Better an interesting death than a boring life

I’m hardly a natural thrill seeker or risk taker, but when people talk with concern about flying, or how some countries or cities are more dangerous than others, I think, so what? The worst that could happen is I could die. So what, I will take that any day of the week over being too afraid to live.


Doing anything in life is risk, even doing nothing is risk. More people die every year choking on hotdogs than in shark attacks but there isn’t hotdog week on Descovery channel, my chances of being struck by lighting are significantly higher than winning the lottery. Much like the lottery, you never know when your numbers up and we live a life more insulated from danger than ever before. Our work becomes life and death, our office the hostile environment and disproportionate levels of stress invade our lives instead.
Gone for most of us are the immediate dangers of fighting for our survival as hunter gatherers. Instead our bosses become the apex predators and our jobs our hunting grounds. Our bodies have no way to distinguish the lesser threat when evaluating danger and dump massive amounts of adrenalin and cortisone into our systems as if we were fighting for our lives when that report is due or your team is under-performing. Trust me its Science!

This is why statistically Monday is when a person is most likely to be  having a heart attack in an office cubicle. Your life being in danger over stress from something that is essentially meaningless should give you a moment of pause to think, “Whoops am I taking life seriously?”

Often when our own mortality confronts us, it brings with it clarity we seldom allow ourselves when we are so immersed and self involved.

On my trip to Italy in 2013 my mother was sending me articles about viral outbreaks in the region I was traveling to. It’s something most mothers do. But my brush with death there wasn’t from a virus outbreak.

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It was on my first trip to La Spezia In Tuscany, one of many that followed, that things nearly changed very drastically. In a parallel universe my trip ended here, in this beautiful city , in this beautiful country. And really, I couldn’t have complained.


Some towns catch you by surprise and La Spezia was one of those rare places that ticked all the boxes. Close to the train, (I kicked myself plenty for not making it my home base in Tuscany), a metropolitan blend of bars, clubs, shops and restaurants. Most of all some amazingly designed houses and street layouts. (Weird thing to say, but trust me, when you are getting a sense of awe from uninterrupted sight lines and streets stretching to vanishing point you realize your local town planners have been phoning that shit in.) The streets were also covered in orange trees, many times I was tempted to jump up, grab one and see how they tasted. Next time…


It also had an expansive waterfront catering to cruise ships, ferry’s exploring the Cinque Terre and super yachts. Along this waterfront there were beds of roses so vibrant I hitched my RayBans up to make sure the tint on the glasses wasn’t playing tricks on my eyes. Spoilers: They weren’t.


“This is somewhere I could call home.” I told the Siberian as we walked down the waterfront.

“I can be James Bond and you can be a Russian Spy.”Channeling Connery.

She screwed up her face in a snarl at the thought.

“New Sealand, playing pretend, such a silly child.” She sung back in a high voice.

“Well James Bond was going to offer the Russian Spy a drink on this hot afternoon, but nope, no Russian spies around, I suppose James Bond is drinking by himself.” I put my nose in the air feigning aloofness.

“Da, ok, am Spy, lets drink, durak.

“You aren’t a very good spy if you just admitted it that easily.”

The Siberian hissed through her teeth and raised her eyebrows in mock exasperation. There was a kiosk serving drinks towards the cruise ship end of the pier. I went for a refreshing birra and the Siberian aptly opted for a granita, a crushed ice drink with fruit syrup. It was later in the afternoon and the sun was pervasive. I went back for a second one. Refreshed it was time to  take another pass of the waterfront before making our way back into the city and eventually the train which I had booked a ticket online earlier (rather needlessly)  6.40pm the train leaves looking at the e ticket. It was along this stretch of the pier that the Siberian discovered the ferry timetable for Cinque Terre. (see, told you I would tell this part of the story eventually.)


There was a main road separating the waterfront and the city side of it but as is the fashion in most of the cities in Italy it had pedestrian crossings without signals. I had gotten used to this in Rome, there was no time for hesitation you just checked for cars and stepped out like you owned the road. Say what you like about Italian drivers but with pedestrians they were the politest drivers ever, they would just give way, weave around you and work it out, back home it isn’t uncommon for drivers to speed up if they see you crossing the road so it came as a shock at first. My experiences  in the code of the Italian pedestrian were all during inner city streets however, crossings on open roads were something new to me.


Still buzzing from the beer, heading to the crossing on the main highway, I made a rookie mistake, I looked the wrong way as I was about to step into traffic. My spider senses must have been tingling because I came to a full halt, balancing on my toes against my body’s momentum.

An intercity bus whizzed by doing at least 70 kmh, its mirror barely centimeters from my head. The moment slowly dawned on me.




“Nyet panimaiesh?”

A break in the traffic, we crossed, I felt slightly numb like my legs were made out of wood.

“You are right, I am clumsy New Sealand, I nearly walked in front of that bus.”

“Oye, da, clumsy.”

“I almost died, you would have been weeping over my mangled corpse.”

“I don’t think…”

“In my wallet there’s a piece of paper with my travel insurance policy and the emergency number, if anything happens to me I want you to .. YEEEOWWW, what the hell Siberian!” I started rubbing my elbow where she had pinched me.

“I check you are alive, da, I think you will live.”

I burst out laughing, still rubbing my elbow and checking the time on the E Ticket.

“Ohh yeah hey, so that time I thought we needed to be at the train by… well its the time it arrives at where we were going, so we kinda missed it.”

“Tak tak tak, it is good you did not die before, because I will kill you now, da?”

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