By Kieran Ford
Hello people of the world! …I say that as if I’m sat, arms wide, in a cloud-like throne on the fringes of outer space, set to address the masses and ‘spread the word’. Though don’t worry, I know in reality it’s more like I’m shouting it into the abyss of a massive empty cave. Anyway, anyone who might be reading this, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to visit my blog.
My name’s Kieran. I’m fast approaching thirty and at that stage where despite being an age that I just assumed everything adult related would be sorted by, turns out it’s the opposite. I have no idea what ‘life holds for me’ and so I continue to wander in search of the answers.
Key, is what a lot of people call me for short, as it turns out Kieran is an unfamiliar name choice abroad, usually resulting in being called either Karen, with confused expression, or something much more bizarre than Kieran, like Key-ear-rehan. So people in the past have called me Key, and I wander around, basically. It’s KeyWanders! Welcome.
“I started researching the best places to visit in your early twenties to become a writer and surprise, surprise it was New York, New York!”
Tough, isn’t it?
I graduated from University with a degree in English with Tourism Management. One of the stranger Combined Honors mixes, and no, it wasn’t the study of how to manage English people while abroad. Though I’m sure some people would think there’s a serious demand for such expertise! Anyway, I assumed my career path as a professional writer would be red carpeted before me, only to end up here, unemployed and writing my first EVER blog post six years after graduation!
Yes, I’m finally ‘getting my arse in gear’ and doing it.
So, after graduating I took the famous pub-chain bar job I worked at part-time throughout my three years at University and turned it full-time. Score. Despite being from London, I decided to stay in Manchester where I’d studied, due to friends and a general affection for the city. After a year or so of that I moved on to another big British pub chain because they wanted to make me a ‘Team Leader’ and soon after a ‘Duty Manager’ (25 – 50p pay increases each promotion, on the £5-odd minimum wage in Manchester at the time…).
Late nights, low wages, unpaid hours, lack of motivation, going nowhere, drunken idiots. I finally decided to pack it all in. I started researching the best places to visit in your early twenties to become a writer and surprise, surprise it was New York, New York! I jetted over, jumped into all the sights and the parties, made some really good friends, spent all of my savings, did no writing, stayed for the maximum of 90 days on a Tourist Visa and flew back to London. Back to square one.
But it had hooked me. That old travel bug had latched its claws well and truly into me! The realisation that so many new places awaited beyond England and the odd local European resort holiday. Staying in hostels and meeting new and interesting people from all different nationalities and backgrounds… you get the drift. The flame had been ignited.
Those Post-Holiday Blues
So, I looked at how I could rekindle some money to get ‘On the Road’ again (Please, forgive me for that one, I’d never have used such a cliché, cringey expression had it not been the title of that Jack Kerouac novel, the one I read twice on discovery of my new found passion).
I had a degree and I’d heard that generic ‘graduate jobs’ paid well. Before I knew it I was at a graduate interview which I’ve since referred to as ‘a series of The Apprentice crammed into one day with around forty contestants (graduates)’. Yeah, so it was horrible, it was dog eat dog, who can shout the loudest, with batches of hopefuls being told to go home after each task. In case you’re intrigued, one of the tasks was getting into groups of five, naming your hero and then being hit with ‘Right! Now you are that person, you’re all in a sinking hot air balloon and you have to decide which one of you is going to be kicked out first.’ …I chose Gareth Bale and managed to stay in by the skin of my teeth over Roger Federer.
Ok, so I got through, despite the whole day being an onslaught of my worst nightmares, I got through it, and I was chosen in the three that would be hired. I was put into a tech company as an Account Manager and sold CAD software (Computer Aided Design) over the phone, nine hours a day, five days a week. What a spectacular prize I hear you cry!
But back to the wandering thing. After two months, I wanted to quit pretty much every day (…they gave two months of paid training) and instead of travelling, I was back living on reduced rent with my parents. However, I managed to stick it out for almost two years and bang! I was done and ready to go.
(♫) On The Road Again (♫)
Within a week of my last day I flew out to New Zealand, equipped with a Working Holiday Visa. On arrival, I embarked on Stray, which took a big orange bus-load of thirty of us from the most Northern tip of the incredibly picturesque country, to the most Southern tip, over the course of a month or so. It was amazing. Stopping along the way with new friends every day, learning about unique cultures and taking part in mind-blowing activities, like glacier hiking, mountain trekking and skydiving
When it all came to an end I headed to Wellington, back into bar work, though this time in a much more interesting venue. A Brewpub, where we crafted thirty-odd of our own beers IN-HOUSE and sold them fresh on taps at the bar just meters away. It’s The Fork & Brewer, if that sounds like ‘a bit of you’ (as we’d say in London).
After a year of wandering around New Zealand I decided it was time to see somewhere else, so I flew to Australia and wandered around Melbourne for a week, before heading off to Lisbon.
It’s always been an ambition of mine to learn another language fluently. I know a lot of English speaking people tend to be lazy and expect others from foreign lands to speak our language, myself included for MANY years. Though these are the kind of things you learn from travelling, those ‘travel broadens the mind’ moments. I really wanted to drill down at least one other language fluently, as I admired the many people along my way that I’d seen struggling through conversations in broken English.
So, why Portugal?
Well, my parents owned an old derelict house there from my childhood so we’d visited a few times, the country just became a family favourite. I wanted to see it through adult lenses. I wasn’t disappointed, the scenery, the food, the people, it’s all beautiful. And the language is one of the most challenging, but once you get it, most bilingual in the world thanks to its Latin roots. Perfect.
That’s where I am now. In central Portugal, living in the middle of a forest, basically, and trying to learn the language each and every day. Even more so now because I need to start working here soon. I head off on wanders around the country, sharing experiences of new towns and cities, meeting new and interesting people, learning the language and doing so on a tight budget. So you can afford this too.
So there you have it. My story so far. If you’ve managed to make it this far, I congratulate and thank you. I hope that you’ll be interested in the tips, inspiration and advice that I’ll be sharing with you from here on out.
I’d genuinely like to hear from you too, so please, tell me, what’s your story? Let me know along with any questions you may have in the Comments below.
Cheers! / Saúde!