Why I’m not flying

I get asked about this more often than most things, as my adventure all around this big ol’ world rolls onwards and upwards. At times, it is a real challenge to answer, when I am spending days on end researching alternative travel methods to no avail. I’d far sooner be out exploring whichever glorious country I’ve found my way to. The dark temptation of a €10 Ryanair flight is rarely far away, and it’s certainly nothing more than my absurd, blind determination not to fly that keeps me away from the airport.

One such conundrum presented itself back in Estonia in December, at the end of my Scandinavian chapter of my Busk the Globe tour. I’d dillied, dallied and daydreamed in Finland, enjoying the culture the vibrancy and the company of a dear old friend in Helsinki. Arriving, finally in Estonia I found myself just as bowled over by life on the other side of the Baltic Sea. A country no larger than Wales, no more populous than Birmingham, pulled and tempted by Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and now the EU, yet still able to retain its distinct culture. These foreign tinkerings have shaped the country hugely, and the effects differ from region to region: The irrevocably Russian eastern counties; Tallinn with its medieval Germanic grandeur and throngs of British tourists; And Tartu – charming and intelligent, quite international with all its students yet, I feel, very “authentically” Estonian. What diminishing travel time I’d had left, earmarked for the other Baltic states was promptly guzzled up by the country and I had only a few days remaining to get back to my dear family and friends back home in Brighton for Christmas. The Ryanair flight, of course, was €35 and it took all the soul searching in the world, combined with the impeccably astute musings of my dear old mum regarding the topic to remind me that the flight home would negate everything I’ve been working to achieve in these years of self sustainable travel around the globe.

And so, one 4am bike ride, two 6 hour bus journeys, 10 miles by bike in gross sludge-snow, an eighteen hour journey at sea in the company of chain smoking Lithuanian truck drivers, no fewer than seven connecting trains and 30 miles pedalling along the Normandy coast through endless sprawls of Dunkerque dockyards was what it took to get me on that ferry to Dover! Bizarrely, I boarded as a vehicle, much to my amusement and that of the stewards who led my folding bike through lanes of motor traffic, politely waiting in line to come aboard. Now, ask me if that crazy adventure was worthy of the small temporal and financial sacrifices I had to make, if you feel so inclined? I was spat at in a Latvian market for attempting to buy just one banana; befriended a Lithuanian doctor over an avocado topped veggie burger and a fine craft beer (that’s right – the hipsters have infiltrated the Baltics too!); told off for stealing “free” bread from the buffet on board the ship; bowled over by the forests of wind farms along the Polish coast and of the mindblowing fact that we sailed past six different countries, each of these with distinct cultures and ways of life despite their overt geographical proximity. I visited a German Christmas market in Hamburg, and bollocked Deutsche Bahn for missing my connecting train (so much for German efficiency!). I cycled the gorgeous streets of Den Haag with a friend, marvelling at the almost Orwellian Dutch parliament building and its neighbouring traditional Flemish townhouses. What’s more, I was able to earn back my travel costs by busking in Bruges, and even found time to consider the lives lost in World War One at the Menin Gate in Ypres with a fellow Couchsurfer.

Or I could have fought my way into a cramped seat with lots of other miserable passengers having been terrorized for, God forbid, bringing my violin into the cabin, to be charged a small fortune for a truly dreadful sandwich whilst breathing in false air and being shaken to pieces during turbulence.

I am ever more passionate about sticking with my stubborn embargo, based on my experiences in the Caribbean these past few months. The public transport infrastructure here is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent, and thus I’ve had to frenetically hone my resourcefulness, rampantly network and prostitute out my skills as a violinist to beg, borrow or steal passage on sailboats from island to island. It’s been challenging, mostly testing my patience and flexibility, but has now taken me to most every single island in the Leeward Antilles and beyond. Boat hitchhiking is proving to be quite the crafty endeavour, a hell of a lot more complicated than simply sticking one’s thumb out by a roadside. But goodness me, the rewards have been copious. It is only too easy to feel the self-indulgence of travel after so much time on the road. Friends of mine have mostly found their way into jobs now and are contributing their bit to society, and it is easy to lose sight of the value of what I myself am contributing: Sustainably travelling and moving people over the world through the power of music. Though this is by no means always the case, and in those stationary days void of music, there is a palpable feeling of productiveness when getting out hustling, sourcing the next boat I’ll be sailing on.

