Go hard or go home. You hear people say this, but we never mean much by it. Usually we just go medium. We go medium because hard or home are never our only options.
A year ago I was cycling through the heart of Deutschland. Such long solo cycles give you a lot of time to yourself, and I had many thoughts during my time spent pedalling through her small towns. Quite often these thoughts were simply just a ‘I know what you did… I know…’ Starting a trip through Germany with a visit to Auschwitz unfortunately has this effect. But the thought, or idea even, that stuck with me most was the one that’s coming to fruition now. The idea that the next summer I should go to Italy. Go to Italy and cycle the pants off it in an attempt to learn it’s food and language.
Now I’m in Italy and it’s strange looking back, imagining that boy in Germany and the dream that followed him as he rode himself home. Across the year I’ve watched that dream grow from its infancy to its now imminent beginnings, and one feels something so wonderful and odd watching a big idea begin to become a reality. In particular what I find so astounding is this uniquely human ability to concieve of something in the plane of immagination and bring it to the world in physical form. It’s a subject that there are probably many philosophy books about, books that ask questions about where reality really starts, where objects are first created, and thus question how the borders of the physical realm can truly be defined. However I think even this paragraph has perhaps dwelled on the subject for too long already, and I wouldn’t recomend reading one of these books. They are probably gay.
Back to the dream, what did I ever hope to achieve from it? This is the question that begins to riddle me as it starts to take its physical form. The obvious answers can be instantly found; I left because I wanted to learn how to cook, I wanted to go cycling, I wanted to meet new people, I wanted to create a story. But I could read cookbooks in London, I could go cycling to English festivals, and I was meeting Italians in London almost more easily than I am here. While I know I will inevitably have some fantastic times on this trip, I will only have these at the expense of never having a bed, never having a house, never having the comfort or safety of family, friends, or even any degree of regularity in the faces I’m met by. Judging by my previous experiences of living rough, these times will be shit. And more so they will always remain unneccessary; I have a fantastic life in London (with a bed and everything). As this trip looms closer, I can’t help but feel like I have this very glamourised opinion of Italy and the way I will be treated. Indeed most Italians here think my plan is ridiculous, to the point where I often don’t even tell people about it anymore. Though on one hand it has been brilliant to see my fantasy start to turn reality, it’s simultaneously frightening waiting to see how different it may turn out to be.
That’s where the go hard or go home comes in. It’s not a phrase I often think of because I’m not an idiot who says these kind of things, but for some reason it was one of the first thoughts that entered my mind as I started my cycle into Milan. And these words sudden carried weight for once; they were no longer just the words of a drunk jock vommiting all over his game of beer pong. There is no point of me being here – of living this life that I plan on living – unless I go hard, unless I push myself to places I never would’ve gone before. If not I won’t find the new experiences I’ve set out for, and if I’m not going to find new experiences then what’s the point of not having my bed in London? With this question in mind I’ve already been able to push myself to places I never would’ve gone before. I need to learn Italian and to do this I need to talk to people. So I’ve since forced myself to spend a few afternoons in the local park walking around and asking random strangers if they don’t mind speaking Italian with me for a while. Now I don’t know how this sounds to you, maybe easy, maybe a nightmare, but let me tell you if you think the former; it’s a lot more nervewracking than you might think. Especially when you can’t speak enough Italian to have a conversation. And if you think it’s not that hard and I’m making a fuss of it, well, when was the last time you just approached a complete stranger and asked to have a conversation knowing that you won’t understand anything they will say to you? Never? Exactly, f*ck you. People are finely tuned towards avoiding social embarassment. That’s why you might dance around your room on your own but you wouldn’t do it down the street, that’s why when you see that pretty boy/girl on the street you might like to talk to, you don’t try and start a conversation, that’s why when you are in another country you don’t just go up to people and ask them to speak Italian with you. Your body and mind has a complete kneejerk reaction to it. But in all these three situations what’s the worst that could happen? Nothing, and perhaps that’s what I’m trying to learn here; to overcome these little fears and do things which I’d never do. This doesn’t necessarily infer that I mean to spend my time in Italy dancing down the street, only stopping to speak to pretty girls in Italian, but… actually, upon rereading, that doesn’t sound too bad a life.
As much as the cooking, the cycling, and the story, I’m coming to realise that this dream is about forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Indeed, it’s about this because it relies on this. While I still don’t know how the reality will shape itself, there is now at least one thing that is beginning to make itself clear; If I decide to go home, it’s because I couldn’t go hard.