About Dan

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Main Posts Background Image

About Dan

Way back in 2002, just a few months into our relationship, Esther suggested we go Interrail touring. To be honest, I didn't want to go. Not at first. My whole upbringing had taught me the importance of hard work, dedication and putting my head down. I'd spent my first summer holiday from University working to save some cash, but now my second summer holiday was coming up and Esther wanted to go off gallivanting around Europe on a train. It  was way out of my comfort zone. She didn't even want me to take my inflatable crocodile.

Of course, I went, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I'd never imagined that life could feel so full, so rich, so effortless. We travelled again the next summer, and the two summers after that. It became the highlight of my year.

But we couldn't stay students forever. I'd got a first class Oxford degree to live up to, so when the chance came for me to do a PhD, I jumped at the chance. Esther wanted to take a gap year, to broaden our horizons, but my 'sensible muscle' was just too strong. We moved to Durham, settled down, bought our first place and were firmly on the path to normality.  Adventures, it seemed, would just have to be shorter. A few days snatched here and there, usually in the Lake District. And so life rolled on.

Ten years later, when I was told by a doctor that I was depressed, I dismissed it out of hand. Depression was for weak people, I thought, not tough people like me, People with an impressive CV, who'd run their own business and were juggling a day job with property rentals and private consultancy work. I didn't have time to be depressed. I was sent home from my day job on sick leave for 4 weeks. Mostly I was just pleased at the free time off.

It would be more than another year before I personally admitted I had a problem. That my moods were erratic. That I used sugary snacks to get through the day. That I was angry almost all the time, and that when I wasn't angry I was deeply miserable. Yet even then I accepted this as being just another part of being a grown up. This was what adult life was all about, I believed.

Which is why I now look back on the events which led to me almost dying as being the best thing that could have happened. I needed a kick up the arse to wake up and make a change. I needed to experience a new way of life so that I could finally see that life didn't have to be mundane, miserable drudgery. It took a lot of pain to motivate me to make the change, but it was exactly the pain I needed. 

Today, five years into our adventure, I look back and hardly recognise myself, or at least the mindset I used to have. What I used to call 'realism' was just a code word for defeatism, pessimism and self-pity. Life can be joyful. Life can be fun. Life can be effortless. It doesn't take a nomadic lifestyle to be happy. It doesn't take a trip up a mountain. Or even a lottery win (though I wouldn't turn one down). 

Happiness, for me, is simply about not resisting what's happening around me. About accepting I can't control the future and that the present moment is all that really matters. About relishing the simplest little pleasures whenever they occur.

And having dogs of course!

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