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Carnarvon Gorge here we come

In just under four hours I’ll be getting into my parents’ car and heading off to Carnarvon Gorge for the week. We’re unlikely to have internet while we’re out there so you might have to wait until we return to read about it and see the photos. Rest assured that I’m back out adventuring, smiling and having a great time in nature.

I booked the trip back in January as a Christmas present to my parents. I had no inkling then that it would coincide with this huge life change. But it seems perfect now. It’s going to be a brilliant week of easy short trail runs, bushwalking, camp cooking (that’s part of the present to my parents – I’m taking care of cooking the meals), study and good conversation around camp.

See you all on the flip side (unless I have internet connection somewhere, in which case I’ll write some blog posts).

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Frequently asked questions

As I start this unconventional journey as an itinerant adventurer, I thought I’d start a Frequently Asked Questions page to answer the questions that I have started to hear and also the questions I always ponder when I read about other itinerant adventurers’ lives. If you have a question you would like answered, just post in the comments and I’ll add it.

Here’s the contents of that page to bring everyone up-to-date with where I’m at in my life just now.

1. What are your plans?

I will get on my bicycle on 1 July 2014, cycle to the train station to catch a train to the other side of Brisbane before cycling about 50km (30 miles) to my first campsite. From there, I just intend to stay at each campsite for 2-7 days depending on how nice it is before cycling another 50 – 100km (30 – 65 miles) northwards up the Queensland coast. Once I get tired of heading north, I’ll fly to Adelaide to visit a friend before I start cycling again.

Sometime in late 2014 or early 2015 I’ll fly to Holland to spend time with my grandmother, godparents and extended family. From there, who knows …

2. Are you trying to cycle around the world?

No. My bicycle is my transport but not my goal. I am just going to see where the road takes me. I will catch trains, planes and buses if I don’t feel like cycling. I hope to do some hiking, train running and packrafting while I’m away.

3. Where will you live?

In my tent mostly. I have a Mont Moondance 1 hiking tent. If it wears out, I’ll buy another. I will also stay with friends and family along the way, and maybe check out the Warmshowers website.

4. Are you rich?

That depends on what you consider rich. By western standards I am not rich because I don’t own a house and live in a tent. But to many people living in poverty around the world I am rich beyond compare simply by owning a bicycle and more than one change of clothes.

5. How do you afford to travel?

I have a part-time online job in the eLearning industry.

6. Do you have a family?

Yes. I have an adult son who is married with children. I also had a partner who I still love dearly but who gave me the gift of freedom to explore the world. I don’t talk about our relationship out of respect for her because she is a wonderful woman.

7. Are you raising money for charity?

No. However, if you are inspired by anything you read in my blog to donate to a charity, then please do. I believe in supporting charities because most do wonderful work. My favourite charities are: Room to Readthe Nakuru Hope Project and Oxfam.

8. How long have you been on the road?

I sold my house on 14 April 2014 and moved out the same day. I have been itinerant since that day. I am leaving on my bicycle to cycle north on 1 July 2014.

9. What kind of bike do you ride?

A 2012 Vivente World Randonneur that I bought new in January 2014.

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Towards tomorrow

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I lay on the picnic table looking up at the gum trees. Kookooburras laugh and the wind rushes through the leaves. I feel a sense of calm fill my soul. A knowledge that I am on the right path. A certainty that I have made the right decisions.

This is where I belong. Out in nature. I put my phone away and let myself just be. I remember all the hours I’ve spent hiking and camping in the wild. I feel at peace. I am ready to celebrate tomorrow.

I’m only out on the picnic table for a short quarter hour. I’m there because I’m early for my counseling appointment. It’s enough to cause my energy to shift. It shifts so much my counselor even comments on it. I am ready for this next chapter. I have done a lot of grieving the past few months. And now I have to make my future wonderful by following my dreams.

I can’t believe that I am now one of the world’s nomads. I’ve even gone and ordered myself some bright yellow Ortlieb panniers for my bike so I can prepare to set off into the wide blue yonder. Excitement abounds.

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My last day in a house … for the foreseeable future

Home for the last 5 years

Home for the last 5 years

Last night was my last in a house I used to call home. The contract for the sale of our house just went unconditional so that means that it’s time for me to move out and start this new life I have chosen. It’s been an emotional journey this past two weeks since we accepted the new owner’s offer. There’s were some issues with the building inspection that we had to rectify and, naturally, the emotional upheaval of realising that a 16 year relationship is ending. But now it’s all final I am faced with the mixed emotions of sadness over the broken dreams, fondness over the happy memories we created here and excitement about what the future holds.

