Driving down the driveway at my parents my mind starts meandering through the next year of my life, not knowing when, or if, I will ever be back in WA and if I do make it back, what life is like from that point onwards. I know that I am driving to Toowoomba in Queensland 7,000kms away, but as to where my life heads from there is a blank canvas. After 12 months planning the exit from day to day operations at Elliott Insurance, the company I started 10 years earlier, to the 6 months training and preparing to head off on my first ever solo adventure.
I am an addict, however its not something I plan to change, its the catalyst for the events currently in my life and the source of many of the successes, failures, joy, sadness, acheivement and challenges in my life. What is my drug of choice? Its one that most people run from, in fact they are scared shitless of it and spend most their life running from it. I am a change addict. I get too comfortable and the unknown starts to call me again.
I don’t want to be like one of those actors type cast into one style, one genre, sticking only to what they know they do well. I want to discover what else is out there, what else can I do, and if the only cost of that is failing at something I didn’t know was possible there thats a price I’m prepared to pay.
A friend and mentor once told me of a palliative care nurse who did her doctorate whilst caring for people in their last weeks of life. She surveyed them with questions about their lives, their hopes their dreams and their achievements, as well as their failures and their regrets. What she found is in the last weeks of their lives they had regrets, but not like most people do during the prime of their lives.
During the prime of our lives most of our regrets are based around something we did.
I wish I didn’t say or do……..
Dealing with the failure, or the embarrassment drives us to stop taking those risk, and we start to be more concerned with protecting ourselves from this feeling.
The regret that our palliative care nurse found in people towards the end of life was in the missed opportunity, the risks not taken, the boy they didn’t ask out, the girl they didn’t propose to, the company they didn’t start, the kid they didn’t have, the course they didn’t take, the country they didn’t visit, the challenge they didn’t pursue. They were not sitting there stewing on the mistakes of the past, instead the fact that time was nearly out and the realisation that all the things they had delayed because “life” kept getting in the way was front of mind.
Time had run out.
They were in the Showgrounds but they had only been on a couple of the rides, and no matter how much they liked that ride, they felt the realisation of the lost opportunity to take the other rides, and now they would never know.
She found that over 80% of their regrets were based on what they didn’t do as opposed to things they had done. (and around 74.67% of all statistics are made up on the spot)
I felt lucky that my addiction had caused me to never stay in one place, on house, one role at work, one relationship or any one situation for too long. Instead of being focused on how the world views me I felt the opportunity to view this world was one that I wasn’t going to let slip by. I was going to taste as much of a variety of life as possible.
Any job, relationship or hobby that I had to date, regardless of how much I enjoyed it or what I got out of it, would all eventually feel like a prison, holding me back from whatever was next. The thought of living in the same house in the same job for years on end scared the shit out of me, and my addiction was to keep changing, keep momentum so that it never happened to me.
If that’s your thing, if that makes you happy, great, go for it. Its just not for me.
So now I find myself starting this drive and heading to the other side of Australia to train 8 camels, and then take 4 of these camels across Australia, through most major Australian deserts, spending up to 5 months in isolation. In terms of being a change addict, this is maybe where an intervention is required. A bunch of people that love me and are concerned pulling me aside and telling me they are all concerned for my safety.
As there was no intervention the journey has begun. I think people are just now used to these things that I do that I just get a simple “ahhh what is it now” from my friends, and then they go back to drinking their beer and don’t really think much of it.
I head to pick up my gun for the trip, a Sako 85 Hunter, from my friend Ray Mancini an arms dealer and weapons trainer in Perth. Somehow the great state of Western Australia looked at me and thought that a gun licence was acceptable for me to have. The gun is the final reason I was waiting in Perth to depart, but as it turns out the extra time to spend with my parents was appreciated, as well as getting some last minute equipment needs sorted in the final days.
The more time I spent with the parents the more comfortable they got with the preparation and planning that was going into this trek. It helped them deal with the gravity of the task ahead I was walking into. I had allocated mum a few tasks such as my medical kit in order to detract her from the reality of the expedition.
With the gun now in hand, I headed for one last pick up, my mate Brian. Brian and my other mate Ruski had been so supportive of this trip, and definitely two of the people that more than anyone else, wanted to join my trip if time permitted them to. Brian was joining me as far as Adelaide, and it felty good to have someone along with me at the start, to ease me into the loneliness and “pleasure” of my own company which I would have to start getting used to.
When I pull up to Brians house he is bouncing off the walls and I suspect may have put too much sugar in his coffee that morning. he throws his swag and gear in the car and we are on the road. Headed down the Great Eastern Highway towards Kalgoorlie for the first nights stop.
The feeling of freedom was building over the preparation, and with each step forward to the start line of the expedition another shackle of my previous life would be shed. As I was driving away I didn’t feel the need to check the review mirror. Not because I didn’t want to look back, but because my car was so full of shit I couldn’t t see anything anyways.
We had only been driving for about an hour, after a few sneaky bush chooks (West Australian beers) and the car in front starts top slow down to pull over as we are going through a town just outside off Perth. For the first time in a while I check the side view mirror. I had been so busy not looking back, enjoying my beer and my cigar I didn’t notice the police car.
We had to do over 100km to keep up with you
Im walking from one side of Australia to the other with camels sorry.
Im not sure why that was relevant but it gets the conversation changed into the direction i am more comfortable with.
I am conscious of the gun in the back, the lack of licence plate on the front of the car that I lost in a river crossing a month earlier, the weed in my medical kit, the hunting knives I am wearing, and the empties that surround Brians feet. At one stage in the conversation the burly male cop looks in at the empty cans and say:
hey mate are these empties……….
I don’t give him a chance to finish, and tell them something more about camels. It works and they are again distracted, and they remind me again to watch the speed, as I head to Queensland.
Some might say I dodged a bullet, others that they were soft. However with the way they handled it I was more conscious about my speed in every town for days, more so than if I was pissed off that I got a fine.
The time flies as Brian and I talk about the rest of the trip and whats in store over the next month or so in the final preparations. Before you know it we are in Kalgoorlie. Stopping in at the pub for a steak, and maybe a little bit of a hangout with the local Skimpy barmaid.
wouldn’t be surprised if you know her
Says my mate.
Nah, not likely
I say as we walk into the bar and are immediately greeted.
John, what are you doing up here
Harley says as she comes round the bar for a big hug.
After a couple of beers, both Brian and I get the feeling that this is not what we are chasing, we haven’t come to hang out at a bar, talk to girls or meet new people over a beer. This is about spending time away from all this, and connecting with something different, feeling something different.
We jump back in the car and head to a little spot just out of town. Once we get the fire going we also throw on the music and get the swags rolled out. Sitting under the amazing Milky Way, a few cans and dancing chatting and enjoying the atmosphere and isolation.
Now this felt comfortable.
This felt like the freedom I had imagined
I was finally free. and for now it felt like home.