Extract from How to Walk a Puma by Peter Allison

These words reasonate with me:

I also fell in love and felt certain enough about the relationship to get engaged. In the next few years we accumulated the things adults do, mainly furniture and debt. For the first time I owned more than I could carry on my back, and even if I didn’t like the sensation, I believed I was doing what I was supposed to.

I was on a work trip to the Philippines six years after meeting my fiancée when I realised that the life we had together didn’t feel right to me. One day I was walking down the street in Cebu and was hit with a sudden shot of wary adrenalin, as though if I wasn’t alert there could be trouble. It was invigorating. It felt like being back in Africa. It felt like being slapped awake from a long sleepwalk. It felt like coming home. Only then did I realise that I’d been turning grey from the inside out, and had become the cliché of the dissatisfied worker bee. I’d spent most of the last seven years waiting for five o’clock, hanging out for Friday, going on holiday only to stress out because I couldn’t relax fast enough. Perhaps some adults aren’t meant to be in one place. It is like being left-handed: no matter how good you become at using your right hand, your nature still insists you are something else. Nomads are the same.

While some people allow the hollowness of their lives to consume them until they are at zero, so blank they merely exist, others rebel. Some men find solace in sports. Some have affairs. Others dress as a woman and insist on being addressed as Gertrude. My way of breaking the shackles is to go looking for animals. As a teenager I had travelled to escape my life; now I wanted to do it to have one. ‘I think you’re being a fool’, my fiancée said with more sadness than harshness when I told her I wanted to travel open-endedly again, with her this time, working part-time as a safari guide. ‘We’ve built a life here!’ She indicated the apartment we lived in, and our possessions within it.

‘I want experiences,’ I answered softly, ‘not stuff.’
‘Stuff? This isn’t stuff! It’s security!’

But what felt like security to her felt like a prison to me. She wouldn’t come with me and I couldn’t stay. It was the hardest decision of my life, but we broke up and, taking little more than some clothes, I left.





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