In case you missed the news, I am traveling for the next six months through Australia and New Zealand by campervan. As I write this, in Western Australia, I am in a National Park campground – no light, no water, no flush toilets or showers. It is very dark and I am “Deeted” up to my armpits while I type on my battery-powered laptop, squinting through the green net I’ve slung over my head to frustrate the mosquitoes.
Today was an extraordinary day. We were bored with the road we’d been traveling so took a diversion off the main highway to check out a place we saw on the map, Narijini National Park. The first 100 km was unremarkable, but soon after, we started climbing into gorge country and the colourfully striated sandstone escarpments transported me into the land of the big awe.
Totally moved by the majesty of nature and the smallness of me. Also, by the vastness of time. I don’t know about these rocks specifically, but many of the gorges we’ve been seeing here in Australia measure their ages in the billions of years. Makes you think how big a dot your own life doesn’t make on that kind of timeline.
At one point, we had Elvis on the CD player and he was singing Dixie ....you know, where he bellows “Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on!” Elvis singing Dixie always sends shivers up my back and tears to my eyes but today his voice reminded me of his too-early death and my mind turned, as it is always doing these days, to the death just weeks ago of my sister-in-law Lesley, aged 54.
Lesley is dead and here I am, also 54, cavorting around the other end of the world in a campervan. Got me thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.
I’ve been on big trips before, but never longer than two months and the thing is, on those trips I always had a job to return to. A job in the non-profit sector, striving for the betterment of my fellow human beings ...and all that. So the trips were a respite, if you will. Necessary R/R to renew my flagging strength and return me renewed to the fray. I was doing the world a favour when I traipsed around the Serengetti. Right?
So the situation now is that husband is freshly retired and I am a freelance consultant/contractor. I have NO job to return to. No big important reason for renewing my strength. In fact, truth to be told, the last year as an independent contractor has been pretty grand. Yes, I think I’ve done some important work. Work that might even benefit human kind, but I wasn’t totally stressed out when I left. There was no necessity for this trip. No altruistic reason for heading off on this junket. This trip was all about us, period.
So, the guilt is brewing and I am feeling some self-induced pressure to come up with a plan, a purpose for the rest of my life. Soon.
I stew on this for a few days ...and it comes to me. I bet both Elvis and Lesley had a lot of plans six months before they died. I know that Lesley did. Before the big diagnosis she had all kinds of plans ...taking her grandchildren to Disneyland was a cherished one. She was just waiting for the twins to get a little older, “So they’ll remember it,” she would say. And then one day, with just a few words from a medical professional, it all changed. The plans came tumbling down. Less than six months later she was dead.
So here I am, with six months out of my life ...to just let it all be. No point planning beyond the next 24 hours, if that. So far on this trip, all the best adventures have been diversions from the “the plan” we carefully laid out around the kitchen table last winter.
We meet people who say, “You have to go there ...it’s fabulous.” And it is. Or we pick up a brochure that describes a hike down an underground tunnel in knee-high water in the dark. Steve says, “That sounds like fun.” And it is. Or today, we looked at the map and wondered, “What’s down that road?” And now we know ...Narijini National Park. These have all been diversions from the plan and they’ve been the best part of the trip.
Life will unfold for me in the way it is meant to ...everything is not within my power to plan. The best parts of my life yet to come ...the work that I will do, the people I will come to know, the experiences I will have, will come from opportunities and events that I cannot even conceive of sitting here tonight.
Life will unfold ...or it won’t.