So much of my trip is shaped by my desire to meet people and share perspectives with those all over the world, but constantly putting myself out there can get exhausting. The quintessence of friendly faces all around to enable me to continue on my mission spurs me on with this though, and I’ve adored how social my time in the Caribbean has been. I’ve needed constantly to meet people as a way to survive: to find my next ride, or to find performance opportunities. Travelling musicians in Europe have it far too easy – the pedestrian streets to play in, the train station and an abundance of hostels are laid out on a silver platter. None of this backpacking infrastructure exists here in the Caribbean. Interisland flights are laughably expensive and unreliable so the only way to reasonably backpack this fascinating part of the world is by boat! It is a huge hassle, though I may not have formulated such a rewarding experience, digging so deeply into a relatively inaccessible part of the world, had I zipped through just a couple of the islands via expensive, awkward flights. Four months in and my skills on board a sailboat have rocketed from 0 to a genuine level of competency (though I’ve still got a long, long way to go). This has opened up a whole new aspect of my life, marine career prospects and a vibrant social network of likeminded, enterprising and inspiring travellers across the globe.

Now, there are times that the 21st century trips me up, absolutely forcing me to board a Boeing, be that due to my commitments as a professional musician, sheer geographical inaccessibility, or in the case of the immediate future, despicable bureaucracy at the US border, prohibiting me from entering the country via a private vessel based on my visa status. These things I have to take in my stride, as it is not worth the premature ageing it will cause me to kick up a fuss, or flat out refuse to come aboard – our lives are all rife with hypocrisy, and sometimes you have to swallow your ethics to take your medicine.

As every chapter of my tour passes I learn yet more about the nuts and bolts of long term, sustainable travel, and of my own priorities in life. My passion for exploring only grows, and for the sake of “good travel” and a true connection to the journey (arguably the most poignant aspect of travelling) – the kinesthetic energy and movement from one place to the next – I continue to avoid flying, to opt instead for the adventure. I elect for an ethical way to traverse the earth, powered by wind, the power in my thighs, and the music that drives my trip. I choose to support the local public transport industries around the world, as we all should, to enable this planet to live a long and happy life. So come, join me – hop on a ferry, a Eurostar, or hitchhike your way across an ocean, and lets make some lovely music, and with any luck subsequently, some smiles!


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At last, we’ve time to waste. But I’ve forgotten how to do so

I’m not exactly sure how to start with this one. Finding words to describe the utter madness in which we find ourselves ain’t all that easy. We’re treading in totally uncharted territory, a global shutdown not experienced since the last world war, and a global push to combat one disease perhaps unseen since the plague. We’re doing okay, I think. Other than the morons buying all the bog roll, that is. But Costco have just announced they won’t accept returns on such rampant bulk buys, so that lot can shit their way into oblivion. As for the rest of us, it’s pretty astonishing how we’ve rallied, and even the ‘rebels’ in society have swiftly stepped in line to support the cause and to stay at home. Is it because they’re scared? Probably. But overall I think the weight of societal responsibility has put us in our place, quickly realising the brevity of the situation (that is, apart from our dear old Prime Minister who figured almost 300,000 deaths nationwide to be of no grave moral issue, so encouraged us to keep on popping down to our local pub, to ignore reality, unquestioning of the lockdowns occurring in ‘most every other country on this planet, just like a good Brit should).

Britain aside, it’s filled me with hope, quite frankly. We lived in a time where community values seemed somewhat overwritten by the limitless selfish possibilities afforded to us; technological advances enabling a yet more individualistic approach to life; community mindedness less relevant and competitiveness and one up-ness thriving in the zeitgeist in which we are cradled. And yet, people are singing from balconies, offering help with peoples’ daily chores and shopping for those less able. They are using the time to educate themselves and are really listening to what is needed of them on both micro- and macro- cosmic levels. It’s not something I’ve quite seen in my short time on this earth, not least in cities. Yet in Granada, Spain where I’m holed up until life makes a little more sense, we’re applauding the doctors, nurses and public service workers from our terraces every day at 8 o’clock. We’re giving live dance classes through our phones in our garden! And online there is an endless stream of goodwill being proffered: ears to listen to ones’ problems, free creative performances, and even one friend providing professional advice as a therapist.

