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.
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.
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 spent twelve happy years living in Brisbane after an adventurous move away from our Melbourne home in 1994. These years were in most part the formative years of our three younger children’s lives. Our eldest son had preferred to remain in Melbourne but his younger brother thrived in the relaxed and warm climate of South East Queensland. A mildly reluctant but necessary return to Melbourne in 2006 saw two of our now adult children stay on in Queensland as we anticipated where we were to live once we arrived. Now 56 years of age I had graduated into the ranks of the near unemployable. Even though I had been self employed most of my working life starting over again was a younger mans game.
Melbourne has been voted the most livable city in the world on numerous occasions and for good reason, and yet for us it became this time around, a wilderness. A place of coldness. A place that continually caused us to compare it with our previous life. And so it was after eight years and eight dreary winters a shift occurred. It was mid winter at our home in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. A beautiful area on the outskirts of Melbourne. Our good friends who had been overseas for four years were visiting when one of them asked, “do you think you will ever move back to Queensland again”. ” Maybe eventually”, I replied with a sigh. It was only later that night I discovered what my wife was thinking at the time. ” No way”! “We are leaving now, I will not spend one more winter in this place”!
It has been said that once you are committed to a course of action that the whole universe conspires to make it happen. Now I am realist enough to know that we can sometimes make rash decisions and fall flat on our face, yet when the timing is right I found the above to be true. Some would call this stepping into the will of God. Nevertheless it was within days of this happening that our youngest son and last remaining child at home said,” Dad I know you will be sad but I have decided to go overseas for a couple of years”. My wife and I looked at each other virtually reading each others minds, and said, “yes we will be but you have to do what you feel is the right thing for yourself”. We promptly went into the next room and gave each other a high five!
The road ahead was beckoning. Our return to Queensland and beyond was imminent .
I began moving out of a routine and fairly predictable life some years ago where work, mortgages and raising children required a certain amount of stability, repetition and the creation of a reasonably permanent place we could all call home. In the first half of life this became unavoidable to a certain degree and even necessary for the most part. Spontaneity was not my immediate instinct at this stage of life. At least for me that is, as I had always been a reasonably conservative person not prone to taking risks. Yet the flip side to this was a desire to live a non conformist life. Afterall I was a child of the sixties exposed in my early years to ideas of freedom, revolution and saving the world! I often wonder where those old hippies have disappeared to. Most are probably now retired after a lifetime of climbing the corporate ladder and building a solid retirement package. Sigh!
My current life is much less predictable and dare I say more spontaneous. Perhaps it’s not as non conformist as I had at times dreamed of, but I am always open to new possibilities. Dropping out of home ownership and all that it entails was a first step. Housesitting became our first venture into alternate ways of living. It gave us the ability to be able to travel while living simply and cheaply and meeting a lot of wonderful people at the same time. Caravanning has taken this to the next level for us. We can now choose exactly where we want to travel to at any given time or settle for a while when opportunities arise. We have been able to work or volunteer as a result, or just park the van and travel overseas at times.
This second half of life is more about letting go than grasping and acquiring. It can at times look a bit like risk taking for a reformed stick in the mud such as myself. But it is exactly what I need. It’s a step at a time and requires a certain amount of flexibility and openness to change. I have to confess there are times during some of our transitions that cause me a bit of stress and heartburn but when you are moving there is always something new around the corner.
My blog will contain reflections on my journey. The ongoing movement of a wanderer. From descriptions of my travels both past and present, to thoughts and impressions that arise while on the road, working or just sitting back and contemplating life. Occasionally I will make a comment upon current culture or events. As a helpless philosopher and amateur student of theology I will also dive into subjects that I find fascinating, particularly those that relate to soul or spirit – the hidden drivers of our lives, and how they effect everyday life. While on this journey I am mindful of the fact that there is only one constant to human growth and flourishing – the willingness to embrace and accept change.