One of the worst experiences of our trip around Australia was the night of July 8, 2011. Nothing went right. That morning we’d departed from Seaforth, a small town about 40 minutes north of Mackay. We’d spent a week or so there, visited by Megan and Pete, sharing our time with friends we’d met earlier on the trip and even managing to catch some fish without being eaten by crocodiles. We were in Townsville before we realised that my favourite pair of shorts had been left on the clothesline there.
In Townsville it got worse. Roadworks had turned the road in and out into a very skinny car park, and I was forced to type out a story I had due from the passenger seat while Angela drove… or whatever it is you do when nothing’s moving. Eventually we pulled into Hungry Jacks to borrow its WiFi and satiate River’s growing appreciation of chippies.
By then it was getting dark, and we still had nowhere to camp. We pulled off the highway somewhere north of Mission Beach, only to find it very full of caravans and campervans. As was the next place, and the next place.
It was well after 10pm by then, and still we had nowhere to sleep. By the time we actually decided to stop at a highway rest stop, it was officially my birthday and I’m not sure I should have still been driving. We hastily set up the tent to a soothing chorus of B-double trucks and the honking horns of reveling teenagers as they drove past. What little sleep we got was interrupted by Little Miss ‘can’t tell straight from sideways’ as she simultaneously kicked and head-butted us in the abdomens.
I didn’t even get a cooked breakfast for my birthday. There was a driver reviver there, so I had a cookie and a coffee.
I remember feeling so frustrated with myself, that day, that in all our preparation, experience and forethought, I couldn’t even find somewhere decent for our family to lay our heads for the night.
And yet, I can’t help but look back on that experience with fondness. Amongst all the frustration, there was still a sort of peace that the three of us could bunker down in the tent as a family, a muffled excitement that we’d soon be in Cairns, readying ourselves, and the Patrol, for the highlight of our trip.
And that’s a problem. Fair enough that I romanticise the good times in my mind, but now that I’m starting to become fond of the bad times, I can only foresee half a decade of frustration as we try and make a living in suburbia before we could even conceivably do it all again.
Just last week, I noticed that I’d see a four-wheel-drive and decide whether or not it would make it around Australia. On Monday, I saw a video of a camper trailer and actually emailed the manufacturer with questions about it. Twice this week I’ve checked out car classifieds sites to see how much certain four-wheel-drives are selling for. On Tuesday night, at dinner with Angela, all we did was discuss how to do it all again!
So what do we do? Put our dreams of finally owning a house on hold and get a loan for another (newer) Patrol, instead? Work on a way to fund ourselves for another extended period out of regular employment? Force Mum to buy back her old house so we can put all our stuff in the shed again? It all seems so plausible in my mind intoxicated by the possibility.
It is so tempting. Right now, Asher’s learning to walk and mostly I’m not there for it. I still remember watching River’s first steps as we made out way up the New South Wales north coast. Soon Asher will learn to talk; where will I be for that? The tragedy is, I’ll probably be on the road somewhere, on some trip for work, while life gets away from me at home.
But, this is my letter of resignation. I’m resigned to the fact that for the little while, at least, some things are more important than my (our, I hope) wanderlust. It was a great privilege to travel so long and so far, but that’s a story of the past, and hopefully for the future. It took me seven years to convince Angela to head off the first time, so if it’s another five years till the next adventure, I think I will survive.
Until next time,
Brendan, Angela, River and Asher