|Check out Sarah Steenland's brilliant cruising comics at www.www.sarahsteenland.com! As a cruiser traveling 'round the world with her family, her perspective is not only funny, it's spot-on.|
|Journey, "home" from September 2012 - February 2017.|
Sydney Australia, just before she was sold.
|While the van required massive downsizing from the boat, the kitchen was pretty functional with a couch and table, all inside.|
However, the van wasn't designed to go where we wanted to. We sold it and bought the Land Cruiser.
If you're considering a long travel adventure, or you're on one and you're wondering when it's time to end it, this post is is for you.
We claimed our deciding factor for leaving Australia was not shelling out the substantial chunk of change to convert our casual visitor VISAs to year-long visitor VISAs before the former expired expired in mid-May.
While the VISA expiration was one deciding factor, it was not the only one.
Truth be told, we were road-weary and homesick.
Australia's become quite expensive. The less time we spent in Australia, more there money would be available for transitioning back to the USA.
Still, it was not an easy decision, as it carried far greater ramifications than just leaving Australia. Leaving Australia meant not just leaving "Oz," it also meant giving up our nomadic life, becoming a CLOD (Cruiser Living on Dirt - credit for this acronym goes to our Evening Ebb cruising Dirk).
When it comes to major life transitions, I view the catalysts in two parts -- there's a "going from" and there's a "going to."
|Our Landcruiser and "home" from March - May in Australia. The most comfortable, capable trip car we've ever experienced.|
"Going to" is more driven by curiosity or adventure or even a sense of duty. Even if you're perfectly happy with your life where it is, there's this tingle, this vibration, this niggling notion there's something else, compelling, that cannot be ignored, at least not forever.
Ideally, when the time comes to make the leap, both "going from" and "going to" are in harmony. That way the "going to" provides some clarity of direction or goal, and the "going from" assuages any regrets about obligations and familiarity left behind that might otherwise distract from making the most of the move.
|Boat work in paradise. Mast view of Journey off glorious Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia.|
Philosophical views aside, while the VISA deadline forced our hand, why did the homesickness bug bite hard enough for us to leave three month earlier than our original plan?
For me, my "going to" was driven by a keen desire to go home to see my parents. I have not seen either of my parents since December 2014, when left Florida to begin our long journey, ultimately sailing halfway around the world.
Neither of my parents are young. Neither were very happy about my embarking on our wild and distant adventure, as it was obvious given our budget and plans, unless there was an emergency, I would not see them for years. Like most parents, they worry, and the unknown is that more worrisome. Yet, the kind of life I would need to lead for my parents to not worry is not the kind of life that would make me happy. Nor did I want to want to wait until my parents died until I left, as I didn't want to find myself resenting them for it.
|Dad and his current wife, Adrianne and their dog, Max.|
|Mom, not a big traveler, posing in front of an image of a street scene in Delray Beach FL before I left to go cruising. |
I last saw her, December 2014.
Of course I miss my brother and his family, too.
Much as I dearly love my husband, like most husbands, his presence cannot provide for all my companionship needs. Nothing completely replaces the kind of connection women friends have, and that is something I have missed dearly.
Thus, I miss my friends, especially my best friend Anna, a friend for more years than I like to admit I've even lived. While as longtime best friends, we're are able to pick right off where they left off. Still, there is far too much that's happened in both our lives in the last 4+ years since we've seen last each other. While geographically separated for most of our friendship, I have tried to "be there" as a friend for Anna, yet there's a limit to how much that can happen when you're half a world a way, generally over the water, on the road or in a 2nd or 3rd world country.
