The idea of taking a trip like this sounds so romantic and adventurous, but how the heck do you plan for this, especially if you’re on a budget and not a great planner or stickler for detail? My Meyer’s Briggs personality type is INFP–introvert, intuitive, feeling, perceptive–in a nut shell: I’m quiet, I go with my gut, I operate more on feelings than logic, and, finally, I like to “wing it.” Could be in trouble here, but this is about growth, right?
My friend and travel mentor, Gayl, began by asking me a lot of questions. Questions bring on anxiety and a kind of “fight or flight,” panicky reaction in me. What do you want to do on this trip? Do you want to explore nature, study art, meet people, explore the culture, visit cities and rural areas? Although these questions were overwhelming at first, I realized that, (and what my friend knows) the best tools to unearth buried drives are questions. So after tackling these questions and with a few suggestions from Gayl, I started reading and hit the internet.
Remember the old days when we had to go to the library, study the card catalog, and pour over reference books? According to Daniel Pink, author of the very interesting book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, the challenge today isn’t accessing information, the challenge is curating it. I took the book’s advice and put aside time every day to bookmark the best sources of information, then started taking notes in a journal of the things I needed to have (visas, round-the-world tickets, sim cards for my iPhone) and things I wanted to do. The clincher is that this is a “practice,” which requires discipline. Ouch! More growing pains!
The planning of this adventure has also enlightened me about the power of networking. I am currently working on other Workaway sites in New Zealand and Australia, and now hosts are contacting me, validating that we Boomers have much to offer. My Aussie friend liked the profile I’d written for the Workaway site and suggested I make it a bit more chatty and add a few more pictures. She has since started “marketing” me to other friends and acquaintances. And it’s working. My friends and family here and in New York, too, have connected me to their friends Down Under, and all the synapses are firing and creating a rich network of travel stays with exotic names like Tauranga, Whakatane (pronounced fuck a ta ne!), and Kununurra.
Since renting my house in October, I’ve pared down my belongings and have been living a kind of nomadic existence. My gypsy vardo is a 1993 Volvo 240 station wagon that houses a box filled with all my important papers, last minute odds and ends that didn’t get packed, and a blue, plastic tub filled with winter clothes. Propped up by the kindness of friends and family, I stake my virtual tent from place to place and try not to overstay my welcome. There’s a tremendous feeling of freedom after being so responsible for so many years. The silver lining— there always is one— is that my dysfunctional upbringing has actually served me: I’m very adaptable and enjoying this!
I’ve been doing some travel reading too, and friends and family have suggested great titles like Bill Bryson’s Australian travel book In a Sunburned Country. Bryson is a funny guy, and his outsider’s perspective evinces not only the quirkiness but also the history and vast beauty of this huge country and continent. It’s an engaging read! My brother-in-law James recommended Bruce Chatwin’s, The Songlines, a very different book, set in the desolate lands of the Australian Outback. A bestseller in 1987, Chatwin is credited with transforming travel writing. His book is part travel adventure and personal philosophy as he explores the meaning and origins of ancient Aboriginal “Dream Tracks,” invisible roadways left by the totem ancestors as they “sang” the natural world into existence. Chatwin postulates that we humans have a “nomadic instinct.” Staying in one place, sedentary desk jobs, and our excessive accumulation of stuff are unnatural and don’t make us happy. Hmmm….. Maybe to find yourself, you have to travel?
I’ve since purchased plane tickets. It’s real now. To steal a couple of quotes from the Notebook section of Chatwin’s book, they read:
“You cannot travel on the path before you have become the path itself.” “Walk on!”
Original oil painting, Connie Ottmann “Jack at Reid State Park” oil on canvas, 24″x 30″