Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Orientation Anxiety

When I wake up, takes me a second to remember where I am. I have to momentarily replay my story so far as my eyes and senses come into focus; I’m in my truck, driving around the world, and yesterday I got to Kamla Beach in Thailand, and couldn’t find a nice place to park at first, and then found this monastery.

It used to be a panic inducing moment. Momentarily totally lost in the world. Somehow the question ‘Where am I?’ is inherently linked to the question ‘What danger am I in?’ There’s a sense of vulnerability sleeping in a vehicle behind sheets of metal and glass, rather than behind bricks and mortar. Am I about to get washed away by a flood, is a coconut going to fall on my solar panels? If this spot is so safe, why isn’t anyone else camping here? It’s not a fear about being attacked or robbed, it's the dangers of natural phenomena that accompanied me out of my dawn slumber.

Everywhere along the Thai coastline we’ve seen signposts to Tsunami muster stations. Here, for instance, we are only 1.6km north of safety if a Tsunami warning is issued. The white and blue signs with a benign graphic of a wave crashing innocently over a stick man running up a slope are terrorising to me because if a Tsunami warning was launched I’d have no idea how I’d hear about it. Would there be sirens? Would it be announced in English on the radio? Or most likely would a massive traffic jam develop along the 1.6km between here and safety.

They remind me of the petrifying public information media from my childhood; radio warnings about what to do in the event of a nuclear strike, or those leaflets about Aids and Heroin. Valuable information for sure, but the calm matter-of-fact presentation serves to make it horrifying. Safety cards on planes and the carefully crafted wording of their safety demonstration are the worst. “Should we land on water...” and in the statistically impossible likelihood that the plane and our bodies aren't’t torn into fragments no bigger than a fist by the 100mph impact with a wall of water “... please remove your high heels”. I wasn’t afraid until they prompted me to really think about “the unlikely event in which we lose cabin pressure ...” and visualising how that drop down paper-cup oxygen mask will do nothing to stop my innards being sucked out of my body “... via the nearest available exit”.

The 4th anniversary of the Christmas Tsunami is only a few days away, and the reconstruction efforts have been successful enough that to my untrained eye, it’s hard to see that this area was affected. Standing by the sea I try to visualise how a 10m wave would look. A solid wall of breaking water, or an determined torrent of rising water. I can’t really imagine the destructive mechanisms it would wreak on buildings and trees, and what and who it would select to suck out to sea as it receded. It’s the sort of phenomena I just have no references for, a moment when the things you take for granted; walls, buildings, the ground, trees, the things we think of as solid, as anchors, can no longer be relied on.

Despite the tease of fear the Tsunami signs engender, I’m less worried about where I am these days. After 14 months of waking up in the bus and not once having been swept away by a flood, the panic that goes with remembering where I am and what I’m doing here has thankfully subsided. I’ve got used to those few seconds of unknowing. I’m actually trying to train myself to enjoy them and stave off remembering my placement in the world for as long as possible, free from the shackles of any references. I know I’m in the world, but knowing exactly where isn’t a pressing detail.

Instead, that panic has now morphed to associate itself with remembering my orientation. There’s always been some thought, and now with Christina some discussion, that goes into deciding which way round to park the bus so that there’s some airflow, and view from the bed window. But that means that the eventual decision is often harder to recall in the morning. And it’s made harder by the fact I sometimes sleep the other way round in the bed.

As I wake, before I open my eyes, I remember where I’m parked by calmly replaying the previous day’s events. But the thing that makes me spring my eyes open in sheer terror these days is the need to remember which way I’m facing. It takes a second to mentally orientate the bus in my memory of its surroundings while my heart rate rises. And then I need a moment to orientate myself in the bus, during which my breathing gets deeper. Finally, what takes the longest is to twist those two mental images round to line up so that I can picture which way my body is facing in relation to the world as I left it outside the bus. By this stage I’m ready for an inhaler-full of Vallium.. It’s only until I look out the window and see something that confirms my orientation analysis that I can relax. In practice it takes less than two seconds, but the fear stems from the fact it takes me so long to figure out which way is up.

If I was Jessica Sexless-Parker, or better still Dougie Howser MD, the self congratulatory lesson I would be tapping into my computer at the end of this episode would be; “I guess these days it’s more important for me to know which way I’m facing than where I’m stood.” Fade to black. Cue music and titles as the audience reflects on this profundity and how that’s true of their life too.

But I’m not. Instead the self-deprecatory lesson is this: I’m scared of a different type of death; senility.


  1. Wow Andy, great piece. And very recognizable. Especially the part about the sense of vulnerability of sleeping in a vehicle.

    Big hug, Marieke

  2. Wow Andy, great piece. And very recognizable. Especially the part about the sense of vulnerability of sleeping in a vehicle.

    Big hug,

  3. you'll get used ot it when you'll get there


What do you think?