In our shift from keels to wheels, from the sea of ocean to Australia's vast sea of empty land, the desire for familiarity, stability and comfort's become keener. On our sailboat, we did have a home, albeit a tiny, mobile one with limited electricity and power and more subject to the forces of nature than a traditional home. While we moved, the boat and everything in it moved with us, qualifying it as "a place for my stuff" it still met the George Carlin definition of home.
|Johnny and Danni on Miramar were one of the few bright spots for us in an anchorage of mostly uninhabited boats.|
We had to laugh when Johnny referred to us (Wayne, methinks) as "a legend." We replied "Wayne says he's not a legend because he doesn't have a rugby tattoo next to his balls." (Seriously - the urban dictionary definitions for "legend" are a hoot! - check them out!). We love that Johnny and Danni have shared their early sailing adventures with us and believe before long we'll be calling them "legends." Whether or not Johnny has a rugby tattoo next to his balls we do and will not likely know.
For me, moving from the open ocean to the open road stepped up my sense of isolation, despite our increased mobility, relatively consistent access to phones and more regular ability to connect via the Internet. Yes, I could more easily walk away for solo time, but if I wanted time with anyone other than Wayne, who was there?
|In Australia, this sign is is an almost sure guarantee the slow vehicle in front of you will speed up enough to make passing impossible.|
We are particularly grateful to friends Chris and Chris on Scintilla, where we spent our first night off our boat, on theirs. As well, it was a rare treat to spend time with my friend longtime fellow Hewlett-Packard alumni Rob in the former Gold Rush and now thriving college town of Bendigo. We also loved the warm welcome extended to us from a recently made sailing friend, Pete of and his family including their dogs and chickens, in the quaint German-themed town of Hahndorf, outside of charming Adelaide.
|Another brilliant Sarah Steenland cruising comic from www.www.sarahsteenland.com! |
Cruising by van and 4WD has it's frustrations and pleasures, too.
In Perth, where we caught up on some overdue dental and doctor checkups, we are incredibly grateful to our gracious trio of Couchsurfing hosts, MaryLu, Carl and Paul. MaryLu's now off on her own travel adventure, in France. Carl's mulling his next move, and Paul is looking forward to resuming his travels. As both Carl and Paul were brand new to Couchsurfing, we hope we were good enough guests they'll host others, and consider becoming a Couchsurfing guest when they travel.
At the end of our Australian odyssey, we also reconnected with Helene and Steve. We met through the wonders of Facebook, where mutual friend Bertie from Jacksonville Florida connected us up. They generously put us up in their comfortable Brisbane home for over a week while we got our stuff together to leave the country. We enjoyed some great conversation, nibblies and sips. A friend of theirs bought the Land Cruiser we needed to sell before we left. We are hoping to host Helene and hopefully Steve too when they visit the US.
|Bronte, Steve & Helene's dog, mourning the lack of a "fetch" partner. Brisbane Australia.|
Mostly, we were quite isolated.
Australia is a vast land, comprised of wide open spaces with little in between distantly located towns, cities and parks. Our greatest portion of time was spent sitting in a car, driving across mostly dusty, flat terrain, with little greenery in terms of plants, trees and shrubs.
Primarily we camped, in anything from a rest stop, to a "free camp" with nothing, to more park campsites with bush toilets or better, the rare trailer park and the occasional splurge of a backpacker lodge or low-end motel, one really nice one in Queensland.
I longed to cook in a kitchen with cupboards and and a pantry, running water, a stove, a refrigerator, a microwave and an oven. Sure, we got to cook in backpacker lodges and at our Couchsurfing hosts, but I found myself lugging stuff back and forth between our Land Cruiser and whilst I invaded yet another kitchen, and had to sort my way though how everything worked and where to put my stuff where it hopefully wasn't too invasive. There was also my limited wardrobe, toiletries, laptop, book, etc. that moved to wherever I rested my head for the night, then back again to our Bohemian "home on wheels."
While Wayne certainly shared some of my sense of isolation, his travel weariness was greatly exacerbated by being tired of driving, dealing with the heat, and by the bugs.
Many camping evenings Wayne holed up in the Landcruiser, periodically turning the engine to relieve the discomfort from the 88 - 100+ degree temperatures* with Land Cruiser's air conditioner. If he planned it right, he was able to keep most of the bugs out. I tried to read outside until I either got too many midge and mosquito ("mozzie" as they called 'em in Oz) or the amount of bugs dive-bombing my laptop or flashlight-lit book was too annoying. Then I would retreat to our tent where I was mostly able to read in peace until it was time for my lights-out for the eve.
