It's been just under a month since I stepped out onto South Point and called an end to my biggest trip so far; A self supported journey of almost 5,000km. In the past month it's been a real whirlwind as I've tried to get used to the 'real world' once again. It's been a big change; crowds of people, mattresses, nice food, cars, and even some relaxing. As I get used to the changes I'm also getting my first opportunity to take a breath and reflect on the trip that was. Here's the standout lessons so far....
1. Travelling self supported keeps your mind in tune with your body.
On a trip almost 5,000km long there were days where my body felt good, and plenty of days when it felt sore. Being self supported meant I was constantly able (particularly on the bike) to adjust and change the plan depending on how my body was feeling and how far I wanted to push the next day. This not only prevented me from over-straining my body but (also without the distraction of having someone (support crew) to sit and relax with), ensured I was working to my maximal physical capabilities.
2. Travelling self supported intensifies the mental challenge.
I've always said that my style of trips are more of a mental challenge than a physical one, but travelling without a support crew took the challenge to new heights. Throughout this trip my mind was always thinking about where I was going to find food and/or a safe place to sleep. The uncertainty over these two key factors created a base of doubt on which everyday was built. As the trip went on I became more practiced at finding food and shelter but the mental challenges continued. The constant repetition of the same conversation every time I stopped, not being able to share some of the nicer views with anyone, the loneliness that not even a phone call home can cure, being alone on the trip was far from easy.
If you're looking for an epic physical challenge that will also test your mentality, I recommend doing it with a support crew. If you're looking for an epic mental challenge that will also test your physicality, I recommend going self-supported.
3. Failure provides an opportunity for growth.
Despite the constant support and messages from those following along, this trip, 'ALT', does feel somewhat like a failure. This is simply because for over 12 months I planned for a triathlon the length of Australia and I wasn't able to complete the trip as planned. Whilst at first I perceived this failure as a negative, I'm starting to see the other side. The emotional and mental pain I went through was completely new and I feel stronger for having experienced it. The 'incomplete' nature of finishing has also left me mentally hungry to go further and make my next trip even bigger and better. This trip wasn't what I planned but if I had the chance I wouldn't do anything different.
4. Good people still exist.
For 99% of my trip my conversations were with strangers. No matter if they knew my overall plan or if they just thought I was just a lost traveler heading through town, I was always treated incredibly kindly. There were a few moments on the trip when I needed a helping hand and in those moments there was always one on offer. A safe place to sleep, a meal, pulling over to the side of the road to check I was okay, plenty of people offered all this and more and I always felt safe on my trip. Coming back into the 'real world' I've noticed there's way too many negative stories in the media, so here's a little notice to say that there are still plenty of good people out there.
5. Travelling is unparralelled freedom.
The modern human world runs very much in a set pattern. We wake, head to our jobs, pick up the kids or visit the shops on our way home, sleep and do it again. I escaped this completely during this trip and it was amazing. At points I really felt like a true outsider looking in and observing the human world. When I noticed the same people and patterns in every town it almost felt like I was in a zoo looking through the glass, watching the animals carry about their normal business. Arriving and disappearing from towns at my own will made me feel like I had broken free of the routine and was king of all around me. This sense of freedom is impossible to achieve whilst still in the 'routine' and while living in the routine is far easier, for me, freedom is far more enticing.
6. Australia is beautiful.
Torres Strait, Cape York Peninsula, Tropical Coastline, Outback Queensland, The Great Dividing Range, The Blue Mountains, The Snowy Mountains, Sapphire Coast, Gippsland Lakes, Wilsons Promontory....
Anyone of these regions could have been the highlight of a trip, but I truly was treated as I got to pass through all of them. Not only do I now have a list of places to return to and explore properly but this trip has shown me how beautiful the country I call home is. I've got ideas to complete trips internationally but with plenty more of Australia yet to see, there's no rush to get on a plane.
7. Indigenous culture is sadly still not fully accepted.
On this trip I travelled as lightweight as possible and so I didn't carry any food with me. Each night I stepped into a pub/servo/cafe and due to my scruffy appearance I was quickly asked what I was up to. The conversations generally followed a similar path; "where are you headed.. where'd you come from.. geez.. are you doing it for charity?" It was at this point the conversations would go one way or the other. Sadly, more than once, it was after I explained I was raising money for the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School that some people would immediately shut down the conversation. They didn't want to hear about anything 'Aboriginal'.
I'm not indigenous myself and I don't pretend to be an expert on Indigenous culture yet the mild racism in these type of responses really hurt me.
My experience with MITS and the Indigenous people I met on this journey has shown me that my schooling barely scratched the surface of the history of this land. I have learnt a lot about Indigenous culture and I'm now very proud to say the land I live on has a cultural history that is as incredible as it is old. Hopefully with further education more people will see how lucky we are to have this history and will begin to celebrate the positives, rather than shut down on the bigger conversations.
8. Humans have left an ugly mark on the environment.
After I returned from Nepal I wrote a similar blog to this one and I mentioned how I had noticed the world was facing a plastic pollution problem. Disappointingly, during this trip I again noticed the effect of humans on the environment and this time it was plastic and more. Whilst I started and finished in two regions of almost untouched natural beauty, between however there were plenty of human stains. Trash littered the highways constantly, landscapes had been completely changed for mines or covered in concrete, dead animals lined the roads. I think the saddest example I can give is that over time I was able to work out how large a town was before I arrived, based on the amount and types of litter on the roads leading into it. For the majority a lot of this would go unnoticed as we speed past in our cars, but by slowing down as I ran and rode, I saw it and was left worried. If we are a first world country and are supposed to be leading the way, in what direction are we taking our planet? More needs to be done to protect our environment from ourselves
9. Living outside is addicting.
Growing up I wasn't much of a camper. Yet there's something about it as I grow older I really enjoy. Sure the bugs, the weather, the dirt, the sweat and all the rest can suck pretty bad at times, yet despite that the outdoors offers so much. There's nothing quite like sitting back and watching the sun slowly disappear beneath the horizon, quietly reflecting on the day that was. There's something oddly poetic and calming about watching the light seemingly disappear from the world, and knowing that in a few hours time it's going to reappear. A fresh day and a fresh start.
10. Adventuring is my thing.
Completing hundreds of kilometres in a day, pushing yourself to physical and mental breaking point, going to sleep sweaty, dirty and hungry, waking up the next day and doing it again. It doesn't sound overly appealing, and yet I love it. There's something about these trips, how they challenge me, and how they help others, that makes me want more. For the first time in over 18months I don't have another trip I'm actively planning, but I know I'll be back for more soon.
Adventure is my thing and I'm working on a way to make it help as many people as possible.