Where we cooked our meals

Where we cooked our meals

We lived a good life together. We were blessed in both our homes to have food on the table every night and plenty of space in which to cook it. I guess food is a good marker to work out how life is going. When it’s gone well and I’ve been happy, the kitchen has been a messy place filled with the smells of jams, stews, cakes and roasts. During those times, there’s been more fruit juices and tomato sauces splattered on the cupboards than I care to admit. And it’s those memories that I hold dear. From today my kitchen will be a small hiking stove, shared campground and hostel kitchens, and the kitchens of those I stay with who let me cook them a meal in exchange for a safe place to sleep and some good company.

The place where we sat to talk

The place where we sat to talk

We had two lounge rooms in our house these past five years. Both were dominated by televisions but this one allowed us to look outside through big glass doors on two sides. I will not miss the televisions. I grew up without them and much prefer staring at the stars or a campfire. But I will very much miss the easy conversations I shared with my partner all these years. From today my lounge room will be the world outside my tent and conversations might be more sparse as I start a single life for the first time since I was 18 years old. But campgrounds are sociable places so I’m sure I’ll meet a wide range of new people whose stories will entertain.

Where we entertained

Where we entertained

When we built the house, I was most excited by this huge outdoor entertaining area. We entertained a little but discovered that we are the type of people who mostly keep to ourselves. For the first three years we lived in this house, this area was dedicated to the vegetable gardens. They used to exist int he garden just left of the picture above and were bountiful. The veranda was always covered with dirt from my harvests, seeds that I intended to sow and the few tools I used for my hobby. I no longer have my own land on which to grow food but I will be free to explore wide open roads and taste new foods that will feed my soul with new opportunities, ideas and dreams. One day I might have a vegetable garden again. But right now, I will enjoy the fruits of others’ labours.

The garden I created

The garden I created

We built our house on a vacant block of muddy clay. There were some big gum trees. There was no grass and no shape to the slope. Over the past five years I’ve brought in about fifty cubic meters of topsoil and more mulch. I built retaining walls and laid turf. It was a huge job and cost more than I care to disclose. But the results speak for themselves. The garden has been an amazing source of satisfaction for me. It allowed me to grieve the biological children I will never have and connect more closely with the son I raised. It allowed me to get outdoors and find my spirit again after years of feeling lost. And it provided food for our table. Most of the fruit trees were too young for me to enjoy and a new couple will literally taste the fruits of my labours. The world is now my garden and I will merely have to pass through to enjoy what Mother Nature has created.

Captain Logan Camp, Wivenhoe Dam

Captain Logan Camp, Wivenhoe Dam

It seems so surreal to know that my home is now tent. A part of me is scared about whether I have what it takes to live a nomad’s life. An even bigger part of me is too filled with sadness to recognise the reality of my decisions. But life is change and nothing is every permanent. Today the life I have daydreamed about while sitting at my desk at work is my reality. There has been a heavy price to pay but I won’t discuss here.  This blog is my space to share the adventures that this new life is going to bring.

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A waterfront ride

Morning at Point O'Halloran

Morning at Point O’Halloran

I woke early and found myself  with nothing to get done before work for the first time since I returned from Kenya five weeks ago. So I put some work clothes in my Bike Bag Dude handlebar roll and my lunch into the seat post bag I have mounted on my rear rack and set off. I cruised slowly down to Victoria Point and rode along the shared waterfront pathway to Point O’Halloran. Bad weather must be forecast because there were more yachts than usual at anchor in the protected bay behind Coochiemudlo Island. You wouldn’t know it though from the way the sun was glittering off the water.

It felt good to be out riding. I ended up doing about 40km in just under 2 hours. There was a time when that would have disappointed me because I used to ride for training. But today it felt good to ride at a leisurely pace and let the rhythm of my pedaling relax my mind.

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A day at River Life

Waiting for the 7am barge home

Waiting for the 7am barge home

I woke early in my tent to get the 7am barge back to the mainland. I slept better than I have all month, having decided to stop trying to control the changes in my life. My small tent is a place of peace for me and that it was all night. And so it was that I found myself enjoying the morning reflections on the glassy waters of Moreton Bay at the Dunwich barge terminal. I sat there quietly for about 40 minutes just breathing the fresh bay air.