Times of crisis have always brought people together. We need each other more than ever before. And what better chance for robust solidarity than all of us, worldwide, going through the exact same thing? It puts things in context and leads you to understand what is truly important. Family, close friends (not those you meet tipsy in a hostel for three days who ‘really get you’; not travel buddies!…), your health and the well being of your local community and our planet quickly take precedent over all else. Though I have found myself (after a couple of days burrowed under my duvet, sleeping, drinking tea and playing old millennial computer games in an attempt to escape reality) quite swiftly racing to do this that and the other, assuming that the rat race MUST continue. I’ve not worked, busked or travelled these past couple of weeks; what is wrong? I must fill my time with ‘rewarding’, ‘productive’ projects. I couldn’t sit still. Not for more than half an hour without getting restless and feeling I needed to ‘achieve’ something. What’s more, there was no excuse – now with the gift of time that article that was never written, that instrument never practised, that garden never tended and that old friendship never reconciled could all be addressed! But week two of quarantine (a word I only understood from Star Trek until last week) has now dawned in Granada, and the washing isn’t done, the guitar hasn’t left its case, my inbox is still cluttered and I’m only half way through the article I swore I’d write!

Though maybe that is all okay? It is the human condition to be lazy, to procrastinate, to make excuses and to ‘fail’. I’ve often described one of my greatest successes as the failure to complete my Masters’. I claimed that it taught me about the acceptance of my own limitations and my human flair for failure. Though this is something I’ve not taken on board as much as I’d thought. Despite electing for an astonishingly ‘free and easy’ life by busking the world (at least, this is how most people seem to see it), I find myself still pushing to ‘do better’. I’m a perfectionist, and thus won’t accept a busking set unless the acoustics are ‘perfect’ the audience receptive, the sun shining. I won’t take a bloody train anywhere unless I’ve secured the ‘best’ price and most satisfying, scenic and logical travel route. And here I am, living in an arts residence in Granada, populated with some of the most inspiring, creative and warm creatures I’ve had the pleasure to meet, looking out at what is truly the most beautiful city I’ve stumbled upon in all these years of travelling, presented with the gift of time and the promise of absolutely no stress required, to sit back, and enjoy.

Instead, I’m planning ahead. Of what I’ll do, where I’ll go and how I’ll get there, once we’ve beaten this thing. I’m holding myself accountable for each wasted extra minute in bed, for every hour pissed away reading up on something which I shouldn’t, or blasting away messages on (insert predictable social media platform here). Was I always this neurotic? Perhaps. Though keeping busy all my life never let such a character trait bubble to the surface so blatantly. Now I’m not busy. Many people aren’t. And the mirror is up. Maybe we don’t like what we see. But that’s okay too. We’ve got oodles of time to fix it. Or not. And that’s okay, also. Because this pandemic is an opportunity to come to terms with our mutual, insignificant mediocrity. Without that rat race dragging us all along we’ve the space to be genuinely lazy and approach life at a rewarding and slower pace at last. If only we can let go of so many years of competitive funnelling and ‘expectations’ of society, our peers, our parents, ourselves.

And honestly, I’m quite excited. At last we’ve the time to reflect, readjust, and consider what works best for us. We choose. The world is slowing down massively (much to the delight of mother earth) and we should too.


It’s time for a People’s Vote on Brexit.

It’s not about sticking it to Farage. It’s definitely not an attempt to split the divide yet further by telling leavers that they were wrong. It’s not about remaining in the EU or even (really) about telling MPs to do their job correctly. This is about upholding the democracy that our country is built upon, to allow the people of the United Kingdom to have the final say on something that will alter our citizenship, our rights, our economy, our freedom to travel, and our international standing, reputation and diplomacy for decades to come.  

For almost 3 years parliament has tried to navigate the utter shit-show that is Brexit. The lies and deceit of the Vote Leave campaign have been (mostly) exposed; within the seemingly endless shambles of negotiations, a shoddy deal has been cobbled together -and rejected overwhelmingly twice by Parliament; a no-deal Brexit, agreed by any reputable source to be dire for all involved on either side of the English Channel, has been taken “off the table” (though this would be the default outcome on 29th March if nothing is agreed upon by then); and any hypothetical “softer” Brexit deal to be conjured up from nowhere within the next seven days before the big day effectively would be a worst of all worlds: 

