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The Lonely Hearts Travel Club: ‘NZ was the furthest I could go without leaving the planet’


WARNING: This post may have you reaching for you passport and jacking in that dull job of yours! Seriously, I had to read this a few times as I kept getting chocked up by Mark’s passion for adventure and living a life that others don’t always get, something I know only too well! My next member of the Real Life Lonely Hearts Travel Club has such a positive attitude that I dare you not to feel inspired. Over to Mark (who also happens to be a fellow Scouser) and his story….

I’m 27 now (eek!), but I was 24 when I took the plunge and quit my job at home and started to travel in October 2013. I had been with my then-girlfriend for three years and we were set to buy a house together.

For one reason or another we were tripped at the finish line and we both decided not to proceed. I was literally a signature away from exchanging contracts. Turned out to be the best thing I never did! A few months later she broke up with me and moved away. I was completely heartbroken and was desperately seeking an escape. I just wanted to run away.

New Zealand was the furthest place I could go without leaving the planet so with the house deposit burning a hole in my pocket, I applied for my visa straight away, packed my bags and made plans to travel through South East Asia before setting up in NZ for twelve months.

What an incredible 14 months I had! I met some of the most inspiring people and got lost in some of the most breathtaking landscapes I didn’t even know existed! I found solace in snapping photographs of the unbelievable scenery and it distracted me from what had happened back home; it kept me active and fed my thirst to explore and discover new places and cultures.
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I’d promised my mum I’d be home for Christmas 2014 and so I rolled back into Liverpool Lime Street station a week or so before. I guess I was expected to seamlessly reintegrate myself back into the ‘real world’. I went half way.
Having been bitten by the travel bug, I didn’t want to sign up to a permanent job again in case I decided to fly off again. So I started a contracting job in the city. Back in the rat race, good job, solid pay, flexible hours. But I knew that I wasn’t going to be defined by going through the motions of a career.
I put up a map of South America above my bed. It would be the first thing I would see in the morning and the last thing I would see before going to bed. I had always been lured by this continent.
I would spend hours on Google or Pinterest scrolling through images of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine, the Andes and Amazonia. I wanted nothing more than to jump into the screen and submerge myself by these incredible landscapes. I wanted to explore the salt deserts, the glaciers, the beaches, the cities and the sleepy mountain villages.
And so twelve months later, once I’d fulfilled my contract (and admittedly, snuck in a month-long trip to India!), I landed in Rio. And all my concerns about the real world completely dissipated.
I think a lot of people view travel as a way of escaping responsibilities and postponing growing up. Maybe I did too. The standard convention is to choose your career path, climb the ladder, get married, sign up for a mortgage, take two weeks a year on a beach in Spain and then go enjoy your retirement.
I think that sounds horrific! That’s not what we’re here for!
So, now I figure the real world is out here. Meeting new people, trying new food and exploring new places every day. I could wake up at home and know my day’s schedule, Monday to Friday, from the moment I’d wake up until the moment I’d go to bed. On the road, tomorrow is always different from today. Life isn’t about spending your evenings catching up on emails, it’s about sharing wine and food with people you met five minutes ago.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everyone else is right and I just haven’t realised it yet! But I’m okay with that. My biggest pet hate is when people say: “You’re so lucky you get to travel!” No. I made sacrifices to travel. I left my family, my friends, my home, my safety net and I set myself a goal of going away. And I’m doing it.
My advice for a first time traveller? Jump in. Set yourself a goal and make it your own. Surround yourself in the tastes and smells of new and exciting places and make those images on your computer leap out of your screen. Do things you’ve never done before. There’s a whole world out there! Go explore and most of all – have fun!
  • Mark McAnulty is from Liverpool – the amazing, iconic mini Superlambananas represent the bright yellow sculptures that adorn the city.

If you’d love to share your story of going from lost to wanderlust and join the Real Life Lonely Hearts Club, then contact me here or find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email –!

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  • Gary George

    Mark, I applaud you for uprooting yourself, and heading to the opposite side of the world. Decisions like yours don’t come easy, and the majority of people would balk at them. You’ve traveled more in a short period of time, than most people will travel in their lifetime. My hats off to you!

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