I broke out in a sweat as I stepped up my pace into a brisk jog. I was on my way to meet a friend for something to eat and I was running late. Monumentally late.
I looked at the cluster of dreary tower blocks that loomed to my right, a shabby remnant of the 60s. To the other side of them sat the train tracks and the metro stop where I needed to be, like 20 minutes ago.
The labyrinth of alleyways that twisted and turned through the self-contained concrete jungle, renowned for its not-so-good reputation, provided me with the perfect short cut to the station.
During daylight I have no problem slicing a few minutes off my walk by cutting through. But in the dark, I tend to take the long route, you know, just to be safe and all that.
It was only 6.30pm and the night had already stolen all signs of life from the sky but as I sensed the anger mounting in my friend as each minute passed I decided to risk it through the estate, after all I know it like the back of my hand.
Three minutes later and I was using the opportunity to catch my breath while hurling coins into the mouth of the ticket machine before tearing down the ramp, racing along the platform and leaping between the closing jaws of the rumbling train.
Two stops later and I was as politely as possible pushing past the crowds of commuters who strolled slowly along the network of tunnels that led to the exit like they had all the time in the world.
I knew the exact route I needed to take to reach the restaurant. The dash over the pedestrian crossing outside, the hidden back alley that would shave off a few more minutes, the quiet corner where it’s easier to cross the road, they’re all etched in my mind.
In fact, the whereabouts of most streets, restaurants, bars, cafés, clubs and shops in the city centre come to me as effortlessly as breathing and that’s because for the last 11 years Newcastle has been my home.
It’s the place where I’ve built a life for myself, a career, a house. My parents may live 180 miles away but my sister is nine miles down the road and I’m surrounded by a group of amazing friends who have helped me become the person I am today.
Forgotten memories from the last 11 years lurk round every corner, waiting to pounce, and that comfortable sense of familiarity means I can rush with ease to wherever I want to be, in the shortest time possible.
But in exactly three weeks and four days, I will be catapulted head first into the unknown as I close the chapter on life in England – for the time being – and open a new one on life in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh where I won’t know any short cuts, or any restaurants, or even be able to cross a road for fear of the endless stream of traffic that never seems to stop.
To say I’m scared is an understatement. A few months ago, as I turned 31, the thought of spending the rest of my life here, doing the same thing in the same place, petrified me. I yearned for something different, a challenge that would push me out of my comfort zone, something to really shake my life up.
So, I jacked in my job hoping that all of the hard work and effort I’ve ploughed into working at newspapers during the last nine years have provided me with what it takes to make money in the world of freelance journalism in an industry where work is drying up and cash is tight. Gulp.
I rented out the beloved house that I’ve spent so much time into making my own to a young Irish couple who I pray every day will care for it just as much as me. Gulp.
And I booked flights to somewhere half way around the world to live somewhere I’ve only ever visited once, for two weeks, thousands and thousands and thousands of miles away from my friends and family. Gulp.
Now, as the countdown really begins, reality is starting to sink in and the excitement that was boiling for months about my escape is very quickly being replaced with an overwhelming uncertainty and fear.
I keep telling myself that nerves are only natural and as I dive into the unknown life that I so desired, only time will tell whether it was worth it or not.
With all this said, there really isn’t time for fretting because I need to get my life sorted, literally. Now where are those boxes because I’d better start packing.