— Brexit hardliners wouldn’t get the economic freedom to pursue the independent trade deals they desire, nor would their delusions of grandeur towards an Empire 2.0 be fulfilled (because it’s 2019 – nobody cares about the UK any more. The British Empire is done. Good riddance to colonialism. Get used to it). EU funding would be in tatters – good luck to British farmers after they lose their € 22.5 billion from The European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, and to less developed regions in the UK after they lose their €17.2 billion from European Structural and Investment Fund. We would still be under the arm of the EU, but will have lost our seat(s) at the table to have our say in EU affairs, despite being directly affected by any decisions made. Though, it might mellow rising tensions in Northern Ireland, allowing the peace process to continue. Potential for hard borders, customs checks, and imbalanced and undemocratic preferential treatment of DUP demands in order for them to prop up May’s minority government is hardly a soothing tonic to a delicately held peace. A hard Brexit is as much help on the island of Britain as it is across the Irish Sea. 

So where does that leave us? Labour has finally edged towards supporting the idea of a Peoples’ Vote. All minor parties represented in Parliament, including the new breakaway Independent Group, and a good handful of centrist Tory MPs fully support it. The Speaker, John Bercow, has refused Theresa May’s attempts to thwart the democratic process by putting her deal to MPs repeatedly until she gets the support she wants. Parliament is at a stalemate; all options and avenues have been explored and discussed, and no consensus in Parliament can be found. Leaving the European Union has proven an astonishingly complicated task, and inexecutable in the simplistic “Take back control” manner in which the Leave Campaign suggested. Parliament needs to see that the desire of the people is for a public vote now, so that whatever new deal, potentially to be struck in the coming months, provided an Article 50 extension is permitted by the EU, is put to the people to decide. 

The people of the United Kingdom were clear that they wanted to leave the European Union in June of 2016. The referendum result HAS been honoured – there can be no suggestion otherwise after painstaking conviction towards Brexit for almost 3 years. After an undeniably misled vote in 2016, in March of 2019 it is time to demand the right to our democracy again, to confirm that we still wish to leave the EU, now that we are fully aware of what that entails. No funny business, no “voting again until we get what we want”. A simple confirmatory vote for the people. The world has changed in 3 years, and the question has changed. “This is the deal: Do you still want that?” Leavers and Remainers alike should embrace this opportunity for clarity. If you are convinced that the 17.4 million who voted to leave still feel the same way, then let them say so again. We should accept whatever the result is, as a hypothetical 2nd vote to leave the EU would confirm the unchanged will of the British people. There should be no fear that the vote would be “lost” a second time, as fears that the vote would now swing resoundingly towards remaining, with all the information in front of us, in 2019, would simply mean that the will of the people has changed. Honouring that is honouring democracy. It is why we hold elections every five years, to ask the people “Are you happy with the government you currently have?” We do the same as members of the EU, holding elections for our members of the European Parliament every five years. 

For a long time, I opposed the idea of a Peoples’ Vote for fear it would further polarise the society we live in. I am still concerned about this, and thanks to chief Leave campaigners loaded with false promises and driven by pure passion rather than fact, a rift in society was created where it never truly existed before. The issues many wanted addressed wasn’t the EU, but rather it was immigration, and the changing demographics of the country. It was fear of terror attacks on British soil and a resignation to lower standards of living and rising costs brought about by Tory austerity. The cause and effect of these problems felt by a large sphere of British society was mis-sold to them, convincing them that EU membership was at the heart of all of these problems. It wasn’t. It still isn’t. However, the “alternative facts” were very well delivered and – credit to them here – neither Boris, Michael, Nigel, David, Liam, Jacob or any other (note the lack of diversity there, though that is another discussion for another day…) could have predicted it would break Britain and our political institution as it has done.  At least, for the sake of all that is good in the world I hope they weren’t so mind numbingly self-destructive to have wanted *this* all along. 

