I need to talk about Hap Cameron

My lovely cousin recommended a book to me when I was home over Christmas:  Hap Working the World. The book is about a Kiwi guy who had a life mission to work on every continent of the world before he turned 30. It took me a while to get started on it because I thought it was just going to be either an Eat Pray Love experience or just a list of awesome things that he did, instead this book made me go all 2016 Kylie and ‘realise’ things.

This book is travel before social media. It sounds shocking, but yes travel did exist before Instagram. These days I am so damn skeptical about travel photos I see on any social network, you can almost put money on the real place not looking like it does in the photo. It’s not even filters or Photoshop that’s to blame (although they are 90% of the problem) it’s also photos being taken at 5am on a special press trip before reality dares turn up. They are beautiful photos, the places inspirational, but if I go there I will never experience that social media world that I lusted after.

Hap’s travel however is as far away from the Instagram dreamscape as you can get. Hap’s travel was sleeping in a car for a month because hostels cost too much, working as a fine dining waiter on a ship crossing rough waters (while seasick) just to be able to tick Antarctica off the list. Hap’s travel is being crippled by depression in locations that on the face of it are carefree and picturesque.

I think that is the crux of why I liked this book so much. I have written before about expectations of expats when they move to London; many people have this idea of what their time in the big city will be like, they will be young, wild and free. They will be the life of the party, not get bothered by the little things and be waking up early for every sunrise. This view is a little soul crushing in the end, because what these baby expats have forgotten is that they will still be themselves on the other side of the world; except now they won’t have a support network.

No matter how much I long to be in that Instagram of a beach party as the sun goes down, in reality I hate parties – they are loud, full of strangers and surfaces are always questionably sticky. Same goes for most social media posts that make my heart wanderlust, if I was actually there I would probably be obsessing over the small things, tired and shitty. {NB: I know that travel is life affirming and magical, but I am also very realistic that it is not all perfect, there are a lot of ups and downs when it comes to travel.}

I loved the honesty of Hap’s book. He had a mammoth goal, and did everything (except that) to make it happen. At the same time striving for and achieving his goal didn’t make life easy or perfect. In many ways he would have had a far easier life if he had listened to the Russian billionaire and settled down into middle management (seriously, Hap had some wild adventures). I think the chapter where he goes in depth into the feelings he had after completing his working adventure, it will resonate with anyone who has done something big and scary only to be put back into normal life.

I feel like this book should be compulsory reading for any kiwis in their late teens or anyone who thinks dropping everything to travel is a life panacea. Travel will teach you many things, and it looks brilliant and shiny from the outside – but you can’t run away from yourself and your own expectations. To be honest I think everyone should travel and live somewhere outside New Zealand at some point, it teaches you far more about yourself than you could ever learn staying in the same place. But going into travel with a realistic view of what it will be like will save you so much heart ache.

If you know going into London that it will be busy, you will feel lost and alone, that the winters are impossible and the summers far too short, that jobs that you love are hard to come by and that Europe while tempting is often given up in exchange for sleep-ins after spending all your money at the pub… then you won’t beat yourself up for ‘failing at London’ when it all inevitably comes true. God knows there will be enough good bits to make it all worthwhile, but they don’t eliminate the strength you need to get through the bad bits.

Author: runawaykiwi

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