In line with the rest of Europe, I am being forced to take austerity measures.
Let us not pretend otherwise, the years that have preceded this one have been comfortable ones, and sometimes careless. I worked for five years in the oil industry, bravely combating the elements dressed in a red one-piece, tackled monstrous machinery, and extracting what small moments of joy I could manage from the macho existence of the offshore cell, all as recorded lovingly in my nev360 blog. For this, I was paid pretty well, and if not quite able to buy country manors and coke it up with S Club 7, I was quite able to maintain an expensive whisky habit, get carried away on Ebay with antique maps, and of course save up enough for eight months of sensibly-rather than-extremely budgeted travel in Asia.
But now reality has set in. I have been home for a couple of weeks and have found myself staring at a deficit. My only credit card is maxed, my bank account has gone beyond disquiet and is teetering on the brink of breakdown, and the uber-sting is five monthly mortgages at the end of every month. I own and rent five properties, which sounds great on paper - except when that paper lists the actual monthly outgoings and incomings. When things are running smoothly, they are a joy, but from the start of this year they have been stuttering with problems, a couple being somewhat expensive to fix, and although the long-term prognosis is fine, this month they are costing me more than they're making. In short, things have taken a turn for the Irish, and I just have to hope I can stave off a fully-fledged Greece.
Things, therefore, must change, and austerity measures must be brought in. Eating out is, pretty much, out, and even going out drinking has had to be severely curtailed, to cautiously social weekends and only on weekdays when it is absolutely essential. The use of trains has been more-or-less outlawed, except when booked far ahead. Instead I have to rediscover the pleasures of inter-city bus travel, and in fact as I write this am sitting on a Megabus from Aberdeen to Glasgow. It's not so bad - I was expecting a clientele of howling maniacs, but it seems that inter-city bus clientele these days are either students or foreigners, none of whom howl. And in case you think I was breaking my budget up with an expensive weekend of revelry in Aberdeen, I was actually seeing my grandfather, who'd been unwell, and fixing up one of my currently-vacant flats (quote £1400, I did it for less than £200, but still more than I can afford right now). So there.
Naturally, after the poverty I often saw in Asia, I won't pretend my life is reaching anything like crisis. There's no despair here. I am a sharply thrust pencil at the forehead rather than a nuclear missile to a city, or Everest Base Camp to its soaring peak, or the beak of a chaffinch as to that of a pelican: choose whichever tortured analogy you like. I have food, I have shelter. I have a bit of debt, but am in control - it has not yet dropped the soap and told me, with a gleam in its eye, to pick it up. Austerity measures mean an end to a lifestyle of decadence, but they don't mean squatting inside public bins to catch discarded food while its still hot. I must be careful to avoid adding to the debt, and once I'm sure of that I can begin the fight to get rid of it, but I won't starve. Chips rather than caviar, instant coffee rather than champagne.
All of this means that things will be pretty quiet for the next couple of months. There just isn't the money to enjoy myself. I have plenty of books to read and Wonders to research, and reading and writing is free. It's in storage, but I've got a good whisky collection that, once accessed, will fulfil my alcohol needs. Otherwise, all I need to worry about is food and shelter, and careful food shopping and avoidance of restaurants and takeaways will keep things cheap, and fortunately I'm able to stay at Danielle's for free (I've placed her also on "austerity" mode, but that's a whole other story).
Where then does this leave my future travels? I'm broke - how can I possibly afford two more years of travel? The answer is very simple: drugs. I will be selling a lot of drugs over the next few months. No, in fact, that happens not to be the case. There are options, none of which are guaranteed, but throw enough darts and one will stick. Come January next year there are many reasons I might not be ready to travel - one of which, I should mention, is the sheer volume of reading I've got to get through - but I don't think money will be one of them. Or I hope not, at least.
Besides, money is no object to travel anyway. Walking costs nothing, there's a free restaurant in every bin, and park benches are long enough for the average man to stretch out and have a nap. There is no freedom like being penniless and homeless. Now, if I can just persuade Danielle that this is a good pretext to travel...