Local explorations

We are currently between overseas trips. We returned from The Netherlands in January and leave for New Zealand in April. We are both working hard in our jobs to save money for our future travels. We are also making time to explore South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales the way we explore foreign soils. It’s a mix of day hikes, paddles, day drives and overnight camping trips. It’s the balance that is keeping me sane as I dream of the next flight to foreign lands.

A walk along the beach

I walk along the beach. The soft dry sand is cool against my bare feet. With most steps shells gently scratch the webbing between my toes. Tiny waves that stand barely four inches high crash on the shore as if they were Hawaiian monsters. The tide is coming in and each wave sets more sand than the last. 

I move slightly to my left and now the sand is coarser and more firm. There’s a marked difference between the fluffy dry sand up high and the coarse inter-tidal area below. It’s like the difference between icing sugar and coffee sugar, both in colour and texture. Up high the sand is almost white but along the water it is browner, almost having a tinge of red. 

Big blue jellyfish wash up on the shore with the tide. Sometimes I throw them. back into the bay. Most people hate them but I find their clear blue bodies appealing to my eye. My Instagram account has more than its share of jellyfish tags. Paul says not to bother throwing them back because they are already dead. I don’t know who is correct. 

I turn for home. Paul finishes work soon and I want to make steak, chips and veggies for tea. The chips will be store bought because I never cook my own chips and potatoes are expensive right now. I missed our simple home cooking the past months. I am slowly recommitting to this household task as I feel the inspiration and make the time. Not spending 2-2.5 hours a day in the car helps. 

The nor’-easterly is blowing towards me now. It cools the air. Summer is closing in and the days are warm. But the evenings are still lovely thanks to the sea breeze. It smells of salt and seaweed right now. Not as pungent as earlier today but still distinctly smelling of home. 

Yellow street lights compete with the stars. Over on Moreton Island the lights of Tangallooma stand out against the lumpy silhouette. A cruise liner bobs on the bay. It will have unloaded guests yesterday and reload tomorrow. By day it’s a white box on the horizon and by night a yellow blaze of lights. Planes circle over the Peninsula before landing at the airport; so close by eye but still an hour drive. Such is the deception of viewing the world over water. 

This is my home. A place where shoes are optional, lovers enjoy the quiet nights, families picnic by day and life feels breezy. I’m glad I’m continuing the sea change. 

Decompressing and starting again

It’s been almost two weeks since I left the family law job. And it’s taken that long to feel myself starting to decompress. Slowing down again and coming back to me is proving (ironically) a slow process. 

For the past five months I have felt like a tube of toothpaste that is being squeezed tight to extract the last splodge. Physically it left me with pounding heart and muscle tension throughout my body. Emotionally I was spent, feeling anxious and stressed most of the time. I’d lost connection with the person I became before: the writer, the lover, the uncle and the friend. 

Laughter and a slower pace are slowly returning to my life. This week I laughed spontaneously for the first time in months. That’s not to say I haven’t had times of laughter and happiness. But there is a difference between the laugh we allow ourselves between a busy life and the spontaneous playfulness of freedom. Slowing down too is a challenge again. It takes effort not to race around and be “productive” all the time. Sure, I don’t want to be a lazy slob but when I lived more slowly I was more in the moment, whatever the moment might be.

The patience is slower to return. Even this process of allowing myself to decompress and trusting that I will come back to my centre is an act of patience. I’ve been here before way back in 2014 when I first started this quest for 42. It took four weeks to start to feel slower then and twelve to meet myself for the first time. Fortunately, I have met myself now so I can recognise the differences. I can see the work me and the real me more clearly. So perhaps I’ll come back sooner. But I can’t rush. That’s the point. I just have to wait. 

So what am I doing now? What does this post mean? Here’s the brief timeline:

I quit my job as a lawyer after five tough months. I worked hard to establish Men’s Legal Service for my boss but discovered I truly do hate the conventional 9-5 office existence. I could tell I was unhappy because I started to run long distances again – something painful that always means I am searching for something more. A warning sign I guess. 

I’ve taken a job as a casual support worker assisting people with disabilities. It’s meaningful work and I get about 20-30 hours a week spread over 7 days. Some days I work 8-10 hours while others I only work 2. It’s a nice mix. 

While my lawyering gig was a 65km commute by car or motorbike, my new job is local to home so I have started cycle commuting again. Not that I call 5km (1.5 miles) a commute. 

I feel connected with my work now too. It’s meaningful to me. Not to say family law isn’t a valuable profession but it wasn’t a calling for me. It was just a way to earn a pay cheque. Support work is more than that – it speaks to my heart. There’s something special about it that I can’t describe. 

