After a short recovery and a few extra days rest in Melbourne, Matt, my current travel cohort and partner-in-crime, and I decided it was time to head to Sydney. Although cheap domestic flights beckoned us, we felt the call of the road and rented a car instead. What a great idea! An ugly, but zippy little compact we dubbed Glow Bug transported us eastward.
The trip across Victoria was complemented by good coffee and fantastic conversation. What better way to share stories and laughs than with the open road spread out before you? Having always been a big fan of road trips, I simply love facing outward, in the same direction, with my travel companion(s). Listening to great tunes just sweetens the deal.
On this day It was sunny, and although it takes the better part of an hour to actually leave the sprawling suburbs of the city, we were greeted by beautiful, bright rolling hills (they call them mountains here).
Our next few days would consist of casually driving through impressive scenery dotted with forest, ocean, rivers, and hills (mountain ranges?!?). We explored little fishing villages along the coast and made various attempts at catching dinner along the way. The fish we caught were too big to take in the small compact so we settled with eating at pubs and joined the locals in their favourite past-time (Eden, a small town along the border in NSW, claims to be “a drinking town with a fishing problem”).
Old Tom - The Amazing Killer whale of Twofold Bay
We gasped in the beauty of Lakes Entrance, a small town tucked into the east corner of the state of Victoria. In Eden, farther north over the border, we sought out the Killer Whale Museum (and aforementioned pub). It was here we got the chance to see Old Tom, the famous Orca that used to assist the whalers in Twofold Bay in their hunt for baleen whales. He would herd the baleens into the bay and lead the whalers to the catch. If the whalers proved too slow, he would actually grasp the ropes of the whaling boat and tug them! After Old Tom passed away, the orcas never returned and soon the whaling industry collapsed. A great story and local legend.
In Bermagui, probably my favourite stop on this part of my journey, we spent the entire afternoon fishing (I was more of a support network: singing loudly, if intermittently, to attract fish – and keeping an eye on the fairy penguins as they efficiently stole our catch from around the break-water).
There is a place I get to when I’m traveling extensively for any amount of time. I inherently recognize this place, and the timing can seem quite random, but it’s at this pinnacle moment that I actually see myself as a Traveler.
In the UK, back in ’99 this moment came about very quickly. I knew I had a year abroad; I was a Traveler from the moment I received my visa. It was reaffirmed when, mere hours after we landed in Glasgow, as we were getting ready to go to bed – a bunch of mad Dutchmen swung into the hostel and stole us away to a rocking seventies club. We danced all night (assisted by the ever-so-helpful jet-lag and a wee pint or two). The next day we caught a ride with our new friends to Edinburgh. We would end up living the better part of six months over the following year there.
It was one of the most relaxed times in my life…I was living each moment by the seat of my pants (albeit in tandem with my friend Racheal, whom I was attached to at the hip). We settled for a while in Edinburgh, but really, I (or we, at the time) could have picked up at any moment and, on a whim, made our way to Spain or Finland or India, had we the funds.
Maybe it was easy to see myself as a Traveler right away back then because I didn’t feel I was leaving much behind. At nineteen I had my job, school, and a haphazard social life, but I was very much ready for crazy change. I knew I would find it as soon as I hopped on the plane.
The Wombat is Smiling!
On this trip in Australia, with so much of a life left behind (or put on hold at least), I realized this pinnacle moment as I sat in the car on a road trip through the beautiful countryside of NSW. With a like-minded friend beside me, we watched the scenery pass and we smiled. It was a moment shared, yet also something very private. I knew – I felt in my soul, that I was not a vacationer or a guest anymore; I was a self-defined Traveler.
I realized I had survived, have survived, something huge and all-encompassing. I am coming out the other side – I can make that cumbersome hook-turn we discussed back in Melbourne –I’ve got the skills.
I appreciate that I had the chance to see so much beauty so far off the beaten track. The knowledge that it’s my track… I’m choosing which way to turn… this is precious. I am strong. I belong wherever I am.
Theme Songs of the Day:
Guaranteed – Eddie Vedder, from the soundtrack Into the Wild
One Crowded Hour – Auggie March, from the album Moo, You Bloody Choir
I’m Good, I’m Gone– Lykke Li, from the album Youth Novel (Alex D, this one’s for you)
Ramble On – Led Zeppelin, from the album Led Zeppelin II