I was actually quite antsy and distracted for those first days of february, because it my middle son (Sullivan) was due to have his birthday, and even knowing it was coming didn’t soften the guilt and sadness of not being there.
I think that distraction fed into a level of stuffuppery or missed-opportunity. Sydney is a major population centre, and I’d really done nothing to pre-empt my arrival there. I was leaning completely on the supporters – just hoping that the MERIT of what I was doing was clear, and that people might share it.
I want to do the walk again. If I can get enough people to subscribe to the facebook page, that support will give me the financial strength I need to try and walk all around Australia – repeat the Brisbane to Melbourne walk, but NOT STOP.
I’m realising that although the BIG WALK fixed me, helped some people, raised some money – I’m not satisfied overall, and the way I handled Sydney and Melbourne are good examples of that.
I was like some crazy hermit who both wants and needs the attention and in the same breathe wants urgently to avoid it and hide from it. Jeez.
So, Sydney, I was a bit of a maniac – hills, rain, traffic – push through it all, old man.
I think there’s a level of spectacle to an old man dressing up like a superhero and walking down the eastern coastline (or all the way around .. the BIG LAP), but I didn’t do enough to take advantage of that for the charity, I reckon. Rolling into Sydney was a tremendous opportunity, and I flubbed it.
I was just too focused on getting through and back into the bush.
But it wasn’t just missed opportunities for the charity, I did meet a few people where the encounters could have been richer and deeper, but my mindset was incomplete/distracted.
Take this bloke, Sydney Steve.
I’d mentioned in a live-stream that, despite walking down some of the most beautiful beach in the world – I hadn’t taken a swim.
I’d offloaded my togs back before the Gold Coast when lightening my gear.
So I was off looking for a laundromat when Steve pulls up and he gave me his togs & a t-shirt. It wasn’t literally “the shirt off his back”, but in a way it was. His clothes, he had a use for them and yet generously, kindly gave them to this old fella. I love that. Thanks Steve.
When I reflect .. you know, have a little chat with my shadow .. I should have just dived into every situation. Steve gives me his togs. Lovely, thank you mate, so much !
“Wanna go for a swim ? Yeah mate, meet you on the beach”
We do an interview there, talk about his life, his learnings, chew the fat a bit. Throw beliefs around, challenge them, sharpen them a little.
And .. whether it’s good/bad/indifferent, I think that act of honest sharing, discovering the people out there and showing the light in them .. I think in some ways it defies the dark shit we are seeing in our day-to-day lives.
This .. encroachment. This ethical decline.
I think if I’d done that better, we could have seen even stronger examples of righteousness out there, and taken strength from that.
People wrote in and talk about the things they got from the BIG WALK, the themes of hope, overcoming sorrow, of trying to be brave, trying to be righteous.
And somehow that becomes about ME.
Just some boofhead trying to do the right thing. But for me the absolutely gorgeous, flat-strap inspiring wonderment I found was the light in the people I met on the road.
If I did anything right, I think it was in learning to receive their kindness.
I suppose the photos tell their own story – you can kinda see that when facing the people, I’m smiling and happy – but when facing the city, I’m grim and serious, almost like it’s a mountain I must climb and get past in order to return to my family.
If someone invites me to lunch, go to lunch. I shared fellowship and joy with people, but I think I was still a bit emotionally constipated, and in too much of a hurry to make distance.
This nice fella invited me home for lunch and to meet the wife, and I still regret not going. (Had a radio interview that afternoon I wanted to be settled beforehand)
Which is ironic, because despite the obsession, I can’t have walked much more than 25km that day.
And it wasn’t all gloom, in fact not at all, that’s my outlook as I look back – that tone of regret.
On the day, I felt a strange mix of emotions.
Elation: I’d made it to Sydney.
Excitement: I was going to meet the team at The Kids’ Cancer Project the following day, and my friend Natasha who’d given support and advice through all the preparation.
Fatigue: all the hills and the rain !
Worry: how much of this was I fucking up ? (sorry for swearing)
Amusement: a giggle was never too far away, I was dressed like a (home-brand-out-of-work) superhero, and mostly enjoying the waves/stares/beeps !