My only sadness is that I sold my wheelchair bike and didn’t make a good go of that project. But cognitively I know it couldn’t work because I can’t afford the insurance. But it would have been nice to keep trying and to have followed my heart. Things happen for a reason though and the money I got for the bike is allowing us to travel to Holland for Christmas and New Year. And the project was a source of frustration too. So I am working on letting that go and being in the moment.

And the sea change is allowing me to be more connected with Paul and others in my life. I feel my old self coming back again. 

Day 1 of the next chapter

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I feel like today I started a new chapter of my story. I had my first shifts in my new job. I did a two hour morning shift and a four hour afternoon shift. I had 1.5 hours in between so I drove down to the beach and took a walk on the sand in bare feet. After work I went to my beach and lay on the sand enjoying the afternoon. I had the urge to read a good book but didn’t have one so that’s something I might need to fix. And then tonight I am cooking dinner. Paul is working late so I might walk to his work to bring him dinner before we go for a walk together along the waterfront taking in the stars and feeling the sea breeze.

I have to work out four weeks at my old job but that will be interspersed with work in my new job. I’m so proud of myself for finding a way forward to do something that is meaningful for me and to find a way to regain what I thought I had lost: flexibility and freedom.

Today is the first day of the next chapter and I just had to write a blog post.

Just can’t settle down

I tried to settle down at home. Truly I did. No travel plans were booked. I started a small business. I took a part time job with some regular hours alongside my more flexible part time job. I joined a climbing gym. I told people I wasn’t going to be a nomad anymore.

But I felt restrained. I felt trapped again despite a cruisy lifestyle. I felt lost in a sea of people focused on work, money and the busy competition. I felt out of place in the world and myself. I lost my identity.

I need to move. There’s so much out there I want to experience. Hikes to be walked and roads to be cycled. There’s places to drive through and campsites to sleep in.

Nomads make sense to me. I don’t feel guilty for putting people and living before money when I am with nomads. Food, clothes, shelter and transport – it makes sense to me.

We only live once and I don’t see why we can’t live happy. I’m happy when I’m exploring. When I’m happy I’m a better partner, uncle, sibling, child and friend. I’m more open and spontaneous. I feel alive. I laugh. I am joyous. And, ironically, I perform better at my job.

So this year I won’t sit still. On Saturday I leave on a three week cycle tour. In June I’ll go on a one week hiking trip. In August I’ll drive a 10,000km road trip. In September a two week hike. Then November I’ll be in Cambodia. So much for settling down.

I guess I’m just a nomad at heart.

A quick pondering before bed

It’s late (after midnight) and I am getting up to hike Mt Olympus tomorrow, which will involve an altitude gain of 1,400m and then the same back down again. Being up this late catching up on my blog is probably not the most sensible course of action but hey … it happens. (Now you will also see that my blog is still 6 posts behind – soon to be 7).

As I write I update the Turkey country, Turkey road trip and Turkey day hikes pages of my blog. It’s funny. Every trip starts with a couple of preparation and transit posts. Then there’s the first tentative in country post where I am not sure what to focus on. Before I know it, one post becomes two then three and then all of a sudden I’ve written a dozen then two dozen then thirty in country posts. Given that I write between 500-1,000 words per post, that’s somewhere between 15,000 – 30,000 words per country and probably somewhere between 100-200 images.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve hardly traveled when I compare myself to other bloggers doing far more adventurous things (like cycling all the way around the world or hiking the PCT). And then I look at my blog and realise that I’m amassing quite a library of work too. I know the pace of travel is about to slow down somewhat and sometimes that scares me a little. If only because I like this little library I am creating. That said, what I am moving towards is exciting and wonderful too; more so than a life of solitude on the road. And, besides, life is a marathon not a sprint and there will be tends of thousands more travel words and hundreds more photos added before I give up my passport and backpack.

It seems like only yesterday I arrived in Turkey with no idea what to expect. After two weeks I feel comfortable here and am getting a sense of what the country is like. That’s what happens when I write my 500-1,000 words about each day (even if I do fall a week behind).

2016 will bring big changes

2014 and 2015 have been all about freedom and exploration. But 2016 will bring big changes. I have decided to undertake an Honours year as part of the Bachelor of Adult and Vocational Education that I have been studying since 2013. In addition, I will have to complete two practicums as well so will be tied down with a year of study. The wonderful thing for me is that I have wanted to find time to dedicate myself to research but study has always been something I’ve done as a secondary pursuit to full time work. So it is exciting to have next year free to pursue some academic pursuits while only working part-time.

I will still be traveling next year but not as much as this year. Instead, I will squeeze in some shorter adventures around Oceania between my studies with a longer trip to Hungary with Paul during the midyear holiday.

But for now, I am loving the freedom of being able to travel whenever I like. the 2016 academic year doesn’t start until late February / early March and only really lasts 26 weeks (March – June and August – October). So it’s really just a relatively short change of pace.