Day Seventy Eight (13 March)

When I fell asleep the night before, I’d expected to be disturbed in the night, or to have scary dreams, I was honestly a little rattled by the strange sounds I recorded.

With all the lights out upstairs, the old, narrow hallways were completely dark – so in the middle of the night when I briefly woke needing to wee, I actually used an empty bottle rather than dare the darkened halls. Some superhero, eh ?

Thing is, except for the brief half-waking thanks to a full bladder, I slept peacefully and dreamlessly, and woke a little after sunrise, ready for another day on the road.

The hotel was locked up tight, so I had to use the upstairs fire escape to exit (per Cameron’s instructions the day before), and make my way across the rooftop and down to the street below.

First order of business was to tick off a DAILY DONOR DARE OF DOOooOOOM that I’d received, and it was a dodgy one “Dance for five minutes with no music”

I felt the spirit of the dare was to do it in public, and without explaining myself, so I headed for a statue in the middle of town.

As you can see, it was a bloody mess, haha. But as with anything else, I just did my best and kept moving forward. As I finished the dare, I was overjoyed to meet up with Kelly, who I’d met the day before outside Moe, and learn she wanted to walk with me as far as Warragul (about 20km away).

The morning walk stretched out over 5 hours, with a couple of little breaks. It was great to share the road with Kelly, she had a very matter-of-fact-Sage way about her, like a kind of every-day guru.

The country around Trafalgar is quite lovely too, long, sprawling cattle paddocks set against a backdrop of low bushland hills.

It’d be nice to go ranging cross-country, but I was just a bit too eager to get the walk done, to get home, to hug my family again.

I was finding this lovely low-key shared inspiration in what I was doing. It was a big effort for an old fella, but it wasn’t so much about that, there was no taste of “look at me ! look at what I did !”

I think it was the embracing of adventure, the sharing of it, the people and the places, the beauty in both.

And I guess the underlying statement – it doesn’t matter how old you are, how lost of broken, you can find your feed again.

You can find ways to lift yourself up .. and in so doing, even help others.

Kindness is the antidote to sorrow.

These themes were woven through the walk, through the places I went and the people that I met. People like Peter and his wife, pictured here, and their son (who came to see me at Federation Square, but we’ll get to that later)

I was able to talk about these kind of things with Kelly as we walked, the things that we’d learned in our lives, the way in which we used them to frame a hopeful future.

I wish you well, Kelly, thanks for sharing the road with me.

It really was a pretty chill and uneventful day.

Pleasant weather, pleasant company, not much in the way of interruption. Some days, I couldn’t walk more than a couple of hundred meters between stopping, having a grin and a chat .. some times there would even be a few cars in a row, people lining up to grab a selfie with the old goofball. (I loved that)

But Day 78 was very chill, a long, slow, pleasant walk, stretched out over about five hours, ending up in Warragul.

On the outskirts of town, I learned that a local radio personality (Deaksy) had lined up a room at the Mercure Hotel.

Fancy fancy !

In those last two weeks into Melbourne, I’d only had to sleep rough once or twice. It was great being able to do laundry, wash myself and keep my gadgets charged up, but I also felt a little as though I was surrendering part of the wildness of the Quest, the danger of it. The alone part.

I’ve always struggled to accept kindness in my life, but I realised that was something we were creating together.

Whether you’re the recipient or the giver, kindness elevates us. As long as it’s genuine, as long as it’s meant in a pure way — not just some kind of ethical stipend, know what I mean ?

Sometimes an act of kindness can be contrived, or to signal our virtue to others, but sometimes it’s just pure, completely pure, and that’s when it’s most beautiful – and it’s a circle we create together.

But you know what ? Even the on-the-hook type of kindness, or the virtue-signalling type .. it’s still bloody kindness mate, and I credit it.

Once I was settled into the luxurious rooms and had some laundry going, the best part was that I could meet up with a series of local people who had written to me wanting to sit down and talk…

… not superhero selfies, but actual proper talk.

I met a series of people whose lives had been touched by grief and sorrow. I think by sharing stories, practical advice, no false platitudes, but with a mutual understanding of suffering, having been through it first-hand … I think those discussions really helped. (The people .. and ME)

If I were better at this stuff, I probably could have collected and shared those stories, framed them in a way to illustrate the dignity, the grave strength it takes to move forward after life’s harshest blows.

Not just to celebrate the people and the light inside them .. but to show it can be done.

We don’t have to submit to the darkness, the anxiety or depression or grief and sorrow. We can attack it, push into it .. and through it.

We get to come back, be viable again.

Slept wonderfully, safe and warm despite the heavy thunderstorm that hit the area.