Posted in Uncategorized

Jouney to the Centre

The trek to the Red Centre of Australia  is a long, excilerating, yet tiring journey.  The transition from the green rolling pastureland of the southern regions of South Australia to the flat plains and desert country of the North comes quickly then seems to go on forever.
Ularu is the focal point for most excited travellers. One could almost say that for many Australians the overland trek to the ‘Rock’ is almost a rite of passage. The early European explorers named it Ayres Rock but particularly since the indigenous people of the area have taken possession back once again it has reverted to its original name of Ularu . ‘Climbing the Rock’ has been an experience most europeans love to engage in. The traditional owners feel that this dishonours their traditions. Many ‘whites’ are happy to conceed this and respect their wishes. I guess it helps relieve the guilt of past abuse and is a small attempt to honour a downtrodden people . Others more strident in their ‘white mans all conquering world view’, proudly scale the rock with their metaphorical flag in hand and a few snide remarks about ‘ those bloody abos’.
It was heartening to see many of the indigenous locals now employed in a type of tourism that attempts a compromise between engaging  ‘white fella culture’ with their own dreamtime stories and mythology. I often wonder how can this ancient people group sucessfully integrate their culture with the modern world?  On the other hand the poverty, alcoholism and dispossesion of the majority is an on going generational cycle that has robbed them of their identity for far too long. It will take the wisdom of the Almighty and maybe centuries of trial and error to fully redeem these people. One of the first things we noticed, especially after setting up camp at the end of each day was the feeling of solitude. The silence of the desert to a city dweller is strange and mysterious with the capacity to cause an inner shift. On one level we were operating with our daily agendas and self constructed calendars, but on another the memory of city life was slowly fading into the background as time took on less and less meaning.
There seemed to be a back and forth movement between the two worlds. A threshold, that enabled two views of reality.  A brief but curious  walk into a  five star tourist resort was one world. This world was abuzz with well heeled travellers jet setting in to take their obligatory photos of the Rock at sunset with cameras and chardonnay in hand. Within a few days most would be back in their structured cities planning perhaps for their next fly in fly out of Paris or New York. Then again, as we drove out into the surrouding areas of Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon we crossed the threshold and the mystery slowly returned.Walking along these ancient paths in a timeless land gives one space to reflect upon what is really important. I remembered during these times thinking how the ancient Christian Mystics disheartened and disillusioned by the ever growing and all encompassing  Roman Empire of Constantine fled to the solitude of the desert for solace. These brave men and women grew in wisdom and stature as they allowed the desert to strip them of all their illusions. Desert places have that capacity if we can slow down to a different rhythm.
In this age of ever increasing  Globalisation illusions are a dime a dozen as nations like Australia have all but hitched onto the vision of this current Global Empire – created largely by  some of the largest nation states and global corporations the world has ever seen. I believe however that a remnant of the disheartened and the disillusioned have arisen within this system. Those on the fringes of this generation who see through the illusions of  Empire. It is inevitable that this all powerful system will collapse leaving untold millions without an identity or a future. Left on the scrapheap of history like our aboriginal brothers and sisters to sift through what is left of their culture. Not knowing who they are or where they are headed.
Perhaps we would do well to consider the desert and to make a move either physically or symbolically, outwardly or inwardly in order to grow in wisdom and stature. Perhaps asking the right questions will begin to take precedence over having the ‘right’ answers. A world where the best elements of the past can be integrated with new and alternate ways of living. A more sustainable world where the never ending growth of global capitalism can be replaced by a never ending growth in human relationships. Where personal, psychological and spiritual growth becomes the primary focus. I guess it sounds utopian, but every movement in history began with a vision of those on the fringes of Empire.Those who had been pushed into the extremes of the ‘desert’ and finally arrived at their true Centre.

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The Dilemma of Questions & Answers

At my current age I am constantly aware of the need to slow down. The body doesn’t always keep up with the mind. Which can be a bit embarrassing at times! Normal people of my age are planning what retirement village would best suit them or how they are going to fund a sedentary lifestyle that includes an occasional cruise or membership in a local bowls club. As an official ‘grey nomad’ of no fixed address I am often found perusing maps trying to work out whether the next location will work for us or how long it will take to travel.Will the next location be better than this? What can we see, what can we do? I keep noticing that if we remain in one place for too long I begin to lapse into an almost involuntary lethargy. “Lets hit the road babe” has become a catch cry as we log up a few more thousand kilometers on the odometer. It has however left me somewhat curious. Why this need to keep moving? ‘Probably because you’re touring around the country’, I hear some comedian remark! But it does beg the question about our need for stimulation and the never ending desire for something new and different all the time.