Nonetheless, five working days before Brexit day, this is where we are. All of the frustration, all of the smugness, the arguing, and again I repeat, the polarisation of our country, and what is left? May’s deal has been defeated in more so than any other motion in parliamentary history. No-deal swings, like a Sword of Damocles over our parliamentarians, as a blackmailing tool for our beloved Theresa to use in one final, foul, desperate and bullying ploy to get MPs to pervert the course of democracy by voting for her deal – a deal which they fundamentally do not agree with. 68% of the general public don’t support her deal either according to the latest YouGov poll. The damage of an impending Brexit is blatantly clear, with over $1 trillion in banking assets having moved to EU financial centres already, car manufacturing plants (see Swindon, Sunderland) closing down, airline companies going bust (see Cobalt, Flybmi), and the pound at its weakest buying power abroad in 33 years. I can tell you first hand from my adventures Busking the Globe in nearly 60 countries since the vote, that we are an utter laughing stock. The country has lost all credibility (please know this, any Empire 2.0 fantasisers out there). It’s an utter embarrassment. We can’t just revoke article 50 off the cuff because of the uproar it will cause. We need a fair and democratic solution, as we certainly can’t continue down this reckless and fruitless Brexit road any longer, just as much as we can’t just return to how things were before the vote, to business as usual: the businesses are already closing, the wounds are wide open and consensus about anything still does not exist. The Prime Minister has failed. Brexit has failed. No matter what approach we take here, the country and our political institutions will be reeling for years to come. Society is already as divided and confused as it could possibly be. Having respected the referendum result for three years it’s time to consider the best deal that exists for all parties involved here, and that deal might just be the one we already had in 2016. Let’s stop kidding ourselves by accepting a weak deal because “At least it’s better than no deal”. It’s not good enough. 

Corbyn has shown himself to be an impossibly inflexible Eurosceptic incapable of – or unwilling to see -the damage that any kind of Brexit could do to the lower income families and younger voters he claims to care about most. We need to accept that his socialist dream just cannot be implemented in 2019. There is no space for it in a country and parliament so impossibly divided. He has waited too long to swing the full oomph of the Labour party behind a public vote, and so it is down to the people to make their voices heard, to let Parliament and the European Union know what it is that is wanted at this point. Corbyn is not the magic making compassionate grandpa we’d all willed him to be. This may well be the largest political moment we live through – at least until the climate crisis actually starts to be talked about… It’s also the most confused, divided and unrepresented we have ever been. This isn’t about a shoddy government that could be voted out again in 5 years. It isn’t about rising student fees for which we came out in our 100s of thousands to contest (it didn’t turn out all that bad for us in the end though did it? I’ve still not paid back a penny of my student loans and as a badly paid musician I probably never will). This is about permanent change to our citizenship. It is about permanent change to our freedom to live, travel and work in the largest economy this world has ever known; the most densely culturally diverse region on this planet. It is about turning our backs during the longest reign of peace Europe has seen in over 2000 years. All of this in the name of sovereignty (which we already had.) 

Do not allow Brexit lethargy to win. Do not allow Theresa May’s reckless, authoritarian scaremongering prevail. Stare down that no-deal Brexit and let May, her government, our parliament and our EU see that the only fair, democratic way out of this mess is to bring it back to the people. On Saturday, in our 100s of thousands, we can do exactly that. March for the United Kingdom. March for Europe. March for a People’s Vote in London on Saturday.


Here in Paradise, music is just as powerful.

My adventures continue, and have led me deep into the Caribbean, to a charming island named Nevis. It was never my intention to stop here (a recurring theme during my travels, it seems…), and this region of the world was supposed to remain untouched by yours truly for at least a couple of years as I head west around the planet, upon “completion” of the European continent. And no, I’d never heard of Nevis before either. Except for Ben Nevis. But the Scottish mountain is pronounced with a short “e”.

I am privileged to meet countless fascinating and friendly people in my line of life, and one such individual presented herself last summer in the few hours I spent busking in Woodbridge, Suffolk (again, no, I’d also never heard of Woodbridge before!). The former can-can dancer had performed & travelled all over the world but the past 20 years of her life had been devoted to building a successful restaurant out in the West Indies. She wanted to take me across to play there, and being the “yes-man” that I am, I swiftly accepted the offer. I’ve found this trait of mine has brought me (mostly) good fortune & good stories thus far, and can see that the people I meet are receptive to the way I’ll see any opportunity through that comes my way.

This one has taken me across the Atlantic Ocean to Nevis, of St Kitts & Nevis. A former British colony and now the smallest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Armed with the social tools of my violin & new Brompton folding bike – plus the social lubricants of rum & “Carib” beer, both cheap and in abundance here in Paradise – It hasn’t taken long to get to know the island and many of its 12,000 inhabitants. Contrary to the majority of my travels, I have the rare and brilliant opportunity to remain in one place here, during my time performing at the gorgeous & tasty restaurant aptly named “Bananas”! Already, I’ve been able to dig a little deeper into the culture; the way life operates here; the plethora of gruesome local history, of an island raped by early colonialism, pointlessly fought over by the English & French, and all the while repopulated by members of the African populace ruthlessly dragged half way across the planet to cater to Europe’s new found sweet tooth. Discussing the brutality of the Atlantic slave trade is something I hope to cover in a later article during my time here.

