Week 40 – White Belt Busking

Go with the flow……and flow with the go.

9 months ago, I put the padlock on a storage unit in Manchester for the final time, and that was the last time I saw the majority of nearly everything that I own.

One of the big factors about wanting to start travelling was the idea of taking a break in routine. You give up your work, your apartment, your friends and family (only in proximity!), your usual patterns, your gym membership, the sandwich shop you like to visit at lunch……The idea of taking all of that stuff away and seeing how you adapt was really motivating…and a bit intimidating!


And you do adapt….you get used to living out of a bag. 2 weeks after our first flight out, I was on the other side of the world and I couldn’t name you even half of the things that were locked up in that unit!  You get used to having no base….everywhere and no-where become viable places to sleep for the night, as long as there is a space to rest your head and (ideally) no bed-bugs!

10 months in and I felt that I had fully broken the routine which I used to be in…..but I then realized that…..I’m still in a routine…..just a different one.

The routine of exploring, moving, budgeting….there is still a rough plan even if it’s only for today. And sometimes, you get an opportunity to break that routine all over again.DSC07171

“Do you want to travel with me? Use my style?…….If you want, I can teach you poi. We can busk together?”

My phone has beeped, it’s my friend Jing Yi (who I first met in Yangshou) and whom I last saw performing in Lijiang during the national holiday week. The offer is to go travelling for a stint together in Malaysia, and in a completely in a different routine to what I have been doing for the past 9 months……to go slower, find a location, and busk everyday for money to cover food and accommodation.

I look at the text message….and for some reason my first reaction is to say ‘no’……and the reason?…because it just wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was to go and see Japan after China….for more exploring. It just wasn’t part of my new routine.

And as I’m looking at my phone, and before I could reply, I have the thought…..‘In my life, when am I ever going to get an offer like this again?’ It’s literally never going to happen…..a professional busker…asks you to go travelling together….at a point in your life when you are able to do so…….and to show you the ropes of busking? ……..And when it’s put that way, how could I ever say ‘no’?

“Ok! I’ll see you next week :-)”, I text back.


And so, for my final week in China, I head back to Yangshou and meet up with Jing Yi.

And I pick up my new routine for the week: Wake up….breakfast….coffee……and then down to a quiet spot on the riverside to practice….drums, speaker system, poi, crystal ball, and notepad in hand :-)



Now, I’ve never done any busking before. I used to play a bit of guitar, but have no real singing voice to ever put a hat down on the street :-). Jing Yi’s 2 main busking skills are belly dancing (a teacher in Shanghai since she was 19), and fire poi. The plan was for me to accompany her with some music/rhythm while she did this….and as we didn’t have a guitar to hand, it would be me learning some drum rhythms for the bongos or djembe.

I’ve also never played percussion before……yep….I know……I was under no illusions as to where the talent lay in this duo :-)



It was really fun! It was nice to go through the process of learning something new again. I enjoyed the drums and took to them quite well……..It seemed that the years of tapping my hands on the steering wheel of my car to music while driving had finally come in useful!…..well, that and some good instruction from Jing Yi.

In between drum practice, to give my brain a reset (and my hands a break), Jing Yi started me on poi. I knew for a fact it would take a bit longer than a week of practice before I’d even be tempted to set these things on fire…getting good at poi would be more of a longer term goal :-)


So here we go, let’s see how the next month in Malaysia pans out :-)

4 thoughts on “Week 40 – White Belt Busking

  1. Hi Craig, really loving your blog and following you on your adventures. It really takes some nerve to grab every opportunity, it sounds like you are truly making the most of the experience. Good luck to you and thank you for brightening up my day with your posts :-) xx

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