What I Learned In Berlin & Copenhagen (About The Future, Flying Vegetables & Travel Anxiety)

denmark party

Part of the party.

Anybody who has known me for even a short time knows I am attracted to ridiculousness like a moth attracted to fire.

Where the thing on fire is a cow dressed as clown.

(Of course, it’s possible that ridiculous events are attracted to me, and not the other way around. I’ve never been able to figure this out.)

Occasionally I attempt to resist and be sensible for a while, but no matter what I try, silliness seems to follow me.

A couple of months ago, during one of these “attempts to be sensible”, I booked onto a conference being held in Berlin at the end of May: Alive in Berlin.

I didn’t know much about it, but figured it would provide a nice celebration after releasing my first book and a chance to do a bit of travelling while I make my next plan.

But then, a couple of days after I booked on, this post popped up on my facebook:

Alive in Berlin Skydive

Yes, the date was April 1st.

But this was no joke. Apparently the founder of the conference was going to make us all jump out of a plane.

And we needed “an extra pair of pants”. Oh god.

Soon after, I discovered that one of the main speakers at the conference was famous as a vaginal weightlifter. This was beginning to feel familiar. The Universe wanted me to have a bit more craziness in my life.

And so, as I have many times before, I embraced the craziness and went along with an open-mind, to learn how the magic of vaginal weightlifting and jumping out of planes might change MY world…

Ich bin eine Berliner

I spent my first few days in Berlin catching up with my ‘German family’. You may remember the story of how I got strapped to a German and dropped a great distance to the ground?

I caught up with that guy, and his family. It was a lovely few days.

I even watched the video of the infamous Day of Terror where my friend and I fell to the ground while lying flat. I had never seen it, always cringing at the thought of how pathetically scared I was and the stupid things I must have said before I realised I was being filmed.

But, after watching it, it seems my teenage days weren’t as awkward as I remember them to be.

I guess my glasses were the opposite of rose-tinted. Sometimes you have a more negative view of your past self than is really necessary.

(The video was, however, hilarious. And, no, you don’t get to see it.)

Then came the conference itself. I threw myself into it and met as many of the participants as possible in the short few days we were all together. It was genuinely inspiring to hear all the stories from fascinating people from all over the world doing interesting things with their lives.

There were doctors, writers, yoga masters, someone who confounds all labels, someone working to clean up the world’s oceans, speakers, travellers, nomads, a guy who travels the world on various ridiculous contraptions… and the aforementioned vaginal weightlifter.

Fascinating, fun people. But did anything useful come of it?

Spoiler: Yes.

The Plan For the Future

Before I left on this trip, I’d been a bit confused about my plans.

Sure, I’ve written a book. People seem to like it. And it’s helping people all around the world.

(Seriously, I keep getting messages from people all over the place who have got something from it. It’s an incredible feeling.)

But what next?

I could spend a while more promoting the book: there are many (many) people out there who would definitely enjoy it, but they haven’t yet heard of it. The fools.

But that’s not really a long term plan. It’s just something I ought to do, a bit, while working on something else.

But what’s the “else”?!

I had ideas for other books churning around in my head, but nothing had yet become fully concrete.

And then, during a talk at the conference, suddenly all the bits of inspiration bashed together in my brain, and I was able to outline not one, but TWO, new books.

Both are on the same genre-spanning lines as Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life – a similar hybrid of fiction, non-fiction, silliness and seriousness.

These new books (which I’m currently thinking of as ‘Book II’, and ‘Book III’ *) aren’t about anxiety. They’re about what happens after anxiety: answering how we reach our potential, and how we build a better world. And what does ‘a better world’ even MEAN?

* I’m saving all my creativity for the books themselves, and not their working titles, okay?

I have a tonne of ideas for and ways to explore them. I think these books have the potential to be pretty good. Or at least worth writing.

And, as well as these, there’s a novel I’m continuing to work on in the background.

So the next big thing from me will be either that novel, or the first of these two fiction-y/non-fiction books.

(Incidentally, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on all this: does it sound interesting to you? I know I’m being vague about these books beyond their general direction, as details will inevitably change as I work on them. But I’d love to hear your ideas about the general direction itself!)

ALSO, I realised that I ought to do more with my stand-up comedy work.

Instead of doing occasional gigs for fun, maybe I could write some talks that are both funny and useful; discussing anxiety, the working of the brain, self-compassion and all that good stuff in a humorous fashion.

And then I could take these talks to… I don’t know, schools, company training days, conferences and the like.

SO PLEASE: If you know of any organisation that might enjoy a comical and useful talk about anxiety then please, please, get in touch!

ALSO ALSO, I met a translator of books, and – after reading Walking on Custard – she has expressed interest in translating it into German, so we’re currently talking about making that happen!

I’d never even thought about translating my books into other languages, so this is ridiculously exciting.

Watch this space, if a German translation would interest you.

(And also if it doesn’t. I will definitely continue to talk about other things too, I promise.)

After the Conference; the Party & the Silliness

danish karaoke smallSo far this story hasn’t been too silly.

Luckily, after Berlin was Copenhagen, where silliness abounded.

I shan’t bore you with too many details, but here’s a few snippets of the kind of things that were happening:

I arrived in Copenhagen (via a TRAIN that went on a BOAT!) during an event called Distortion, where they close a different suburb of the city every day for a massive, insane street party.

Much of the insanity seemed to involve vegetables. A man was waving giant leeks in the street and shouting “LEEEEKS”. Another man fought through a crowd to throw an avocado at me. I ate a lettuce.

In non-vegetable news, I sang old Danish folk songs with an old couple in the world’s most bizarre karaoke night. I went to a party in a church. A woman dressed as a gingerbread man charged at me on the street. A bunch of people drunk from a brewery tour suddenly joined our meal in a restaurant.

I didn’t sleep much. It was fun.

Travel Anxiety

Since this blog is currently themed around anxiety, I’d like to mention how remarkably un-anxious I was during this whole two weeks travelling.

Normally travelling brings a fair bit of anxiety for me. But this was the first real travelling I’d done since I’d spent time working through my difficulties, and it really, really showed.

Things that would normally faze me (“oh god, where EXACTLY and WHEN am I going to meet this person?”) I just let go. I didn’t stress when I got sat in a claustrophobic window seat on the plane. I didn’t worry about all the things that might go wrong. I was occasionally unprepared for things, but I just rolled with it.

And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the box of tools I’ve developed (plus – far more importantly – all the work I’ve done on the deep roots of anxiety to prevent it surfacing in the first place) meant I was more-or-less okay with whatever was happening.

I hope that’s encouraging to any of you who suffer similarly: we can greatly reduce anxiety, travel or otherwise.

We just have to do the work.

Now I have more work to do: three books and some talks to write, finding places to give the talks, and the rest…

So I’d better start.

Speak to you all soon!

Love, Neil

Inner critic: Are you ending the post like this because you noticed lots of other bloggers signing their posts like letters?

No.

Maybe.

Look! Over there! *runs away*


No vegetables were harmed during the production of this blogpost.

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