However, I put pen to paper today (yes, I still write that way, it’s just a shame I’m left handed so that the ink smudges) in an attempt to put into words my experiences of the day before. I was invited to a goat-roast, a traditional Sunday event on Nevis. While the roasted goat wasn’t exactly my style (vegetarianism isn’t for everyone), the rest of the buffet was simply exquisite, and the setting in an old sugar plantation inn was a window to the past. No more than two dozen were in attendance, and I shared some music with the group prior to eating, in the main wing of the hotel – a striking wooden structure dating back to ca. 1670: the oldest of its kind in the Caribbean.

I’d slightly misjudged the sensitivity of the room at first, and the the Handel sonata I elected to play was appreciated, though did not capture the room as I’d intended. I knew that singing a traditional English folk tune would achieve this, and so followed accordingly. However, the piece was met with more emotional engagement and focus than I could have imagined. I think the combination of the ineffable beauty of the ballad, complimented by the rustic charm of the space, and most importantly the open hearts and willing minds of all of us in the room led to a mutually shared experience that was really quite magical. The children there were entranced by the violin; one couldn’t hold in her excitement and kept clapping! I think that when a musician can surrender their ego (something which can be hard to do, especially amongst artists…) and consider the communality of their performing, of which every individual has an equal role, that something quite special can occur. This undoubtedly happened yesterday, as clichéd or cheesy as it may sound.

The family who hosted the lunch asked if I might play to the mother, an energetic and wonderful woman who has suffered for many years from the merciless & undignified disease of Alzheimer’s. Seven of us, all male, including the father, son and close family friends came to her bedside, where I played and sang a piece for her. Maureen is Irish, and so “Danny Boy” was a fitting song. I’ve come across few songs in my existence that are as heart-wrenching as this one, and yesterday’s recitation was no exception. Music is impossibly powerful, and I cannot stress this enough. Even in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s the music was able to trickle through, bringing a smile to Maureen’s face, and a glimmer of recognition we all know she felt. Though perhaps even more powerful was that the music reduced seven grown men to tears. I think all of us there needed that in a way. As men we are conditioned to quietly cope with feelings as powerful as these (if we’re are permitted to feel at all), and during such busy lives it isn’t often that we give ourselves the time to truly process the deeper feelings that we have to navigate.

The experience shook us all, but we all returned to the main room of the house to find ourselves being soothed by the inviting voice and guitar playing of Pete, another member of the afternoon’s social circle. After sharing a couple of knowing glances, Wade and I (a family friend privy to the heavy emotional content next door) found a space near Pete and each picked up one of the many instruments he’d brought with him. The three of us gave what we could to get some harmonies flowing, and before long, all of us were merrily singing along to gentle Americana: some bluegrass, Peter Paul & Mary, and even the Eagles. It was a terribly quaint experience, which brought us all together. The sense of community & fraternity was infallible, and it is not often I feel such a sense of belonging when travelling as I did there. I think this was another of those first steps for me, in discovering what is most important in my life. The entire day will live with me, as a stark reminder of the importance of music and the way in which it transcends age, culture, race, and even the most unfair and isolating of diseases.


Perspectives from the rainy window of a Norwegian jazz cafe

I am lulled by the masterful work of guitarist John-Kåre Hansen (who no doubt has listened to a Pat Metheny record or two in his time…) as I swill on a fine “Cortado” – and I consider how funny the diaspora of such disparate, yet complimentary pleasures in life! Jazz, rooted in African rhythm, some Western harmony, and modern technology to seal the deal with its electrification & its capacity for distribution. Concocted in America, argued to have been perfected in Europe; some say Scandinavia. Coffee, that which I am sipping of Columbian origin: Devised in Italy, translated and watered down by Starbucks, tweaked and remodelled Down Under, stolen by the Brits and delivered, at last, to Norway (with a shot of Iberic influence thrown in for good measure).

All of this has led me to reflect on my own journey these past months, the first baby steps of my #BUSKtheGLOBE tour across the British Isles, Spain, Northern France, Benelux, the Rheinland, and now Scandinavia. An album is on its way, I’ve made connections all over the world, and people everywhere are wanting to hear my story. I’ve also managed to get my damn heart broken, have upset the occasional neighbour in towns I’ve played in, and have struggled greatly to understand my own role in this mad world we all call home. I’m just beginning to figure that one out, now, almost a year later.