*Those temperatures were not nearly as bad as they could be as by that time it was Australia's fall, though it was in the country's hotter, closer-to-equator areas. The upcoming weeks the temperatures would mostly drop to a little more comfortable level.
Then of course, there were the spiders, one of the more common "many things that can kill you" rampant in Australia's great outdoors.
|Ironically, big scary bugs like this huntsman spider (nearly the size of my hand) |
were pretty benign. It was ubiquitous little biting insects that ultimately
were the bigger problem for us.
The clincher that solidly tipped the fun-to-suck ratio for us was one of our last nights camping. We were free-camping at a spot several miles down a dirt road near a lake, enjoying the eve as the temperatures dropped to a pleasant level. The bugs drove us both inside our tent, where we hung a dim lantern, using our flashlights to read.
We heard a light, steady pat-pat-pat patter that sounded like light rain. When we looked up, we could see Australia's usual amazing, undimmed by light pollution star show, Southern Cross, Orion's belt, the Milky Way and more. The rain-like sound couldn't be rain, as rain would not fall from a cloudless sky, we surmised.
No, it was bugs. Thousands and thousands and thousands of bugs attracted by our lantern's dim light; they wanted to get closer to it. What we we heard was the sound of their bodies slamming against the outside of our tent. Thankful as we were the tent kept them outside, we were undeniably grossed out.
|Our bed in the Landcruiser: cosy.|
We were done. Australia was where we planned to end our adventure all along; we just choose to end it there sooner.
From that point, it was just a matter of calculating where to fly out of, how long it would take us to drive there and how much time we needed to divest ourselves of the Land Cruiser and booking a flight.
For those of you interested in Australia, please do not let the travel-weariness that affected us dissuade you. Heck, part of the reason we left before seeing "everything" was to have a good reason to come back and see what we missed, as well as return to some favorites.
Australia is a weirdly wonderful one-of-a-kind place well worth a visit or even a place to call home. No where else will you see kangaroos hopping about in the wild (and they're kinda tasty, too), or ostrich-like emus towering over grassy plains (or - crossing the road!). Where else will you be amusingly taunted by the cackling laughter of the kookaburra? Or the screech of massive flocks of snowy white cockatiels? Or the warble of the magpie (much less when they sound mewling like cats or infants crying)?
|If you see a kangaroo that looks like this, it's time to pull of the road|
and take a rest as you're hallucinating.
Besides New York Times Square, few place are considered more epic to ring in New Year's Eve than Sydney Harbour -- and it's summer there then!
|Christmas in Australia. These Santa were on an Australian storefront.|
Though we didn't stop there this time, there's few places in the world that can compare to the breadth of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. But we were enthralled by the aqua seas and uncrowded white beaches of South Western Australia, where the waves are more magnificent than I've seen anywhere else. El Questro's vivid orange gorges and waterfalls are stunningly beautiful. The list of additional reasons why Australia's an awesome place to visit is long....
Nonetheless, in our case, it was simply time to go home.
|Another brilliant Sarah Steenland cruising comic from www.www.sarahsteenland.com!|
Cruising by boat, van and 4WD for most of us require the sacrifice of creature comforts.
We are currently in Portland Oregon. Home will be where we can land living-wage jobs in a place we like. We're not yet sure where that will be, though for now, it will be somewhere in the US. Wayne quips, "We went from a grand 5-year adventure to being homeless and unemployed." I prefer to look at it as "All possibilities are open."
There's still oodles of great images and stories and information (for example, the process and detailed expenses required to importing and selling a boat in Australia) and that will continue to be posted on GalleyWenchTales. There's also lots of short video clips awaiting editing before posting. Maps will be added with routes marked to provide better visual summaries and browsing the posts will become easier with organized groups of links. And there will be a post or two about the culture shock that occurs when coming home to a place that's changed almost as much as you have while away.