Outback, West Australia. A mercilessly burning sun beating down upon a deserted road, three hundred kilometers from the nearest town. Our road trip had been going perfectly well until the moment our car suddenly started making strange noises – and then slowly ground to a halt. It was just us two girls and a broken-down car in the middle of nowhere, with neither cell phone reception nor mechanical skills to help us out of our predicament.
My journey to this remote road had been a long one. The previous year had been a difficult one; the slow dissolution of a long-term relationship and the recovery from a nearly fatal car crash involving me and my two best friends had forced me to realize that, for the first time in my life, I had very little control over where my life was taking me. I felt as if my soul and body were broken; looking ahead, my life seemed a frightening and lonely road stretching away into the distance.
I had a choice: to worry about all the things that I’d lost or to get back on my feet and launch into a new departure. I chose the latter, deciding to consciously change my life perspective, to embrace a new approach to living based on the idea of simply letting go. I decided to let go of my fears of the unknown, to let go of my desire for perfection, and to let go of the anxiety I felt from, at age twenty-five, trying to measure my own life against what I thought my life should be. I decided to let go, realizing that what was truly important in my life would eventually make its way to me.
It was with this concept embedded in my mind and heart that I embarked on a yearlong journey around Australia and Asia with one of my best friends. Now, at the halfway point of our journey, our decision to let go of our reservations and jump into this adventure makes more sense with each passing day.
Australia is known as a dangerous land, a place where almost everything has the potential to hurt, poison or kill you. But perhaps, for the very same reason, Australia also has the power to make you feel fully and incredibly alive. As such, for me Australia is a land richly laden with memory and emotion. A land where we drove uncountable miles on deserted roads, scuba-dove the Great Barrier Reef, sailed the Whitsundays Islands, and had far too many Aussie barbecues on the beach at sunset; a land where we slept in our car simply because we had lost track of time while having dinner and wine on the beach with travelers we’d met along the way. There are no words and no pictures perfect enough to describe your feelings when the sky, at first brilliantly orange, pink and purple, slowly darkens into blackness over an endlessly long gum tree-lined road, or when the salty ocean winds tangle your hair against a background of seagull cries and crashing waves. When, in a shark-infested ocean, a fin comes out of the water right next to you, and you panic, only to suddenly realize that you are swimming with a pod of wild dolphins. When you look up at the sky and see the Milky Way shining more brightly than you had ever thought possible – and your idea of what is possible expands just a little bit more.
Letting go means allowing yourself to follow your instincts, to listen to the voice saying “Why not?” without thinking too much about consequences.
Letting go means allowing yourself to follow your instincts, to listen to the voice saying “Why not?” without thinking too much about consequences – for this diminutive voice often leads you to extraordinary places. In every place we’ve set foot and with every person we’ve met, we’ve always had the undeniable feeling of being at the right place at the right moment.
So when our car unexpectedly broke down in the outback of West Australia, we could have started panicking anticipating how we were going to get out of this predicament, but instead, we both burst into laughter thinking how ridiculously helpless we were towards the situation. Even though Australia has never seemed so deserted to us than it was at this moment, we both had faith a solution would come up to us, there was nothing else we could do at this point. Our faith persisted as we stopped the first few drivers that passed on the road, drivers who seemed unable to help us apart from wishing us good luck and offering us water. Time was flying and our options were starting to run out… But eventually, help arrived. Bruce, an Aussie trucker, pulled over and fixed our car on the roadside, sweating and swearing under the engine for three hours.
There’s no place on earth I’d rather be, except here and now. Tomorrow will come, there and then. That’s all that really matters.
Back on the road again, we realized that all the truckers we passed were honking and waving at us. It was only the next morning that we discovered that Bruce had radioed his fellow truckers, asking them to look after two girls in a red car, and to make sure we got to our destination safely. Even miles away from home, you are never alone on the road.
Some of my friends and family thought that this journey – by taking me far away from my reality – was my way of getting back on track. Some thought I would never come back. But I could only sail away with peace of mind because I knew that I had a landing pier back home with the people that I love the most. Looking back, my personal breakdown was an extraordinary life event, an experience that enabled me to open new doors in my life. I once was scared of the lonely deserted road; I am now amazed by it. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the road itself, and the beautiful uncertainty of not knowing where tomorrow will lead me. And that is one of the greatest lessons I have learned from traveling: there’s no place on earth I’d rather be, except here and now. Tomorrow will come, there and then. That’s all that really matters.