for myself that same evening when after enjoying a happy hour and returning to our beach to drink, I decided to once again smoke a joint. This time I didn’t even smoke half of what I’d smoked the day before but combined with the alcohol it left my lying on the beach clinging onto the world as if I could fall off. I couldn’t walk or talk or function at all really but we had stayed up to see the glow in the dark plankton and my friends helped me up, practically carried me to the water and then left me there in awe as I pulled my hands and feet through the water. The sight was truly incredible as it gave the illusion of a sort of green, static electricity. The walk back to the fire which was probably only 75 yards away felt like a marathon but at least I’d seen the plankton.

Of course there were other new experiences out-with the drug category and possibly my favourite of these was the Thai massage (no they did not include happy endings, get your mind out of the gutter). I went for three in total, all a little different but all left me feeling pretty relaxed. A Thai massage is not what you’d expect it to be: if you want a soft, pain-free experience then I suggest you try something different because about 50% of the time you’ll be in pain. I actually witnessed a grown man practically sobbing after receiving one, much to the entertainment of the women that worked there. Despite the almost constant pain, I still found myself drifting off a couple of times while receiving one of these massages. You wear these comfortable pyjama-like clothes and it’s usually dark and the atmosphere just invites you to sleep. Maybe some people would find it difficult to drift off while having a grown woman walk across your spine or twist your limbs into unnatural positions but that didn’t seem to be a problem for me. Strange that I can drift off under such circumstances but can’t sleep on a bus or plane without taking drugs. Another new experience for me was receiving a henna tattoo which is basically just a temporary tattoo that is done in a substance similar to permanent marker. I had been told they lasted around 3 weeks but mine was completely gone in less than 2 and had already begun to fade in less than 1. I had been tempted to get a less traditional symbol such as the Assassin’s Creed symbol or something similar but instead I went for a sun with the eye of Horus located in the centre. Regrettably I never thought to take a photo of it and by the time I did it had already started to fade. Even after letting it dry for several hours, I woke up the next morning with about 3 different versions of it imprinted across my body as well as several on the bed. I had also gone to a tattoo parlour on one of my last days, picked out what I was going to get and then had been told it would cost $80 which was just ridiculous. Really the only reason you’d get a tattoo over there (apart from a traditional bamboo tattoo) is because they are cheap. You know that it might not be a work of art and you know it might not be 100% safe which is why it is usually cheaper. While I did consider the idea, I decided that I wasn’t going to spend that amount of money on what could potentially be an awful tattoo. One final experience that I’m certainly going to miss is the bum gun; what’s the bum gun? Well, the bum gun is quite simply a hose that you use to wash your asshole after taking a shit (to be blunt about it). At first I was hesitant but once you’ve grown used to it, you never want to go back. It’s cleaner and less time-consuming. If I could install one in my bathroom I definitely would. I know plenty of people who refused to use it while over there and I was part of that group initially but I have seen the light and switched teams. If you are ever in a country with such an incredible piece of bathroom technology I recommend you give it a shot. Be warned though: in some places the water pressure is drastically higher and you can get quite a shock when you basically use a water cannon to try and spray you asshole!

Overall it was certainly an experience and one that I would love to repeat. I considered quitting my job several times just to stay out there for a few more weeks but realistically that just wasn’t an option for me. While I wouldn’t change a single thing about this trip (apart from maybe the getting ill incident that caused me to miss an incredible jungle party) if I were to go on a similar trip I think I’d avoid party hostels for at least most of the journey. I mean they are insanely fun and a great way to meet people but going out to drink every single night is not only expensive but also pretty damaging. I also found that while I still managed to explore the temples and such, I would be tired or even just hungover in general and perhaps didn’t appreciate them or experience them to the fullest. I also think that if I were to do it again I’d want to set out with a group of people initially and travel with them for the duration. Why? Well partly because travelling with one person is always going to lead to tension just due to the stress. As an introvert, I need time to myself in order to recharge and that’s something you just don’t get while travelling around hostels and so I know myself well enough to notice it stressing me out. However, the biggest reason I’d prefer to travel in a group to begin with is because travelling alone or in small numbers leads you to meet new people. Is that a bad thing? Of course not, as I mentioned, some of the people I met on this holiday are some of the most wonderful and like-minded people I’ve met in my entire life but it all has to come to an end sooner or later and given that you’re meeting people from around the world, it is unrealistic to assume that you’ll see them again. I mean who knows, maybe I will see them again but you know it isn’t guaranteed. I’ve gone to funerals without crying, I’ve watched sad films without crying, I visited the killing fields and listened to a man discuss “the killing tree” without crying, in all honesty I actually don’t remember the last time I cried but saying goodbye to these people certainly had me close to it. When I said goodbye to the first group it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced: how could I meet these incredible people and then have them leave my life forever? I’d only known them for a few days but somehow it was like I’d known them my whole life. Saying goodbye to my final group as I left for Bangkok was truly painful. At first it didn’t really bother me: I said goodbye, hugged everyone, shouted some things as I walked away and it wasn’t until I was driving past them in the van that was to take me to the bus that I suddenly felt it: emotional pain, like the scene from Indiana Jones where a guy literally has his heart ripped from his chest, watching it beat in front of him. When I think back to that moment I still feel the exact same way and I’m not sure how often someone could repeat that moment before it started to take its toll. Does the positive emotions and experiences outweigh the negative ending? I’d say it does but it doesn’t make the goodbye or the memory of it any easier.