Leaving the island

Leaving the island

There were only two walk-on passengers on the big vehicle barge for the 45 minute trip back to the mainland. The sun rose in the sky behind us as we set off westward across the bay. Yachts moored in the Peel Island harbour looked sleepy in the morning sun and fisherman in small tinnies looked content wetting their lines as they drifted through the channel. I hung over the rail on the top deck taking everything in. The schools of fish flashing silver on the surface of the bay and the sound of the occasional splash as something bigger breached the surface (bull sharks perhaps). And then the big barge was steered skilfully through the narrow channel between the mud flats at Cleveland to land us safely back on the mainland.

Segway star

Segway star

Last year my sister and I won some free passes to River Life in Brisbane city when we won best dressed at the Hear and Say Brizmazing Race. We had to use the passes this weekend before they expired so my sister booked us in. The activities started with a 25 minute segway obstacle course session. We were the only people in the group so had free reign to do almost anything we wanted to (within safety reasons).

The segway attacked me

The segway attacked me

So we raced around some cones and garden beds like pros. During our session, we took the opportunity to take some fun photos. First a segway attacked me when I was innocently standing around (I actually did not fall off).

And then they held me captive

And then they held me captive

And then the other segways joined the attacker to take me captive. Segways are very scary when provoked ;) (It felt so good to just laugh again)

Brisbane CBD from a kayak

Brisbane CBD from a kayak

After the kayaking we went out to lunch at the Cliffs Cafe at the top of the Kangaroo Point cliffs. The food was good and the views of our river city pretty. Then it was back down to the river for an instructed kayaking session. I love our city and it’s even more beautiful when you’re down at water level in a small sit-on-top craft. There’s something interesting about the meeting of Mother Nature and modernity.

City Cats and paddlers: so Brisbane

City Cats and paddlers: so Brisbane

We paddled out along the mangrove lined banks around Kangaroo Point and under the Story Bridge. It was such an iconic Brisbane experience and one I recommend to visitors and locals alike. City Cat passengers waved as we passed each other and we all had a great time.

Rafting up in the shade

Rafting up in the shade

My sister and I found ourselves taking way out in front of the group. Being experienced paddlers in a group of novices will do that. So, about 100m from the end of the tour, we rafted up under a pontoon to enjoy a final few minutes of the river’s flow in the shade. We sat there talking and laughing wondering what the people above us would have thought about our voices drifting up from below.

I’m glad I have decided to let go of control and go with the flow. Being around the water for the past two days has helped.

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A night on an island

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It’s 1pm on Friday and I’ve reached my limit.  After four weeks of stress and pressure I’m about to explode. I need to escape my desk,  my life and my mindset. An hour later I’m standing on the top desk of the Strader oke Island Ferry with my camping gear in a bag at my feet.  I’ve left my motorbike on the mainland and am on a spontaneous microadventure inspired by an Alastair Humphreys Vimeo clip I watched earlier this week.

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Before long the mainland is barely visible on the horizon behind me.  I feel myself start to slowly unwind. By the time I disembark,  I can almost handle the phone call with the real estate agent that ends with him helping me out by getting someone out to inspect the issue that arose in yesterday’s building inspection.  He assures me that if the issue is not structural our buyer still wants to go ahead and that if it is the sale will go ahead if we can rectify the defect.  I can only wait for tomorrow’s report.

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I walk to Bradbury’s Camp Ground. I booked it from my desk at 1:05pm.  It’s not wild but it’s on the water and pleasant enough. I pitch my tent on the soft unmown grass. It’s been two months since my last camp. That’s just far too long.

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I wander into tiny Dunwich to look for food. I grabbed some things at work but don’t fancy baked beans, tuna or porridge for dinner. My exploration takes me past Island Fruits (or something like that). It’s divine. I buy a chocolate brownie, and a small haloumi and pumpkin curry to take back to camp.  At $10 in total it’s a good buy.

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Back at camp I lay on the beach writing some thoughts in a book. It’s a good release and I start to unwind.  The sand between my toes helps.  The brownie is delicious.

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As the sun sets over Moreton Bay I set off to explore the tidal flats.  Soldier crabs march along, leaving their balls of sand along the beach. I listen to their humming as the rainbow lorikeets screech in the nearby trees. I slowly unwind some more and realize this period of transition will go more easily if I go with it rather than trying to force anything or grasp too tightly.  I must be patient like the ocean’s tides and the changing seasons.

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I stop to pay my respects to the old people who walked here before and asked them to guide me with their wisdom.

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And then I returned to camp in the darkness to heat and eat that scrumptious food I bought earlier.

I can’t rush what’s happening and I can’t live for tomorrow.  My life is now, no matter how awkward or sad now might feel.

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