Departures and Arrivals

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,


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

11 Replies to “Departures and Arrivals”

  1. Dear Geoff
    Thank you!
    This thought-provoking reflection has released the scurry monkeys into my mind’s library. In there they find mainly questions: Is settling intrinsic, necessary or achievable? As for taking responsibility for our own actions … it begins from the day we’re born [and maybe before]. For example, despite what our parents think, we decide when and how much to eat and whether to sleep.
    For me, being able to explore our world and meet its exceptional arrays of peoples as they flow in and out of my life is the best argument for not settling – not yet anyway.
    Happy Travels, Happy Learning
    Aunty Wibby xxxx

    1. Thank you aunty Wibby,
      Yes, we totally decide for ourselves, but I think those decisions are heavily influenced by both our parents, AND all our explorations. I wonder if we can be settled, but also maintain our inquisitive and explorative nature? I think we can explore without feeling the grass is always greener.

  2. Thank you for the beautiful thoughts and important questions you’re asking yourself -thank you for sharing those with us.

    I’ve also read the settling article in the past week and it made me think and wonder. Is it possible? Was it really better before? Can we choose not to think about the choices we have?

    I wonder if answers from your dad would actually give you the questions you want?

    1. Thanks H,
      Yes, you were the ‘friend’ who shared the article!
      Our, can we still have the choices, but not feel the grass is always greener, and we have to be over there? Tough one.
      Yes, I think Ian would have just created even more questions 😉

  3. Thanks for sharing this Geoff. A nice reflection on travel for the journey, not the destination. Of the unexpected experiences and places you go in your mind. Only time can provide this.
    When Alex was 7 she was faced with a dilemma. She didn’t want to return from an overseas trip because she didn’t know what to say to friends about her experiences. In the end she learnt to enjoy the journey and deliver the standard answer about a destination on the trip. How does the traveller describe the minuté of the journey? Its a personal experience that guides you to the next journey whether in the everyday grind or the extraordinary.

  4. Thanks Vicki,
    As the most journeyed person I know, I had a feeling you might have some considered thoughts.
    Time is such a fluid thing. I’d love it too take a little less time than it does to settle the mind!
    Yes, a guide to the next journey. Perfect. Thank you.

  5. hmm. plenty of pondering going on in my head too. some very random dot points is all i can manage. a prelude to a longer discussion, perhaps on skis or in the snow someday.

    – i’m fortunate that one of the ‘four safe bets’ (engineering) works ok for me in a career sense. several caveats apply.
    – buying property doesn’t equate to feeling ‘settled’. it exposes all the pros/cons (some more valid than others) of a particular decision. grass is greener etc.
    – “Unable to decide between the horizon and the shoreline, we tread water in no man’s land.” I would like to avoid this. more work needed.
    – “We only have one life, and the best we can do is throw our whole selves into it.” Despite the theme of the blog, I think you (and I) do ok on this score really.
    – i do like climbing mountain summits. they don’t have to be the highest. but rugged is good, with snow and ice even better. need to do more to appreciate the ones closer to home.

    enjoy the ride. chat later..

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