Journey into the Unknown!

For anyone who reads my posts regularly (which may be nobody) you’ll be aware that while my posts are usually rants (hence the name of my blog) that convey my opinion on some trivial matter such as a film or game series, I tend not to reflect on my own personal life.

Today I have decided to go out-with my usual post-type and share with you some insights into my mind and current life plans. Usually I try to introduce the topics I plan to cover but this is mostly going to be off the top of my head as I’m writing so we’ll just see how it goes.


I’m mostly going to discuss a trip I’m about to take but I feel like in order for you to understand my concerns and fears I need to invite you inside my little bubble of a life just to highlight how far outside my comfort zone I’m about to go. These pieces of information may seem rather random right now but I swear it makes sense in relation to this post. Let me briefly describe to you why I never really go out and experience life to the fullest:

For starters I have awful social anxiety…I’m not even sure if it’s limited to social situations, maybe I just have anxiety in general, but certainly a key component of it is social. It can sometimes takes me months before I feel comfortable talking to someone in a normal capacity so typical day-to-day situations tend to involve me going out of my way to avoid social interaction with strangers.

For a very long time I was unable to get a job because most jobs involved social interaction and the thought alone made me feel ill. I started having anxiety attacks in exams which soon spread to other situations (to be fair, I was at uni at the time and most of these situations also involved me being hungover so I think it was my mind associating feeling nauseous with certain situations). Suffice to say that several times while at the cinema I would spend most of the film trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to get up and leave which as a movie lover (possibly addict) was incredibly disappointing. I have improved a fair bit but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time. On top of my social issues, I am also one of the fussiest eaters you will ever meet. For as long as I can remember I haven’t eaten any fruit or vegetables which as you can imagine, limits my diet quite a bit. It’s not like I eat everything else either, I basically have the diet of a 15 year old that has been left to fend for himself.

To add to my already limiting characteristics I also have a phobia of spiders but not just your run of the mill phobia, oh no, I am absolutely scared to death of the little bastards. Let’s just say that I’ve fallen out of a lot of trees as a result of this highly irrational fear. You can therefore assume that I will not be visiting Australia any time soon (in fact Antarctica is looking all the more promising). I do understand that Australia really isn’t that far from Thailand and that I’m most likely walking into the real world equivalent of the Forbidden Forrest with its nest of extremely large spiders.

Again, I have somewhat improved on this over the last few years but if a spider is bigger than a thumbnail (for example) then chances are I won’t be able to deal with it unless it’s on the floor and I can drop a very heavy book on it. So this should hopefully paint a fairly clear picture as to why I have the time to sit at home writing blog posts about Star Wars, Assassins Creed, drug laws etc…now let me share with you how I’m about to be catapulted out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been working for the last 6 months and recently realised how badly I need a holiday. As someone who lives in Scotland, I’ve never ventured outside of Europe and even my trips out of the UK have been to areas where the lifestyle is pretty much the same e.g. Italy, Rome or Spain. My initial thought was Egypt because out of everywhere in the world, that is where I want to visit the most. I had looked at flights and hotels but quite quickly came to the conclusion that if I went to Egypt alone I just wouldn’t experience everything there was on offer.

I’d go look at stuff but not really immerse myself in the culture. Luckily, a friend of mine was planning a holiday to Thailand and some of the surrounding countries. I’d personally never even considered visiting anywhere near there for a whole host of reasons (primarily the spider issue) but when given the options of going there for three weeks or waiting months, taking time off work and ultimately going nowhere and doing nothing with my time, I felt that the first option was the one that would be most beneficial. So I handed in a holiday form, it just got approved yesterday and my flights are booked to head out on my adventure.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered not going at least 15 times today alone but you have to understand that I get cold feet with every single decision I make. Committing to any sort of party, event, holiday, anything will be followed by my brain giving me a list of reasons why not going could be the better option. Obviously the biggest ones that come to mind are things like giant spiders (or even just small spiders…really any spiders at all), the language barrier (but even just the social aspect with or without there being a language barrier), and of course the food. I’ve read that places like Bangkok are incredibly sociable cities and that the nightlife is amazing but I can’t imagine that being the case for someone who struggles to start and hold a conversation.

