As an inexperienced traveler, joining up with two crazy men driving around the world is like diving in head first. It seems that in this kind of environment where places come and go so fast, there is almost no time to think about how the traveling is effecting you. After checking back into a clean air conditioned hostel in Darwin fresh out of the outback, I had a moment to think and some of the effects of this journey became clear.
Back home in beautiful Denver Colorado every night I fall soundly asleep in a bed of crisp white sheets with a ridiculous thread count. There are more than eight pillows of varying firmness, an egg crate, feather bed and a big soft down comforter. Cleaning is a part of the everyday routine of life in my single apartment, no dust bunnies allowed. This little piece of heaven that is home has taken many years to perfect. Before joining the World by Road I made the decision to keep this apartment as home. Knowing that this cozy space would be waiting for me when I returned was very important for my sanity… My how things can change.
There were many reasons to join this wild road trip, but one of the biggest was to experience something new-something beyond cozy white sheets. The east coast of Australia is not much different from the standards I held back in Colorado. We stayed in posh rooms set to an American standard of luxury. When camping, the grounds were organized with showers and lights. However, the day the trucks turned into the outback it was clear we were driving away from the clean, tourist oriented and expensive coast of Australia toward a whole new kind of envoirnment.
The second night in the outback changed my life forever. The team ended up in a town called Middleton after the sun had gone down. This "town" consisted of one house. This house is a home, a pub, a truck stop, and a gas station. The family that lives in this multi purpose seemingly run down building shares their space with more bugs than I have ever seen in one place. The lights of the porch illuminated spider webs as high as the roof full of crickets, mozzies, flies and many other insects I can’t even classify. Turning the corner of the house in route to the ladies "bathroom", I had to stop and catch my breath. The little outdoor bathroom was best described by Jimmy as walking into the movie Arachinphobia. At this point, my very first panic attack seemed immenent and I decided it best to go back into the house and have a beer. Walking back inside I heard the words Hilton. What!? The friendly looking old man behind the dirty counter informed me it was across the street. Relieved I headed outside and soon found that my idea of a Hilton was much different than what lay in front of me. As I walked back inside the crew was laughing at my haste to go visit the hotel. The Hilton was actually a wide open dirt field next to where the cattle are kept. It had a proper sign nailed to a barn that was open on all sides and covered in hay.
The team began to set up the tents in the vast open darkness, where only small patch of the red soil was illuminated by the headlights of the trucks. I pulled out the pillows from the back of the car, opened my sleeping bag, 3 inch thick sleeping pads, and all of the cozy pieces of camping gear I could find. While I was making the bed, which is far too comfortable to find in a tent, it occurred to me that this tent set in a beautiful field of red dirt was better than any Hilton. Instead of finding comfort in silly expensive sheets, I find the same feeling when I zip up the door and keep all the bugs out of my bed. I get to wake up every morning and look outside to find myself in a new and beautiful place.
Waking up to the Australian outback is an experience few are privileged to have, and I will never forget. The scary little house of spiders was much different that morning. The red dirt was rich in the sun light and it was apparent that the little old white house I feared the night before was well loved and full of history.
I often wonder what it must be like for the Steves to have no home. When I would talk with them about the trip before this all began, the idea of being on the road for two years seemed so rootless. The idea of fitting all the things you need into the bed of a truck sounded like crazy talk. That night in Middleton showed me that they have a home here. Their tent is their room, they are their own little family, and the world is their apartment.
I have heard so many people talk about the value of traveling. Before joining this expedition, I equated traveling to vacationing. What I realize now is if you get out there into the world and stay in a clean white bed like you left at home, there is no challenge. If I wasn’t in a tent that night in the middle of that dusty vast, next to a corral, knee deep in spider city I may never have been enlightened to the difference. When I return home I will not pitch a tent in the middle of my apartment as a physical protest to my bed. Instead, I will crawl into my clean white sheets with a new appreciation for home and fall asleep constructing imaginary routes of where I plan to travel next.