Day Eighty One (16 March)

Day 81 began with me meeting up with Roseann, a very nice lady who lives in Melbourne, who I had met on the road back around Morwell/Moe. She had said she would like to meet up and walk with me for a few days as I got closer to Melbourne.

A lovely, warm human, she was waiting at the hotel carpark when I got up, and I explained that we needed to first stop at a local venue called “Robert Gordon Pottery Barn”.

A local journalist had been in touch, wanting to conduct an interview there, before I could continue that final couple of days into the Melbourne CBD.

The interview went really well, and I tried to include Roseann, get the perspective of a supporter. At this point I was a bit muddled up ..

Eager to get home and hold my family again

Concerned that the charity numbers weren’t better

Second-guessing what I should be doing to not just improve the charity outcome, but any good resulting from my Quest.

It’s strange, I had the sensation both of wanting to hurry, and also running out of time :/

Recently, I’ve been thinking about re-skilling (a bit late in life) to become a counsellor, and if I do that I’d probably call the business “Gladness Inc” (wellness, counselling, coaching) …

Grief / Loss / Anxiety / Depression

but transformed to

Gratitude / Love / Acceptance / Determination

I kinda like that. I’d learned gratitude, acceptance, even love of others and self during the walk, I have to be very careful not to let those lessons slip away.

Here’s a little mockup I did, if life ever took me down that path.

I do feel, with my close understanding of suffering and sorrow, my empathy, my willingness to put aside ego and pride and establish honest dialogue – I do think I’d make a pretty good counselor.

It feels to me that there’s a bit of a mental health epidemic, especially amongst the young. I certainly noticed the ‘bad vibes’ as I rolled into Melbourne.

Back to Robert Gordon Pottery Barn .. the interview went well, and what do you know, just as we were gathering ourselves for the morning walk, along comes a familiar face, Julie from Orbost (and a new friend whose name I disremember).

A lovely chat and a catchup, and then Roseann and I hit the road.

The broad-brush plan was Dandenong, find a place to sleep somewhere around there, and press into the Melbourne CBD the following day.

I’d be a day early, but I could scout out the south side of the city, and set myself up to stage the final crossing of the Yarra in to Federation Square on the 19th.

Roseann grew up around that Orbost / Cann River area, and we shared life stories. She explained that she had friends currently struggling with late stage cancer, and she saw what I was trying to do and felt it would be a great way to honour them.

It was really good to have the company, it helped pull me back into the moment. In my natural environment, I’m a bit of a larrakin and a joker, but left by myself I turn inward, I over-analyse and over-reflect.

It was an overcast day, but not rainy – quite pleasant for a morning walk & talk.

Roseann hurt her foot a bit as we made it to Berwick, and decided to tag-out, although we would meet again the following morning.

I was sad to see her go, as I pressed forward into Melbourne, I felt this ‘bad vibe’ layered over the complex thoughts & feelings I was having.

It felt to me like the city, just fresh out of a series of draconian lockdowns, rules, increase in robbery, violence, gang activity – it felt to me like the city was suffering from a kind of collective PTSD.

The joyful waving, the hugs, the smiles and cheers from the country towns I’d passed through – there was none of that.

After Roseann left, I witnessed three separate incidents of rage. Two were road based – it was getting toward the afternoon commute, and I saw a man and a woman red-faced and screaming out their car window, in two separate incidents. (Maybe someone cut them off)

The other was a homeless guy, messed up on a substance, walking up and down a set of lights at Dandenong palming change (kinda threatening motorists that he’d key their car) and shouting/spitting if people snubbed him.

(I had to walk directly past him, and when I asked him if he was OK, he looked genuinely shocked, and about faced, walking away with a weird rooster-like stride .. kinda like Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones)

There were high points though, like this young man and his mum. We had a good old roadside chat and a few giggles.

For the most part, though, it was a lonely afternoon, and my mind was allowed free rein to pick up & examine any particular musing that popped in there.

People were writing in pretty regularly, and I was doing my best to respond to everybody, but in some cases the remarks (well meaning) were also quite off-putting.

For example, a lecture against sleeping rough, or even talking about it, because it glorified homelessness or something.

I think the struggle of what I did was important. The heavy pack, the weather, the long walks, the uncertainty of finding a safe/discreet place to sleep. I had thrown myself out into the world, and it was liberating and inspiring to see that for the most part the world still has warmth, kindness. It rekindled the sense of adventure that I’d lost somewhere between childhood and adulthood.

And sharing the adventure, doing it as honestly as I can – I think that had value too.

I think the world .. it’s what we make of it.

The combination of choices that make us who we are – define how we behave and treat others – they also create the tone of our lives. So people who’ve had an easy go of it, they’re more likely to be content, but it’s not deep, it’s not grounded in struggle.

People who’ve known hardship and sorrow, we can learn gratitude, even joy – but our choices have to be pure, righteous, we have to consciously choose to fight the darkness, let go of the bad stuff.

But there’s an alarming tendency (I reckon) in our society to spread it. To shout, to insist you’re the best, you’re right, the person who disagrees is a fool.

I think kindness is the antidote to that.

Light spreads in just the same way (and it’s more natural, genuine and powerful, if we have the courage to let it shine).

Sorry – ramble.

As I got closer to Dandenong, I learned that the ABC wanted to do an interview the following morning (GREAT!) and that a local Scout group wanted me to pop in for a visit so they could do “a presentation”

I was delighted by the first, and intrigued by the second.

The reporter from the ABC had apparently sourced a room, so I didn’t have to hunt around for a hidden place to sleep, so adjusting my pack, I pressed forward.

When I got to the hotel, Jacinta (a local scoutmaster) and her son Kaleb (an accomplished scout) were waiting for me. I hopped in their car and we drove off to Narre Warren South, where a room full of scouts and parents were about to gather to meet me.

The video and photos tell the story, but it was a lovely and surreal end to a mixed-bag day.

I sat in front of this group of people, sharing jokes and stories, doing my best to present the genuine person, not some superhero caricature, so they could understand the messages, the real learnings from the walk.

I think they ‘got it’, and we had a lot of questions, and the group shared how the young scouts had an upcoming hiking badge they were going for (apparently hike 30km or something like that ?!)

The kids all took turns lifting up my pack, which was good for a giggle.

And, to my enduring delight and honour, they presented me with the “Friendship Scarf” and explained it’s history. Apparently it can only be given with the approval of the state commissioner, and it’s all about shared values.

I love it – and it has pride of place in my home.

After the presentation, Jacinta and Kaleb were kind enough to invite me out for dinner. It was great fellowship, and I was really impressed with Kaleb.

I’d met so many young people who resonated with strong values, it was really eye opening and encouraging. Scouts must be a great platform for kids – because Kaleb reminded me quite a bit of Scout Coralie from Ulladulla.

A shared dignity, I think. A respect of self, others, the place you’re in.

It was a joy to meet them, and an honour to get the scarf. Days later, when I crossed into Fed Square, I was surprised and overjoyed to have them walking with me.