So why am I going? I feel such a trip could be make or break: No matter what, I’m going to be forced out my comfort zone so it’ll either push me to evolve or it will snap my psyche and leave me in the foetal position on a foreign continent. One of the biggest comforts (which is also somehow one of the fears) is that I’ll be just under 6,000 miles away from home. I’m going to feel like Sam and Frodo leaving the Shire. Strangely enough, one of the best ways for me to motivate myself in any situation is to relate it to a game or a film.

I guess it’s sort of my coping mechanism that also acts as an incentive. Different games/films make me want to do different things, for example: Far Cry 3 makes me want to try skydiving or get a tattoo or explore new cultures; 127 hours makes me want to explore and climb, to find adventure where I can, even if I’m doing it alone; Warrior makes me want to go to the gym…you get the idea. We will of course ignore the fact that the first two exams have pretty horrific outcomes for those involved and should really be adverts against exploring rather than what I use them for. So in order to prepare myself for this “adventure” I have started playing Far Cry 3 again (which happens to take place on an island in the area I’m visiting, although whether it is based on a real island or not is beyond my knowledge).

So why am I writing this post? I guess the same reason that people talk about their problems: it’s therapeutic. If I share my fears with random strangers on the internet then in a sense I’ve acknowledged that these fears are indeed real but that they shouldn’t hold me back from enjoying life. I mean we only get one, right? So what if a giant, face-eating spider jumps out of a tree and proceeds to chase me down the road…I should just look at it as life experience or inspiration for my book.

I mean if I stay trapped inside the boring little town where going to the pub to watch football is the highlight of everyone’s week then how am I ever going to look back on my life with fondness? Another way of looking at it: what if the Animus from Assassin’s Creed becomes a real piece of technology and someone tries to look back on my life (not that I plan on having children but that’s not the point). All they would see is me sitting at home watching films or reading. Would I rather they see that or would I rather they watched as I walk with elephants or visit ancient temples?

If I survive and make it back to bonnie Scotland then I’ll be sure to update this or write a new post which shares me experiences. If this is my last post then just assume that I died either by being killed by a spider or trying to escape one!

[Better Title Pending] – Book Extract

So, unlike my other posts this one is neither a rant nor a rave. Instead I am hoping to receive some feedback on a small extract from a book that I am beginning to write. This is the only scene from the book that I’ve started writing up in any sort of great capacity. I would delve into the content of my book to explain the background but I couldn’t possibly explain it in the detail I would like. Anyway, this scene is pretty self-explanatory and I’d appreciate any sort of advice or feedback regarding its content. This wouldn’t be the final edit of this particular moment but some direction on what I’m doing right or wrong would be great.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the character referred to as ‘H’ in this extract will have a full name but that hasn’t been decided on yet.


