It’s Wednesday, 33 degrees and the flies are rampant. I’m nestled cross-legged on our picnic mat, the dogs two metres away snuggling around Ben as he reads atop our swags. Oak has managed to occupy himself with a couple of chew toys while Sam tries his best to snooze uninterrupted. The air is hot but quiet – the silence only broken by the sound of the winds whistling through the trees and the occasional tweets from the resident birds.
As I arch my back and survey our campsite, I reflect on the significance of this week for me and my family. We have been on the road for an entire year. Twelve months without four walls, without the comfort and security of lockable front doors and windows, of driveways and fenced yards, of air conditioning, of hot running water. I swat another fly – ah, fly screens. I think about how I’ve traded ovens for portable gas stoves, a lounge for a camp chair, a house for a canvas trailer, my job for nomad life. I think about the person I was one year ago. Who was she? She was tired, stressed, frightened, but at the same time exhilarated and anxious for the beginning of her life. The day she and her husband left their comfort zones behind for a life worth living.
In an entire year we have visited every state and territory. We’ve seen mountains, rivers, deserts, oceans, cities and towns. We’ve met locals, foreigners, travelers and workers. ‘G’day’ or ‘how you going’ have become our most spoken phrases and the sun has become our alarm clock and our call to rest. We’ve learnt how to use our surroundings to our advantage and work together as a team. We’ve discovered the beauty and calmness of nature and the importance of moving your body and being outdoors. We’re better people.
Our adventure is not unique, but our journey is. One year ago, I was working far too much, worrying far too much and succumbing to the toxic environment around me because I though that’s what success looked like. I was living for sleep of an evening (when I could actually sleep) and living life like I was walking on a lake iced over – just waiting to fall through at any moment.
Yet despite this, taking the leap and stepping away from the career to go travelling was an extremely hard thing for me to do. I had spent the most part of a decade working my way up in the media and political industries and felt torn about leaving. I can however, tell you right now, hand on heart, I made the right decision.
Ben was done with city life and we were done with mundane routine. We were tired and frustrated – craving more than Friday afternoon knock-off. We wanted to do something for us and for our future, so we did a crazy thing and just, quit. We quit our jobs and Brisbane life. While never forgetting our friends and family, we quit our surroundings and lifestyle. We sold a lot of stuff and boxed the rest. We put our careers on hold. We chose a different life.
It hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our share of doubts, arguments, frustrations… but we’ve also shared the joy of experiencing this insane adventure together. Our friends and family are still there for us as they always were – we’ve even made new friends – something we could never do sitting at home in front of the television as we struggled to stay awake past 7pm.
I could sit here and tell you how much we’ve spent, where we’ve been, what we have in our travel kit, but you’re not interested in that. You could be fighting your own internal battle about going against societal standards and choosing a different path. You could be struggling to make ends meet and wondering where the money is going as you ride the peak hour train carrying your packed lunch. You could be sick of your job or routine and wishing for the courage to do something like we did. I’m here to tell you that it can be done.
If this phenomenal journey has taught me anything thus far, it’s this. You don’t need anything to be happy. We have each other, our dogs, and our ute. We can’t even tell you what’s in all those boxes collecting dust in the sheds and cupboards of our parents’ houses. I feel more fulfilled now than I ever have and although I miss my work and I’m itchy to get back to it, I know it can wait because time will not.
Society tells us we should be knuckling down and buying a house or starting a family, not road trippin across Australia. We know we have a huge task ahead of us when we return to ‘normal’ life and at times, it will get tough. We know we’ll struggle to save and we’ll fall back into the trap of routine. We know right now that during those times, we’ll crave the life we’re currently living.
So, here’s the thing – and it’s taken me some time to take comfort in this fact – but it’s true. Work will always be there. A home will always be there. Family and friends will always be there – but your time, your youth and your health will not. All too often we watch grey nomads live out their retirement within the walls of their $60,000 caravan. They’ve sold their homes and they’re travelling but their bodies won’t allow them to hike, run, jump, dance or laugh. Their minds won’t allow them to have a chat with a stranger or take on new perspectives. They’re travelling, but not experiencing. That’s if they’re even lucky enough to reach retirement age at all.
Australia is a magnificent country – the best in the world. We are so privileged to live here and we’re not nearly enjoying it as much as we ought to. So just go. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and the dreams you cling to as you drag yourself out of bed each day may not come true the longer you wait and worry.
We could give you a never-ending list of places to go and things to see, but before all of that, you need to take the first step.
I know as I sit here, still swatting flies, beads of sweat rolling down my chest and eyes squinting through the afternoon sun – that I will re-enter normal life a wiser, better educated, kinder, more wholesome person. I know I’ll work harder and love deeper because when you’re experiencing new things and meeting new people like you do on the road, you’re growing. Always growing, never staying still and NEVER moving backwards. So here’s to tomorrow.
*One year across Australia*
Total kilometres: We lost count – but approximately anywhere between 30,000-40,000 kms
$$ spent on diesel: We also lost count – but at a huge guess, more than $6,000
Free camps: 53
Hotels/ Motels: 5
Caravan Parks: 30
National Parks: 6
Donation camps: 3
Friends/Family: 4 (including our folks)
Ben: Island River Bend, Kosciuscko National Park
Emily: The rock pools near Smoky Bay, South Australia
Favourite natural attraction:
Ben: Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Kings Canyon, Northern Territory, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Emily: Cradle Mountain, Tasmania/ Dalhousie Hot Springs, South Australia/ Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
Favourite man-made attraction:
Ben: Australian War Memorial, Canberra/ Sea Cliff Bridge, Clifton
Emily: Harndorf, South Australia/ Australian War Memorial, Canberra
What do you miss the most about ‘normal’ life?:
Ben: Running hot water
Emily: Electricity and hot running water
Best part about travelling on the road:
Ben: Seeing the stars every night and being outdoors
Emily: Being outdoors all the time!
Hardest part about travelling on the road:
Ben: THE WIND
Emily: Being a slave to the weather and missing friends and family
What’s one thing you’re most proud of?:
Ben: My ute Charlotte, she’s done really well.
Emily: How I’ve adapted to living without creature comforts
What’s one thing you want to do better?:
Ben: Simplify our setup to be more convenient (not having to tow a trailer)
Emily: Rely on technology less
The camp item you haven’t been able to live without:
Ben: Our gas stove
Emily: Our mattress and decent bed in the trailer
Name some items which have been useless or unneeded:
Ben: The privacy tent, camper trailer add-ons
Emily: The cloth flooring for camp, the privacy tent, cosmetics and hair straightener
Ben: Self-caught king george whiting, pippy carbonara
Emily: The Fish Chowder from The Drunken Admiral, Hobart, TAS
Toughest moment on the road:
Ben: When we got bogged in Finke Gorge National Park, NT
Emily: The Great Bog of Finke Gorge and hectic winds which caused projectile missiles at Apollo Bay, Victoria
How has your other half changed?
Ben: Emily has learnt to be content with living with less. She knows she doesn’t need materialistic things to be happy and enjoy life
Emily: Ben has become more relaxed and ok with simply sitting and reading and doing nothing. Before, he was always having to keep busy or out doing things, now he’s ok with just chilling out and taking a minute to breathe (sometimes too often 😉
What’s left to do:
The top end! – everything north of Broome, WA and Cairns, QLD
A lover of the written word.
Journalist by trade, writer by hobby. Writing fuels my soul and I promised myself I’d string words together more often, so here I am.
A collection of pieces that describe the inner workings of my mind.