The quick answer is NO – cannabis did not help me write and travel – in fact, it did the exact opposite: it made me unable to write and paranoid when travelling. If I hadn’t given up the evil weed I don’t think I would have made it to Tibet or written a book about my time there – and you wouldn’t be reading this article.
In my experience cannabis can make you feel highly imaginative but it removes the energy required to actually do anything creative. I remember having brilliant ideas when under the influence and sharing my new-found wisdom with those lucky few friends with whom I had smoked the same joint, and we would talk ourselves deeper and deeper into whatever mystery we’d seen at that moment. I used to find big trees particularly fascinating.
None of these insights ever made it onto paper and I don’t remember doing anything to record the moment or create something – no articles, essays, photos, films, paintings or doodles. Cannabis seems to remove the very thing you need to be creative: focus, concentration and self discipline. It replaces those essential skills with temporary feelings of insight and euphoria.
After I stopped smoking weed I started to keep a diary – I would write, by hand, a page for each and every day even if I had nothing to say. Most of the entries are probably very boring. I kept this up for many years and recorded my daily impressions in Eastern Europe, when it was still under Communism, India, Nepal, Tibet and China. These journals became the basis of my travel writing as I could look back at what I did, ignore the bad handwriting and remember events and people. I stopped writing these diaries when I got married but started writing them again in 2014. Hopefully I’ll never stop.
I spent most of my university years in a haze of marijuana smoke. It made me feel comfortable, sociable, sexy, interested in everything around me and creative (at least verbally). It also made me lazy and removed the motivation required to spend several hours a day reading books about history and politics – in fact the evil weed confirmed my impression that these subjects were boring and unnecessary. God only knows how I made it through 3 years of study and emerged with a BA.
For a few years after college I smoked a fair bit while I drove a truck, saving up money for my big journey to China, and I remained under the illusion that cannabis was good: it gave me insight and helped me drive better (I had no idea that it actually lowered my reaction times). I also had no idea that weed was addictive until I started working for a rehab clinic where I met addicts who were there because of too much dope. Almost every addict I met there told me they would use cannabis alongside the other drugs they abused. One psychiatrist told me that cannabis is the worst drug of all as it has the most capacity to rewire the brain.
I gave up smoking when I was staying in a flat, on my own, in Berlin. It was 1986 and Berlin at the time was an island of capitalism within a sea of communism. It was surrounded by the Russian Red Army and I became convinced that they wouldn’t let me out. I was trapped! The next day I decided to give up cannabis as I realised it’s a terrible thing to travel with – it’s the last thing you need when on the road is a dose of paranoia.
I started writing this article quite early in the morning – before work – and am sure that I never would have been able to do my daily writing routine (up every day at 0630) if I was still smoking dope.
I wrote some articles about cannabis in the Huffington Post that you might like to see: Cannabis can Drive you Crazy and Should Cannabis be Legalised? Both these articles were inundated with comments from furious pro-legalisation cannabis lobbyists who seem unable to accept that perhaps this powerful hallucinogen may have some negative side effects.
And I’d be really interested to know what your experience with the drug is. Please consider leaving a comment