Podcast #1: Pandora’s Backpack

In this, the first episode, I talk about how I left the comfortable corporate life behind to go on a life-changing trip, and how this changed things for good, whether I liked it or not.

We cover a lot of ground, including:

  • The epicness of your first big trip
  • The personal growth that comes from travel
  • Reverse culture shock and re-acclimatising back home
  • How travel expands your mind beyond its elastic limit (and how this is both a blessing and a curse)
  • Meeting people on the road
  • Stagnancy and losing your mojo
  • The need to be part of a community
  • Adapting to cultures abroad
  • How you ultimately gain insights into your own culture

Listen / Watch

You can listen on StitcheriTunesSpotifyPocket CastsPodBean … and others.

Show Notes:

A quick search shows the quote “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions” attributed to both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes (is one a false attribution due to similarity of names?). But not Albert Einstein or Jeff Goldblum.

Larousse Gastronomique is a very large and heavy book. And the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is not as pocketable as its name suggests.

Watching the English by Kate (not Kay-TEE as I said it) Fox is another really good read.

My book about my journey round Colombia is Dancing Feat: One Man’s Mission to Dance Like a Colombian. I won’t write the author’s name, because it’s me.

[NB: those book links are affiliate links, meaning that Amazon gives me some pocket fluff as thanks for nudging you in their direction, while you pay the exact same amount]

Any thoughts on what I’ve mentioned here? Slap em down below.


  1. Marilyn Critchley

    I enjoyed this and, in a small way, can relate to it after living in France for six months and “living” in Australia for two months. In many ways the Australian culture was a bigger shock because they are very similar to the UK but different. They fool you into thinking they have the same familiar items in the shops; tea bags which make tea like dishwater but are packaged just like ours; Cadbury’s chocolate in the reassuring purple wrapper but tastes like vomit. I saw a kit-kat in a shop just looking like ours but it’s all trickery. It tastes like cardboard wrapped in plasticine. Then the language which is apparently English but just different enough to confuse you. Combine all that with jet-lag and you have a recipe for torture.
    Coming back from France was weird because I couldn’t understand the big advertising hoardings. I was trying to read them as if they were French. Oh and of course I nearly got knocked down being used to traffic on the “wrong” side of the road.
    I’ve never not felt at home back home however, but does take a little adjustment and more so after a longer time and a totally different culture. And yes, I agree about the attempts to reproduce foreign celebrations here, they are just not authentic. I did once attend an “English evening” in France which the organisers believed was completely realistic but was like an episode of ‘allo ‘allo in reverse !
    Thanks for the links and I look forward to the next blog !

    • wanderboss

      Haha thanks Marilyn 🙂 I often end up at conferences, events, meetings etc with people from multiple different countries, which consist of loads of people all trying to work out whether they’re meant to shake hands, hug, cheek-kiss (and how many times) and so on. The best way round this is to offer everyone a game of pat-a-cakes.

  2. I really enjoyed listening to your honest account of living ‘abroad’. I think those wishing to do the same will be very much inspired and encouraged if they listen to your podcast. I must say Neil, I’ve always admired your decision to leave the security of life here and go off to find out what’s going on in the rest of the world.It was interesting listening to you speak of coming home and trying to acclimatise to living in this country again. A friend of mine has recently come home after working in the Philippines for over 40 years. After all that time living in a country with a very different culture, she’s finding it quite difficult to adjust to living here again.

    • wanderboss

      Thanks, very kind of you 🙂 I think acclimatising to life in another country is a bit like wearing image-inverting glasses. Eventually, your vision flips the right way up again – which is fine until you take the glasses off ;-|

  3. Johnny Parsons

    You are the new Digital Carpenter!
    Why? Because you hit the nail squarely on the head with your brilliant, brilliant podcast!
    Having moved house 38 times and lived in various spots around this beautiful world, I can really relate to your thoughts.

    I am currently kind of in an “unsettled limbo”, having travelled a lot, then moved continents, then moved back to Blighty and then back to Latin America.
    Your words rang very true…

    “Dancing Feat” was a piece of literary wizardry, this podcast is equally as fantastic and entertaining.
    Please keep them coming!

    Great work.


  4. Alex

    Whilst it never materialised, I always wondered how I would find life on the road or even just a prolonged period of travelling. Whilst listening to this, I found myself deep in thought, almost visualising in detail what it would be like to experience something similar, particularly all the new people that I would meet along the way and interesting places that I would visit. How do you move onto the next place though if you find yourself somewhere you really like, surrounded by new exciting friends? Would you even bother? Part of me would find it exciting, liberating and thoroughly enjoyable, amongst many other emotions, but then I’m quite sure that another part of me would feel unsure, perhaps a bit scared and pining for simple home comforts like going for a pint on a Sunday afternoon and watching the football. I always find Neil’s work very thought-provoking. It sticks in the mind and I quite often find myself going back to it for further periods of reflection and this podcast is no exception. Perhaps one of these days, after listening to Neil’s fascinating accounts of his travels, I might actually find myself doing the same.

    • wanderboss

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful and considered commentary Alex. Allow me to respond to a couple of things:

      “How do you move onto the next place though if you find yourself somewhere you really like, surrounded by new exciting friends?”

      Depends on the kind of journey you’re making, but if you’re doing a typical backpacking trip then those new exciting friends are quite likely also backpacking, and you’ll either end up travelling with them, or just repeatedly bumping into them as your trip continues. If those people are actually locals, then sure, you’ve got a decision to make, but in my own experience, the desire / need to finish the journey (and the knowledge that you will continue to meet new exciting friends if you continue) tends to mean that people press on, safe in the knowledge they can always go back. Whether they do or not is another question.

      “Part of me would find it exciting, liberating and thoroughly enjoyable, amongst many other emotions, but then I’m quite sure that another part of me would feel unsure, perhaps a bit scared and pining for simple home comforts like going for a pint on a Sunday afternoon and watching the football.”

      Some feel homesickness more than others. Whilst I occasionally hankered for a good pint, or a curry, the only times on my first big, seminal journey that I genuinely wished to be elsewhere were the times I was sick or struggling for some other reason e.g. with culture shock, and tbh those times were, in hindsight, often the times I grew the most and learnt the most about myself. If anything, my feelings were more often along the opposite lines – I was way more likely to think about how boring it would be if I was back home in the 9-to-5, commuting etc.

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