I have come to see that my lifestyle operates as two concurrent projects, as it were: One is that of an alternative to modern day life, spent learning and evolving via cultural exchange, adventure and constant new experiences. The second, more poignant project, is that of my music, wherein I am attempting to change the world, ever so slightly, note by note. As my street performances have developed, the repertoire and performance style has put the general public at the forefront. I want to connect with strangers each day, in the hopes of having a positive effect on their life. Everything, right down to the clothing I wear when I perform has been considered “under the microscope” in order to maximise the potential to make a connection with someone. This is NOT about making money to survive (though donations are always greatly appreciated!) – it is about catching the attention of an individual in an attempt to move them. My studies in Music Psychology have left me as a more considerate musician (I feel), with a deeper respect of the two way relationship between performer and audience member.

Music is one of the most emotive crafts within human existence, and those of us lucky enough to have developed skills in this domain must be wary of the power they hold. Music has the capacity to heal, to neurally recalibrate and re-animate individuals for whom movement has become a real challenge, perhaps due to age or disability. Music evokes memories like nothing else, and it is capable of reminding some people who may have lost sight of the important things within the madness of their humdrum, busy and stressful lives of the following thing: They can still feel!

I struggle to see the role I play at times, on rainy street corners when “no one is listening”. But then a stranger approaches me and thanks me for brightening that dreary day of theirs, and I realise that even in low moments of mine I am still making connections with people, and doing my job well. We, as musicians – better yet, as humans – hold the key. On the street, I have the power to make somebody’s day just a little better, and I think that is something really quite special. This is harder to achieve on a stage; there is an ineffable sense of disconnect, and people pay the premium to be part of the experience. I provide my service for free, and am capable of touching people from all realms of society, regardless of their status, economy or ethnicity, and I’m damn sure I’ll make my way around this whole flipping planet to ensure my music reaches anyone, everywhere.

My role as a busker is by no means benevolent, however. For every email or message I receive thanking me for easing a hard time someone has had in their life, or informing me that my story or my music has led them to make a change for the better, I cannot help but think of the neighbours I have upset in various towns, intruding on their tranquil Sunday afternoons. I suppose there is a Yin and Yang to much of what we do, but rarely is the equal and opposite reaction as prominent as when a distraught and overworked mother yells at you when you are just trying to create something which to some is quite beautiful. I struggle fully to understand their plight; I’ve never lived in a busy city centre and I’ve not had to deal, perhaps, with far less considerate buskers whom have driven these poor souls to distraction?

No doubt, this is another illustration of the power music has, and a warning to those of us who hold the key to unlocking such powerful emotions, both positive and negative, that we must take care. I’m trying my best – I promise – to be a better busker and a better individual, but I’ve a long way to go, still, on this adventure across six continents. I have at least five continents’ worth of knowledge and experiences still to grow from.

Let me finish by saying that when you next see a street performer, do yourself a favour and stop to listen. If they know what they’re doing, allow yourself to be moved. Allow yourself to think; allow yourself to feel. You’re doing the performer a massive favour in this exchange – it’s what they are there for – and I’ll bet that informing them of the effect they’ve had on your day will mean more to them than dropping a euro, dollar, pound, kroner, franc, zloty or rupee in their hat possibly ever could (but us buskers certainly appreciate the donation as well!).

Puerto Pollença

Puerto Pollença
My own slice of paradise.
Gentle water caresses the coast.
Sunlight twinkles across the azure,
Relentless wet: beating, beating
But only delicately
Contorted; malnourished
By the spectrum of water’s sight.

Shoal battles shoal
Those big, small and smaller.
As the light
Glistening there, left and right.
Somewhat enticing; equally fright’ning
The prismic liquid as confused as was I.

This juxtaposition
Of noise amidst silence.
Of nature, and progress.
This is indeed progress:
A man in the sky – no words
But the engine’s deep cry.
Rude and unobtrusive – a palette cleanser
Once missing, the silence is understood all the more.

The boats sit so politely
In their tranquil liquid silence.
And avast! People
Over there in the distance
Strolling, I question their motive
Though perhaps these souls
Have a skill in devotion
To unlumber their minds
Of such deadly a passion
To plan, form, devise
What to do with their life.