“How was it that we could sense the ice underfoot? The snow covered all in both texture and sight, and for all we knew it was dirt or ancient road or grass that we slowly crept across…but no, something about this moment echoed ice. It was impossible to tell how thick the frozen film of water was across this vast loch. There were no cracks, no sudden noises, no sinking feeling  to suggest that we could soon feel the ice cold grip of the water below, possibly to never resurface. The image was in my head and no matter how hard I tried, I could not force it to leave. “Maybe we should just go around” I suggested to H, although it came out as more of a plea than a suggestion and his lack of a response was in itself as unnerving as his continued path forward. I looked in either direction and came to terms with the sheer size of this loch. I didn’t remember it being quite as big but as I kept telling myself; it had been a long time since I was last here. My bag weighed the same as me, if not more, and the clothes I had been wearing would soak water up like a sponge. If I fell into the water my lungs would be full of water almost as quickly as the air would leave them. Falling in would be game over. My mind compared each step to taking a turn in a game of Jenga: the first few are ok; in fact they seem impossibly easy. Soon it becomes more challenging and eventually it isn’t a case of ‘if’ the tower will fall, but is instead a matter of ‘when’. H was far off into the distance and his carelessness seemed to be working out well for him so far. The logical thing therefore would be to walk where he walked. Where were his footprints? I looked around but there were none to be seen. I would have let out an anxious laugh in that moment, were it not for the groan that erupted from below my feet as I began to walk in the same direction as H. It sounded like an old wooden door as it creaks slowly open in the wind. My mind was telling me to stand completely still and balance my weight out as evenly as possible on the ice…my body, with its circling overflow of adrenaline had other plans. I wouldn’t describe what I was doing as a run. Instead, it was almost as if I were trying to ice skate but without the skates. What was I doing? I would wonder to myself as the sound of cracking ice seemed to chase me like some sort of monster, snapping at my ankles as I began to increase my pace. The ice was similar to a playful dog: if you stand still and stay calm, it barely reacts. If, however, you sprint in the opposite direction, it will undoubtedly chase after you, catching up in seconds. I could no longer even see H and rather than try and find him, I simply began to aim for the nearest bit of land. The constant white colour made it very difficult to say how far away I was from safety but my lack of fitness, both physically and mentally, was beginning to take its toll. Have you ever been running and you become overly aware of you movements in such a way that you throw off your rhythm, causing you to misstep? If not, it’s a bizarre sensation that in most situations simply results in you taking an odd step before getting back into the swing of things. In this instance I was less fortunate, and due to the arguably impractical shape and size of the boots I was wearing I went from running one moment, to sliding (somewhat)on my stomach in the next. After my initial impact on the ground, the ice seemed to calm down instantly. The loch became eerily quiet as I lay perfectly still. The numbness of my face due to the snow it was resting on felt insignificant in comparison to how cold I would be if the ice decided I was too heavy a burden, although arguably I would probably feel cold for a much shorter amount of time. I slowly lifted my face up and took a glance at the distance I still had to cover. I still had at least 200 yards to go before I made it to certain land. Part of me began to wonder where H was; had he fallen in? Then the selfish side of me kicked in and couldn’t actually care. I knew I could deal with H when I’d sorted my own crisis. My plan was simple: slowly stand up…and then run! As the plan went through my head, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with myself before slowly beginning to stand to put it in practice. The ice didn’t agree on the successful outcome of this operation and soon began to voice its disagreement with growls and groans. I could feel each crack like a vibration. Maybe a plan B would be necessary. Looking at it from a logical standpoint, my options seemed clear: lose some weight. Of course at this stage cardio and dieting wouldn’t give me the immediate results I needed so instead I began to take off my bag. I slid it slightly away from myself which actually moved me more than it moved the bag but it separated the weight and seemed to appease the ice god that was judging me from below. I opened the top and slid my gloved hands down the side of the bag to try and grab the rope. When you’re trying not to move it becomes surprisingly difficult to pull one particular item from a stuffed bag. I knew the rope wasn’t going to cover the entire distance but at the very least it would reach shallower levels of water. I untangled it all and tied one end to the bag and one to me. My next move probably wouldn’t have been advised by, well, anyone: I began to take my boots off and used the laces to attach them to the side of the bag. I knew I could run faster and lighter without them on but it also removed the possibility of me tripping over them again. The socks The Third Eye had been kind enough to provide where warm and comfy but not much use against standing in snow without any footwear on. I stretched my arms and legs out and began to slowly raise myself up from the ground. Just as I put all my weight onto my feet, I felt that familiar vibration accompanied by the sound of the ice beginning to crack again. I took a few seconds to pause and think this time but ultimately the decision was the same as before: run! As I sprinted, I felt a lot less at risk now without the bag and the boots on. The sound of ice cracking sounded fairly distant behind me and as quickly as a foot touched the ice, it was off again. For a moment during my sprint I completely forgot that I was tied to a heavy bag and a pair of boots and realised I would have to slow down before the rope ran out. Sadly, my slowing down was not as speedy as was necessary and the rope tugged hard on my waist. This in turn caused me to put more weight on my feet and led to quite a significant crack in the ice. It was the first time I could actually see the crack through the layer of snow that covered the loch. My right foot sunk through the ice and the water grabbed at my ankles like the thin, sharp fingers of some mythical ice creature. I fell down to the ground once more but rather than lie still, I began to crawl. My knees were sinking into the ice more than I cared for but I only had a few more metres to go. I figured at this stage that falling in would not be fatal or even lethal so I decided to stand up and walk the rest. Rather comically to anyone who would have witnessed it, this marked the moment where my left foot sunk through the ice, getting drastically wetter than its companion. I could only shake my head in disbelief both at making it across and at the rather frustrating sock incident but as I sat down I couldn’t help but grin. I grabbed the rope and began to drag that bag towards land, or at least, solid land. Despite how uncomfortable my feet had felt in the boots initially, it was nothing in comparison to sliding my wet, cold and sore feet into them now. Keeping the wet socks on wasn’t wise but it would have to do until we got a shelter set up somewhere. It was at this point that I remembered that I didn’t know where H was. The wind was beginning to pick up and the thick, grey clouds were only making darkness seem to descend faster. I was going to shout on him, to search and try to find him but part of me knew that it would be a waste of time. I’m sure he was probably thinking the same way I was and had simply gone to find somewhere to set up a shelter. There was a small, woodland area near the top of the ridge in front of me so with wet feet I picked up my bag and began walking.”


Thank you for reading!