I made a careful point of never planning my route more than a day or so in advance, to keep to the adventure of it.
In north Sydney I found this lovely little walking/bike path that went through a nature strip and got me through a couple of suburbs, but for the most part it was an afternoon of busy roads, rain, hills and cars.
And maybe one or two giggles (take ’em where you find ’em)
But no matter how tired my old feet got, every time I saw the skyline, I was buoyed to keep moving forward.
(Oh, and thank you John Laws, and the person who called in, apparently while I was hoofing it, I got discussed on his iconic radio show, helping with awareness).
I’m still humbled and staggered by the people following who called ahead, making attempts to help get media awareness.
I think as I got into the urban areas, it started to feel a bit distasteful to me. I think the companies and societies we form generally don’t promote the finding, cultivating and sharing of the light that is within us.
Worse, it’s almost as if they foster fear, xenophobia, distrust.
Country towns ? Open curiosity, questions, friendship, if there was distrust it was tempered with a pretty fair, questioning outlook. Urban centres were very different.
Keep your head down. Sideways glances.
I was riding a train yesterday and it was a bit like that. A gaggle of teens were playing loud music and vaping (in a quiet carriage), and it was all heads-down-bums-up-nothing-to-see-here.
I had my little boys with me, so I didn’t say anything either, but alone I probably would have (just sat down next to them, ask maybe if they knew what they were doing bothered others, ask why they didn’t care about that, share my story, get punched in the face).
I think, for the most part, people are worth the risk.
I was really tired by the time I got to Kirribilli, too tired to call Scott Morrison a c**t (as many people had suggested .. and I’m so grateful nobody framed it in a Daily Donor Dare of DooOoooM)
You can see the weariness, but I think some of it came from that fact that my surroundings weren’t nourishing me in the same way that the bush did.
In nature, everything is a spiritual place. There’s holiness in a sunrise and all the metaphors that come with it – hope, a new day.
In the cities, our holy places are mostly .. I don’t know .. not meant disrespectfully .. but .. clubs for people who share the same views ?
If I built a place of worship, the signs would say stuff like “All Welcome” or “Let’s find our path together”, a place for sharing, debate, discovery. But even the places I passed that were outright meant for spiritual nourishment seemed a bit bleak in tone.
Make amends. God is watching you. Act before it’s too late. That kinda stuff.
Sorry, I get it that religion, like politics is a dangerous subject – but one of the ethics I chose for myself in the big walk was to always try and ‘talk true’. That doesn’t mean be harsh or cruel .. just do your best to be honest wherever you possibly can.
And the BIG WALK was, very much, a spiritual quest. It was about hope, healing, rebuilding a broken life.
That simple human journey of self refinement. I know it’s silly in the context of a superhero, but it’s a path that we all (I hope) ultimately share – finding ways to get BETTER.
And I met so many people who guided me in that path, gave me fine examples to model after.
Sadly, I just didnt navigate to many of them in the capital cities.
Not to worry though, I hold more hope for us (humanity collectively I mean) now than I did before, now that I’ve seen concrete examples of how we can lift each other up.
When I made it to Glenferry Lodge – a place in Kirribilli who had offered a safe, warm place to sleep, I was tired and ready to collapse into slumber. But I heard from a friend (Barry, who made the BIG WALK logo – and yes, this Barry is REAL) (haha, that sounds so weird) .. me and Barry, we went to the pub!
I once beat this guy (an Irishman!) in an ill-advised drinking competition years ago. Lovely bloke, enjoyed catching up. Back at the lodge, I did my best to spruik the harbour bridge crossing the following day, and then had a good, long, deep sleep.
I’ll tell you though – part of me craves challenge, and I was a little bit looking forward to finding places to rough sleep in Sydney and Melbourne, but as fate would have it, your kindness intercepted me, and wouldn’t allow it to happen, for fear of being robbed or knifed, I suppose.
Me ? I refuse to allow fear to limit my experiences. I’ve had my belly-full of that with the cancer, it’s time to move on 🙂