Bart Och - Travel Journalist

It happened about a week after the eruption of Bárðarbunga, the largest volcano on the island. We were sheltered in the humble confines of our tent when the massive storm hit Iceland. Most people decided to flee the campsite and trade their tents for a hostel. As those with less money in their pockets, we stayed put expecting to be literally blown away. Although the night was pretty intense, we got up the next day feeling triumphant. Somehow, on that cold, damp ground and feeling like I was hit by a train, I decided to live for such moments because those are the ones that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Three weeks earlier, I was ready to turn back and go home. I am glad I didn’t and pushed through it. I was made in Iceland and from that point on, I forgot how to fit in the life that I was so reluctant to go back to: low-paid job, unpaid bills, uninspiring people, mundane chores, meaningless conversations … boredom. I didn’t know how exciting life can get once you step outside your comfort zone. Travelling hasn’t only taught me how to be resilient but also how to be humble and more appreciative of the things I used to take for granted. And now I travel to constantly remind myself that nothing lasts forever and that tomorrow isn’t promised.

I had eventually taught myself how to use a camera, and it wasn’t long before I had quit my job in a pub. Fast forward a few years later, I sold most of my possessions and left with just a bunch of necessities. I packed my backpack and slid unceremoniously out the door of my small rental apartment on the outskirts of London for the last time. It was both frightening and liberating at the same time – the inability to foresee the next month, week, a day even. I am restless, and patience is not my virtue; I can no longer stand the idea of staying put in one place for more than a week, let alone settling down for good, even though some people have tried talking me into it. I move constantly, and I have grown to like the uncertainty that comes with my passion for travel.

Many people think my life is brittle, or that, perhaps, I am running away from responsibilities and adulthood. But I travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape me. I don’t think I could be happy doing anything else. I came to this understanding in India where I stayed for over a month and where I tried Couchsurfing for the first time. I spent countless hours talking to my host about my travels and he listened like there was no tomorrow. I have realised that not everyone gets the same chances in life, though we often have similar desires and aspirations. I have realised that through my stories and my photos, other people get to hear about and see the world that I fell in love with. And in my last moments, when I am choking on my own bile in the nursing home, I will say to myself: “Well, even if I did waste my whole goddamned life, at least I felt alive.”