These are holiday makers
And they take in the sights
Of the Pine Walk, the mountains
And at night (I hope!) the stars.

Me, myself
I am the same
Though my world is less frivolous
Despite possessions I claim
Of value and function,
Without disdain I allow
To be perceived as one
Far less fortunate than I.

Though, truth is colour
And learning
And all manner of privilege
Permit me to sit here, sleep here, sing here
And examine this magnificent village.


Okay, lets begin…

I have no idea how to start this but I’m utterly determined to try. I’m aware of the fairly unique nature of travel I am doing; of the lifestyle I have elected to live, in short, for the next three years. Already, within the first two months of my tour – most of which has taken place in a world unbelievably familiar to me (ie on the street across UK towns and cities) – I have had so many ‘memorable’ experiences which, ironically, have been forgotten. I am not blessed with an excellent memory, and thus documenting my travels accordingly is imperative. I hope that those of you who choose to keep an eye on what I’m up to and take the time to read what I put out there can take something from my adventures, be that simply to follow where I am or what I’m doing; to hear some (hopefully!) interesting stories, or perhaps even to learn how not live your life!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Dan – I’m a violinist and a singer, and I am touring the whole planet in a naïve attempt to see what the world has to offer, to give my own musical endeavours a little bit of context. I don’t have much money, so this journey is financed exclusively by the tips I receive from performing on the street, alongside any gigs I may pick up along the way. I cannot drive; my ethics declare the ownership of a vehicle to be utterly unnecessary and the environmental impact of flying to be worse still. As my journey has progressed I have become more vehemently against these modes of transport (though I suppport the hitchhiking ideology very much). With these criteria in mind I have made it my quest to ‘busk the globe’ using public transport, boats, hitchhiking and, importantly, my fold-up bike. Not only is this to stubbornly and stupidly prove an environmental point, it is also my own quiet battle for the sanctity of good travel, and of a life which is better lived outside of the 9-5-gluedtophone-stripmall-readymeal-instantcoffee/gratification society which I have grown to detest. The purpose of travel, I feel, is outrageously true to the word itself, yet nowadays so few people recognise the journey as an integral part of a holiday. When flying so many thousand feet up in the sky, it is impossible to get any sense of the scenery or the intricacies of the lives lived down below. However, in meeting a local when hitchhiking, or gazing out of the train window as the procession of carriages meanders gracefully through mountainous vistas with no roads in sight, the adventures are being had right there on the spot: Unique to your own self at that moment in time. These are the opportunities which don’t exist in daily life – but you may not even have to stray too far to find them. For those of you reading in England, ask yourself: How much of your own country have you seen? I asked myself, and the answer was ‘very little’! I felt that before galavanting across the world it might be a good idea to see what exactly I would be leaving behind – plus I reckon that the UK might be a slightly more lucrative place than Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, East Timor or Swaziland for me to get out busking…

Admittedly, I am in fact writing to you all from a tiny village (with a population of 60!) roughly 1200m above sea level in the mountains near the Portugese border in León, Spain. Though i can tell you that I am certainly not finished with the British Isles. I’ve had a good whack at it so far in my life, but I’ve only scratched the surface in reality; this will no doubt continue to be the case wherever I visit. After an entire year spent living in the USA a few years back, and three years of my life spent with the most spectacular American girl (if you’re reading- hi there Alyssa!), I still find myself at times baffled by various cultural idioms, and misunderstood by those from the ‘States. It’s quite beautiful really: no matter how ‘worldly’ you may think you can be, most days life will be no doubt capable of tripping you up and/or slapping you in the face (please select appropriate analogy, or perhaps literal translation here.)!

Anyway, I fully intend to recount my experiences of touring the UK, as well as my antecedent travels across Northern France, Belgium & the Netherlands in December; my recovery after breaking my foot in the USA in November including the fantastic journey which led to such a surprising turn of events…
Future posts will be more geared, I hope, towards busking, travel and my stories, rather than preaching of my intentions and opinions, but I suppose what prose flies from these fingers is a little beyond my control…
In time, I would also like to write about other key experiences prior which shaped me into the person stupid enough to take on a trip such as this. It’ll be a cracking exercise for me (you’ve got to love a healthy dose of self-reflection!) to think back to what led me to street performing in the first place, and how the lifestyle was nourished and developed in its own organic way, paving the future for a potential life as a full time travelling musician.

Cheers for reading guys: get in contact! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
Dan x