Sociologists have labeled the current age we live in as the post-modern era. The preceding modern era was simply the industial era of invention and certainty, where there was an answer for most questions . Wow! It gave us control over just about everything. Almost the entire planet! Or so we thought. Postmodernism however is a new era of questionning and pushing the boundaries. Uncertainty is the currency of this age. Nothing is right, nothing is wrong, you decide’. ‘Do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone’. You get my drift. One of the side effects of this way of life are the never ending choices we are confronted with on a daily basis. You can do this, or you can do that, then have you thought of this option or that one? Try filling out a Government form, it’s a mine field of options. Shopping has become a fully postmodern adventure with 16 varieties of toilet paper lining the shelves of the supermarkets. Amazing! Ripping up an old telephone book was my only option as a child. The shopping malls are full of more crap than you could imagine. My worst nightmare is going to Subway for lunch. All I want to say is “I’ll have one of those”, but no, I have to choose every damn ingredient, right down to how many shakes of salt & pepper!

Which brings me back to my introduction. What’s wrong with one place? What is driving me on to the next? Then the next. Have I been infected with this post modern virus or am I just a happy wanderer? Can one of my old modernist friends give me an answer or do I have to just say, ‘it doesn’t matter, whatever turns you on’, or ‘if that’s what makes you happy, that’s all that matters’. I am on the horns of a dilemma. Born in the modern era but living in the postmodern. Is it answers I am after, or am I asking the wrong questions? Perhaps it is only a pathological philosopher such as myself who would even go down that track of asking those types of questions. As I sit and ponder, an epiphany bursts onto the scene, thanks to my dear wife’s more meditative nature.

‘Live in the moment you old fool’!

Mmm now that’s different.

Posted in Transitions, Wanderers

Not all who wander are lost

Our stories and their accompanying metaphors can often have a similarity about them. In our current information age, it is relatively easy to pull up a quote from a notable writer or wise sage. My heading of course was made popular by J.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame. As I have recently made a start and am in the early stages of writing a blog I begin to write about my own story, my travels and reflections. Forgive me then for occasionally quoting other travellers or wise sages who have gone before me. Of course, the metaphor of life as a journey is also one of those predictable descriptors especially if your blog is called ‘wandererstwo’. “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving” is another. These are not so apt of course for those who live lives of constant repetition and day to day drudgery, tied to one dreary geographical location or lost in a maze. To quote Dante, another common source – “Midway upon the journey of life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

In saying all of that, however, our human stories can only be expressed in a language that others can identify with. Great writers and thinkers have always been those who can paint word pictures that are both compelling and universal, and also touch something deep within us all. The only difference I can claim is not my writing style, or my ability to tell a story but my attempt to tell a story from my unique perspective. If I have any differing points of view it should also be remembered that “any point of view is just a view from a point”. (Not sure who said that), but I like it.

Our stories are so often what helps define us. Each of us has our way of interpreting the world and telling both ourselves and those around us both what we see and more importantly, how we see. I hope as I begin this writing I can articulate stories from my perspective. I might at times quote others who can help shine a light upon things I find fascinating. But overall I will attempt to write from my unique perspective.

Posted in Housesitting, Retirement, Transitions, Wanderers

Lying low in Mudgeeraba

Mudgeeraba sits nestled into the lower reaches of the Gold Coast hinterland. The town centre has more a village feel about it rather than the upmarket and touristy vibe of Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach. The Wallaby Tavern is a popular watering hole for not just locals but also for those from further afar. A scenic meandering drive takes you up into the higher reaches and on to Springbrook. An idyllic little town surrounded by sub tropical rainforest, waterfalls and lookouts that allow you to get a birdseye view of the region.

This was the location of our first housesitting assignment. In fact over the following 12 months we would look after three homes in Mudgeeraba. I therefore became curious as to the meaning of the name Mudgeeraba. I assumed correctly that it was a name of aboriginal origin thinking it may mean, tranquil waters, or land of towering forests. Instead I learned it could either mean low lying land, or alternatively , ‘place of infants excrement’. My mind ran wild as I imagined that what was now a sub tropical paradise and leafy village was once a sh** hole. No disrespect intended!! I think I prefer the first suggestion, afterall we were clearly lying low after our hectic exit from Melbourne.

One of the things I loved about our home that we left behind in the hinterland of Mount Dandenong near Melbourne were the tall forests of eucalyptus mixed with introduced English and European trees. Autumn is a special time of year when the area blazes with colour. Bush walking tracks abound in this area. Small cafes seving devonshire teas and antique shops are dotted through the hills. I grew up on the southern slopes of Mount Dandenong as a child and returned to live on the opposite side of that part of the great dividing range in my latter years. It is as though this mountain has always been a part of my life.

