Coming into London at 7:30 on a sunny morning, you see a city at peace.
Early risers stroll to the office across London Bridge while behind them the sun rises over Tower Bridge, creating a spectacular silhouette of another time.
Joggers pad along the Thames embankment to the sound of water pushing past concrete. Seagulls cry out as they circle the river looking for food. A boat goes past, creating a wash that swooshes through rotting timbers, perhaps depositing another old clay pipe on the stony bank.
For a time, it's almost enough to make me forget the madness I'm so keen to escape...
|A peaceful Thames|
It's hard to relax in this city - quiet moments are snatched but you always know that chaos is just around the corner.
The traffic will swell and in an hour London Bridge will once more become a teeming mass of suits, streaming out from the station like ants leaving the nest. Desperate to reach their financial factories on time, they probably won't notice the beauty of tower bridge or the contrasting steel and glass buildings shining in the sun. London does that - it blinkers you.
Some will escape the confines of the office for a lunchtime stroll or a run by the river, but most won't - they'll have lunchtime meetings and sandwiches at desks; wasting away lives in the pursuit of a better postcode, a faster car, a bigger bonus, and perhaps a trophy wife... or maybe just - as I did for so long - to blow it all on going out in the evenings.
I arrive at the gym for my physio appointment - many who like a physical challenge are here before work, pumping iron or pounding away on stationary bikes and treadmills under LED lighting, while the sun shines on a beautiful day outside.
It reminds me of myself over the last few years.
The climbing gym was my second home. Pulling on plastic till my fingers blistered, my elbows inflamed and my body ached in pursuit of strength and stamina... yet seldom did I touch rock.
Endless laps of the pool, following the black line, trying to improve speed and endurance... but rarely tasting salt in place of chlorine.
Even on the bike, I spent more time circling Richmond park to see if I was getting faster than I did exploring new places.
Everything became results driven - training for sport climbing grades and triathlon race times. Constantly living for that next great experience, not the good one I could be having today.
|The Walkie Talkie building|
Looking back, I don't really understand how I fell into this world. I remember the choices that got me here, I just don't know why I took them. It was never an ambition to work in the city - I grew up fishing, mountain biking and hill walking, getting stoned, taking mushrooms and dancing the night away shit-faced on amphetamines and alcohol. Life was about the now, never about the future, and I thought it would always be like that.
I remember laughing at a high school classmate who told me of his plan to come down here, work hard, make his fortune and retire early. To me, back then, it sounded like a lot of effort into something you wouldn't enjoy. As it does now. Somehow, somewhere in between, I lost sight of that.
Yes, on reflection there just aren't enough of the beautiful moments here to justify putting up with the hectic pace. I've made a lot of good friends in this city - and those I will miss dearly - but the rat race? I don't think so.
It's time to go back to being true to myself, living life for the kicks and the creation of memories; spending my energy on having fun... except perhaps this time with less of the drink and drugs.
I'll leave you with one of the best little life philosophy videos I've come across in some time. If I ever question the wisdom of what I'm doing between now quitting my job to get on the road, I'll just have to play this one again.