It has been six months to the day since I last updated this blog, not through any lack of things to write about — far from it; I’ve attended an eventful stag weekend in Aviemore, climbed The Cobbler and visited the German Christmas markets in Berlin — but a dearth of things to actually say.
Ever since the European referendum, in which I voted against Brexit and, ultimately, against the rest of Britain, I’ve rather been lost for words. I always presumed that the value of the European Union was inherent, intuitive and intrinsic, but now that I know it’s not I’m frustrated by the lack of understanding and appreciation for what was and remains such a progressive, pioneering project.
While I veered into politics in a desperate attempt to articulate my reasons for voting to remain, however, I never envisioned this blog as being anything other than a personal travelogue — a whirlwind tour of the world. I used it to chronicle my voluntary work in Russia’s Komi Republic, my experiences hiking the West Highland Way and my pop-culture pilgrimage to New York City.
I had hoped to begin anew last month with a blog about my recent tour of Berlin’s Christmas markets, but before I could put pen to paper a terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz politicised even that. Shockwaves were once again sent shuddering through the EU. Could I really go back to ranking glühwein and bratwursts when so much was at stake? Is that really the sort of traveller I wanted to be? Or was there more that I could do?
I therefore settled on a New Year’s resolution with both a personal and political dimension. I wanted to travel without fear; to show the world — and those who wanted to hide from it, in particular — that there’s nothing to be afraid of. That nationalism and isolationism aren’t rational responses to an already dangerous world but an overreaction that threatens to create one. To submit to fear would be to let the terrorists and alt-right (if indeed they are distinguishable) win.
Which brings me to the South of France. I am going to be spending the next fortnight in Nice, which, you might remember, experienced a strikingly similar terrorist attack to Berlin when a vehicle was driven into a crowd gathered at the Promenade des Anglais. I have been a strong believer in the Schengen Area — which permits borderless travel between participating countries — ever since I lived in Germany, but that was over ten years ago now and I have felt an element of hypocrisy creep in as I continue to effuse its greatness while living outside its borders in Brexit Britain.
That is not my main reason for travelling to Nice, however; as I’ve been asked by friends to dog-sit while they’re away — an invitation that took me rather by surprise, not least because of my inexperience. I’ve never looked after a dog in my life — or any animal, for that matter — let alone two of them. This is the aforementioned personal dimension: as many of my peers take out mortgages and have babies I am becoming increasingly, acutely aware of my own lack of responsibilities. I’m beginning to feel I have something to prove.
So this is me in 2017, ready to embrace a new year and a new beginning; an old dog in search of a new trick. Who knows, I might even find that niche. It might just be that I needed a little help sniffing it out.