The decision to go on a journey should not be taken lightly. It’s a very large disruption, not only to your current patterns of life, but most definitely to your current patterns of thinking. They say that travel broadens the mind, but it also lengthens it, stretches it and generally expands it into places which you might not be comfortable with in your current repeating pattern of existence.
Most people in the western world have a repeating cycle of work, come home, do the same things on weekends, and an occasional holiday, mostly at the same time and to the same places as many of their friends and acquaintances. When they retire (again at a set time) they may take a longer trip and then settle down to grow vegetables, raise grandchildren, and gradually decline in health until death. To want something other than this is outside the norm and therefore dangerous, peculiar and enviable as well.
The reactions of friends to our current scheme of selling the house and travelling for a year has been mostly one of envy. It’s not that in Australia, such a scheme is particularly unususal – many people travel with their kids for a time. It’s usually when the kids are old enough to travel but too young for high school and it’s for a period of 3 months to a year. Our country is simply too large to be seen on weekends or day trips, and it’s important that children have an appreciation of their own country.
What causes other people to worry though, is that we are not renting the house out, but selling and therefore being homeless for a time. Our reasons for doing so are complex and have not much to do with the conventional wisdom that once you get in to the property market you must slave with a mortgage around your neck for the rest of your life. To feel that there are other ways to live is a dangerously long-haired hippy kind of idea, especially in the conservative industrial town we currently reside in.
To have ‘no fixed address’ is a pejorative term. ‘Gypsy’, ‘vagabond’ and other terms show a society’s fear of those who are too mobile to fit into their neat boxes. It’s more about paying taxes and being subject to local justice, than it is about reality.
The current reality is that we can earn more money by moving than remaining stationary. With the advent of the internet, we really don’t have to be in a particular locality to apply for work. Extra training and qualifications can be delivered and completed on-line (mostly) when required.
Many of my friends are people who happen to live remotely from me, yet with Facebook I can see the latest holiday snaps, check out their haircuts, and have a chat when they happen to be on-line and at leisure.
The school system is badly failing my very bright but hyperactive and cheeky ten year old son. We can’t afford private schooling, even if it were available here. Boarding school is not something we have ever seriously considered even if we could afford it. So I’m hoping that a year on the road with a combination of remote and home schooling will bring up to scratch some of the areas which have fallen by the wayside. The reality is that primary teachers, even the good ones, do not have the time to provide one on one support, or extension activities to the bright kids. Some bright kids are compliant and work out that they can play the school game very well. Others find it all very boring and act up to provide some interest in their lives. Guess which type my son is?
The questions people ask most are about ‘but where are you going to live?’ as though it ought to be all mapped out beforehand. While some planning is essential, the essence of this sort of journey is to flow where life takes you. To plan too much is to lose the thread of the experience. You become a sort of robot trudging from one planned activity to the next, ticking off your ‘experiences’ like a list. You might completely miss the town which will sing to your heart long after the journey was complete. You won’t have time to make use of the local knowledge which will tell you where you really ought to be going. And when you get there you won’t be able to enjoy the experience because you will be too busy recording it on a camera or video, and thinking about the next place you have to be. It’s not that I advise missing an international flight, or not working out whether it’s possible to get from here to there beforehand, but there’s a joy in free travelling which is lost on a package tour type journey.
One important thing to schedule into any type of longer journey are ‘rest days’. These are days when you have nothing planned, when you can wander down to the local markets, or have coffee at a sidewalk café or simply sleep in and catch up on your washing. This is important on a bush journey as well. Time to appreciate where you are, to sit still for an hour to allow the wildlife to come closer, to hear the sounds you would have missed, to have a conversation with a stranger.
So as we plan our big trip and count down the days until we can head off, it’s an exciting and a frightening time. I’m confident though that with the right equipment and organisation, we will be able to weather any storm, cross any creek and have a great time. See you on the road!