Our move to the Gold Coast bought us into a different world of sun, surf and golden beaches. The so called “Glitter Strip” from Surfers Paradise to Coolangatta form the foreground. This area of the coast lures tourists from all over Australia and indeed the world. Fun, sun and entertainment help form the culture of this City.

House Sitting in Mudgeeraba has shown me a different side to the Gold Coast. This hinterland town sits at the foot of Springbrook Mountain, a place I have come to love no doubt because of the similarities with my place of origin. Unlike Mount Dandenong the sub tropical rainforest and spectacular waterfalls add a new dimension to this area. This is no glitter strip of 5 star hotels and shopping malls but a natural environment that like my other mountain brings me into a place of peace and gratitude for the life that I have been given.

Posted in Housesitting, Retirement, Transitions, Wanderers

Disrupting the Status Quo

Life as I had known it had generally been about the status quo. Entirely necessary for me as a family man. Things had changed, it seemed however overnight. It really is a mindset . The status quo creates one way of thinking. ” This is how it is”, or worse still “this is how it should always be”. It was therefore very freeing to begin walking a different path, a path that honored the previous journey but was excited about what lie ahead.

The previous month had been a whirlwind. Whirlwinds can be either chaotic or exhilarating. I guess it depends upon your perspective. The taxi industry world wide had a perspective. Very much a status quo perspective. After all they had been the main player in transporting passengers in their vehicles for almost a century. I had to ask myself a question, “was I prepared to drive for Uber knowing that it would totally disrupt the status quo? Good question, but the answer was at this time easy for me. Of course, change is always inevitable. If you don’t prepare adequately for it you will end up in a very chaotic place. I remember thinking at the time I wonder how candle makers or gas light manufacturers handled their situation when the electic light was invented? No consolation of course to the countless cab owners highly invested in the status quo.

I spent my first week back on the Gold Coast simply warming up again, after 3 weeks in the deep south. I then hit the ground running. Uber like any good start up company were throwing incentives at their new drivers to encourage more drivers to join. I knew it would only last for so long and made the most of it. In saying that I still only needed to work 25 hours a week to make more than enough money. After all housesitting was as cheap as chips. Actually cheaper. Lets be honest free. I was warm and had money in my pocket.

Posted in Housesitting, Retirement, Transitions, Wanderers

The Early Retirement Dilemma

Our sudden decision to step away from life as usual had one downside that was a little disconcerting. How were we going to fund this out of character spontaneity? We certainly seemed to be in the flow but something had to come up in the area of finances. I had been self employed most of my life but raising five kids doesn’t come cheaply so I was certainly not left at the finish line with a generous superannuation fund to draw upon. I was also six months away from qualifying for a less than adequate Government funded pension. After one week of housesitting I left Sheryl to take care of our new responsibility while I returned to Melbourne to tie up the loose ends. One major loose end was our house. Fortunately our eldest son put his hand up to rent the property from us for a short while until we were ready to sell. Box one checked.

 As much as housesitting provides an amazing way of reducing living costs, we still needed money for our day to day living expenses. Something will turn up I kept thinking. Positive thoughts like this in the face of financial dilemmas was new to me, but I couldn’t  escape the feeling that everything would turn out fine. I sat up in bed one night before returning to the Gold Coast and stumbled across an article on the internet about a business that was disrupting the taxi industry worldwide. Uber, what an unusual name, but I read on. They are operating  in five Australian capital cities… and what, commencing on the Gold Coast in one week!! I was a self employment expert so was registered and ready to go 10 minutes later. One major problem, I needed to get back to the Gold Coast as soon as possible.I was on my way within a week, loose ends tied up and most of the boxes checked. 

 

Posted in Housesitting, Retirement, Transitions, Wanderers

Housesitting on a Shoestring

We soaked up the winter sun upon our arrival, pinching each other to make sure it was real. Our house owners were  a professional couple in need of a break who simply required us to maintain the garden and feed the visiting native birds. Ten weeks of rest and recreation. Bring it on!

We had made the decision. What next? “Remember that housesitting site you were reading about last year” my wife remarked. “Let’s check it out again”. Before I knew it we were registered on three housesitting sites with a mounting excitement beginning to build. These sites are geared to you applying for places of interest and waiting for a reply. So it was with a sense of surprise when 3 days later we received a call from a woman desperate for our services as her expected sitter had let her down one week prior to their ten week trip to the U.K. To top it off, it was located on Queenslands sunny Gold Coast.

There was a conspiracy afoot to get us out of Melbourne. From famine to feast. We frantically packed our bags and got a few of our pressing affairs in order before heading North into the sun. Our now adult children who were settling into building their own lives were frankly perplexed at the “oldies” rash and impulsive behavior. Although our Queensland son smiled at the thought of getting babysitters at the drop of a hat! Not. Well occasionally.