In May 2021 I completed my first walk for Operation Flinders as an Assistant Team leader (ATL). The implication that this will not be my only walk is deliberate. Truth be told, I can not wait to be back up there.
I have taken with me incredible memories. I’ll remember the bravery in the young men I walked with; bravery to toil against the pain of fatigue and pain, and bravery to voice their fears and doubts. Bravery to cry.
I’ll remember vistas so achingly beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. And sharing such moments in silence with people who were strangers only days before.
I’ll remember rolling around in a dry riverbank in a fit of laughter so intense it was painful.
I’ll remember the elegant simplicity of life out there. Our days centered around satisfying the bottom rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our days started by reigniting last night’s smoldering coals; we’d then pack up our shelters- basically a yoga mat underneath a small tarp. Food is just fuel for the day- we’d fill our bellies then fill our packs with the leftovers. Water became our most precious commodity, so our last job before we’d start making tracks was to fill all of our bottles.
Our days’ were spent hiking to our next camp where food, water and firewood awaited. We’d arrive into camp at dusk, and use the remaining light to build our new shelter, scrounge for kindling and dig a shit-pit. Sitting around the campfire at the end of each long day, warmth, shelter food and water all in order, we could relax into some conversation of real value. The lads were funny, honest, vulnerable, inappropriate, offensive, relaxed.
I loved living that way. I think to to some extent our whole group did. When life’s most basic needs are your foremost concern, the complexities that we’d all left behind at home did not exist. Some of these young men had left behind some incredibly difficult circumstances- and a week out bush was never going to change that. The hope is that these young people return home changed in at least some small way for the better. At the very least they will have returned learning a little bit more about themselves.
At home I am greeted by a warm bed, heating at the push of a button, a full pantry and fridge and cold and hot water at the turn of a tap. I also return to a loving family and great friends. I am grateful that my basic needs are satisfied, yet I miss that simple daily struggle to meet them. However, there are things I can change to take elements of my time out bush and incorporate them into my normal life:
- Dig a fire-pit and cook in it.
- Sleep outside under the stars just for the hell of it.
- Walk all day from time to time.
- Sit and enjoy the quiet.