Departures and Arrivals

White lines down the middle of the road

Dear Ian*,
I have been thinking about you. We departed on our exploration of Australia recently and it got me thinking about comings and goings.

In particular, the question of arrivals – when have we reached our destination? We talk a lot about ‘destinationitis’ with the students at uni. It’s funny how, in our culture,  we always seem to have to get to the end of the track, the top of mountain, the tip of the point. In outdoor education, as in other areas of life, there is the mantra of ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination.’ Which is all very well to say, but does it actually work with our Western society? Being on the road, particularly up the top end of the country, I feel as though lots of us whitefellas are so focussed on reaching our destination. I get the sense from the Aboriginal folks that the destination is not as significant. The point for them is to be on Country. Spend time walking on and connecting with Country. Aiming for the end point often results in missing all the bits in between.

As an imported, white, Anglo-Saxon, relaxing into the journey is a challenge. What if I miss something? Have I spent enough time in this place to see everything? What is the essence of this place? What does it mean to connect?

Maybe that’s the question, then: Do we need to capture the essence of each place we visit, or is the mere movement through a place the experience? I suspect it is how we move through a place that is the key. We have noticed a big difference moving through the country in a 4WD compared to bushwalking or riding a bike. Not only the pace, but the other people we end up sharing the experience with. It has been a challenge to find any like-minded people.

Much of our journey has reminded me of the adventures we had as a family when I was young. Bakeries and bookshops we the norm, as well as caravan parks galore. These days, bakeries persist, while the books are often found in op shops along the way. I find myself wondering what you would be like on this trip. Would you be challenged by the 24/7 presence of your family? Would you need to make all the decisions? Would you be able to sit and relax, and take in the ‘place’? I have so many questions to ask you and often find myself frustrated you cannot answer them. Why am I the way I am with my family? It’s easy to blame you, of course. When do I start to take responsibility for my own actions, then? I keep ticking off unnecessary milestones; I made it past 43 and managed to outlive you, waiting for my first child to reach 15 etc.

I like the idea a friend shared with me recently. Feeling settled.

“…settling might be the answer to finding happiness and contentment from our choices. The alternative is to spend our whole lives anxiously wandering the world, never appreciating what’s in front of us.”source

I wonder how our moving around the country connects to the feeling of being settled?!

When will I finally feel like I have arrived? When will I depart? In reality, I think these two questions are better left alone and buried in the earth like a John Wolseley painting. Perhaps I need to do the same with these questions I have of you. They are not really helping me progress any further to feeling settled.

I have been thinking about the correlation between what we are currently doing, and travelling overseas when I was younger. Most of the time when we travel, we don’t realise how much we have changed until we return home. I certainly felt different when I returned home from travelling 20 years ago. I am hoping I can find some settled-ness on arriving home (if not before!). Whatever returning home may mean.

Mick has a lovely song which questions travel in its many guises.

“…it’s written in your law
Every word a lie
Travel makes you wise

You’ve been around the world
Just to come back home
To tell everyone you know
You’ve been around the world”

May our current travel be more than just something to tell everyone we’ve ‘done’.

The Aboriginal folks have some beautiful culture, which I feel we are really missing in Western society. Culture which enables connection between each other, and Country. In whatever way your spirit may be manifest in this universe, I hope it is settled.

Lots of love,

g.

*Ian Reid Adams – 28-02-1946 – 13-05-1989