It was an ordinary weekday morning, early into 2011 that my life changed direction. A letter appeared on my desk at work informing me that I had been chosen for redundancy. A week before I had a conversation with my dad about buying my first house and getting onto the property ladder, that conversation seemed painfully ironic now. I was a Civil Engineer back then, working 4 days a week for a respectable consultancy firm south of Manchester and attending lectures 1 day a week at a university north of Manchester.
I guess the upside of my redundancy was I had more time to spend on my final year. Some of my lectures had learned of my redundancy and advised me to move to Australia after I finished my degree. “Engineering is very good over there at the moment”, they reminded me on a regular basis. After several months, the idea of moving to Australia began to sink in and soon after graduating I found myself with flight tickets to Sydney. In order to move to Australia I had to break a promise I made to someone, but that is another story maybe for another day.
I spent a year in Australia on a working holiday visa. Before I left I had visions of me walking into a lucrative engineering job, renting a nice flat in downtown Sydney and generally living the life of a well-paid engineer. The reality was I found myself living in a run-down cockroach invested house and working at a call centre answering phone calls from disgruntled Groupon customers. A stark contrast but in some ways this life was better. It was during these days that I became obsessed with 2 new hobbies, 2 new interests that somewhat became the focal point of my life. Travel and photography.
I returned to the UK and got my old job back at the respectable consultancy firm. It seemed that I could continue where I left off back in 2011, continue working, get onto the property ladder and put the year in Australia down as a long holiday. But things were different now. Travel and photography were both constantly on my mind. I managed to stay in the UK for a year before I found a reason to go overseas again. Central America was the next destination. A friend was traveling down there from the US so I handed in my noticed and flew to Cancun to meet him. I stayed in Central America for 7 months travelling my way from Mexico to Panama with Panama City being my final destination. Journey to Panama City was the name of the travel blog I attempted to write during this time. I have a lot of unpublished writing that I plan to condense into a photo/travel book at some point within the next 1000 years.
Central America is where I cut my teeth as a photographer. I had been steadily progressing in photography ever since I bought my first camera in Sydney but Central America was like a photography boot camp, a never-ending array of photography sights and opportunities from outstanding landscapes to firelit beech raves. After 7 months and dropping a couple of stone due to food poisoning I returned to the UK. I official reason was I came back for a friend’s wedding. Two of my friends who I introduced to each other decided to tie the knot.
I stayed back in the UK for 2 years where I spent time being Civil Engineer Mike. The 2 years were good for me, I had a job that I was progressing in, I was doing photography part time on the side, I had continued salsa dancing which I first discovered a love for in Central America and this introduced me to a whole group of new friends and I was also living in a nice flat in the city. My life back in Manchester had become better because of travelling and photography. I was tempted to stay, but I knew I had to go. I can always come back in Manchester; the city isn’t going anywhere and there is an age limit on working holiday visas. So, it was now or never.