This is what it looks like when you set off across the Nullarbor in a crappy old 1988 Toyota Hiace van. There is virtually no cell reception and hardly any people at all for like the next 1500KM. Photo taken on Highway 1 at 32°2’52″ S 122°57’10″ E in Western Australia. January 5th 2011. View on Flickr, Photo.Duncan.co, Imgur, or download the full resolution version.
Sunset at Uluru/Ayers Rock
Dorothy and I just finished an ~35,000KM+ 11 month trip around Australia.
We drove the entire way around Australia and right across the middle of the outback. As a Canadian I’ve found that Australia is a land of remarkable polarities and extremes.
Upon arrival in Sydney we purchased a 1988 Toyota Hiace Van. She came with everything including camping gear, fishing gear, cooking gear, a queen size bed etc etc. You name it, she had it, including giant blue hippie flowers on the side! We bought the entire setup for only $4600 AUD.
We chose the Hiace because they’re the most common and reliable vans on the road in Australia. And she didn’t let us down even with all the abuse we put her through including off-roading, driving on beaches, the salt water/air, and the most extreme heat. She only broke down once and we just had to replace a cheap little part on the contact points. Other than that she went and went and went some more. Other backpacker vans we’re left on the side of the road to die but not our van. Her name was (and still is) Gerty. We just sold her the other day for the same amount we paid for her.
Australia has the most remarkable culture. An interesting oddity of their culture is that Aussies seem to have a somewhat affectionate animosity toward people in Australia. “Oh they’re from so and so that place sucks…” Or the “heat has gotten to their heads” or it’s “just sand there”, or “those damn city people.” I even heard one guy say they should burn Melbourne to the ground. I couldn’t imagine saying that about any city in Canada. It’s sort of shocking because many times there is downright disdain for people from other geographic regions within the same country. Most of the time it’s just lighthearted but it’s certainly odd.
Speaking of geography, boy do the Aussies know their local physical geography. Talk to an Aussie and within two minutes he’ll be drawing you what’s known as a “mud map” on the ground or in the sand. They’ll tell you how to get to place down the the tree by the river or whatever. It’s awesome because most of the time we lose track of what they’re talking about in the first few seconds but we always just let them go out of the sheer entertainment value. Watching an Aussie draw you a “mud map” is quite a treat but I think I’ll stick with Google Maps and my GPS! They’re so connected to the land, so present.
Something else I now know is just how geographically vast Australia is. If you haven’t driven around Australia you have no idea how big it is either, you just don’t. The guys who are cycling or walking around the nation would say the same to me though. Driving it is the lazy way! Australia is absolutely staggering in size. There is something like 60 000 KMs+ of coastline alone. If you overlay Australia over the united states it covers the entire thing easily, well except for Alaska…
Sometimes you’d swear Australians don’t even speak English. Dorothy and I would often get left behind in conversation when locals would speak to one another. Dor and I would look at each other and shrug our shoulders. We have no idea what these people are saying and they’re supposed to be speaking our language! It’s awesome. They have entire books full of Australianisms that you can use to decode what they’re saying if you’re so inclined. To make matters more confusing the slang varies wildly from place to place but that’s all part of the fun. Dorothy and I just tried to learn as many of the sayings as possible.
You get the feeling that around every corner there is a guy with a Landcruiser who is just itching to use his winch to save someone who is “bogged”. And boy do these guys know their off-roading. Our friend Rex once did the Canning Stock Route which is like 1900 KMs+ of off-roading through the most remote part of Australia with no gas stations or any support at all. Oh and he did it alone with no sat phone or EPIRB. Kind of crazy if you ask me but certainly extreme!
Another friend we met named Pete road a horse across Australia from East coast to West coast. Take a look at a map of Australia to scale and you’ll know how mission impossible that is. He almost died of dehydration doing it. He did it to raise awareness for sexual abuse and he’s a freakin champ! Good on ya mate!
Some Aussies can be so entirely full on awesome and yet others are well just flat out lazy. There just isn’t much middle of the road. They’re flat out intense or flat out um, not intense. I’m getting tired and this is way too long… Bear with me…
Take some of our other friends who’d regularly polish off about 15 stubbies (beers) between the two of them every weeknight. That and the smoking certainly made for a very unhealthy lifestyle but that’s just who they are. Who am I to judge when they’re ‘happy as’?! In Australia you don’t have to finish your comparisons, you just say that person is “lazy as” or it’s “hot as”!
Another ‘extreme’ example was an Aussie friend of ours who casually mentioned he’d go for a bike ride. Many hours and 120 kilometers of peddling later he returned. Did I mention he’s over 60? As I said the Aussies are FULL ON! They make us Canadians seem positively docile.
It’s not all puppy dogs and ice cream though, Australia can be downright backward in some places. There is almost no “design thinking” in many parts of the country. To make an awkwardly forced comparison, Switzerland is like Apple products of the world, you’re constantly impressed by their incredibly elegant designs. Things run like clockwork, Swiss clockwork if you will. You’ll find yourself thinking ‘wow someone really spent some time on that’ more often than not. The story is quite different in Australia where you’re more likely to be frustrated by something poorly designed. This is the case from the simplest things like public toilets all the way up to major infrastructure.
For example who thought it would be a good idea to build roundabouts on freeways? They’re called overpasses (or underpasses)! You’re clickin along on the highway and all of a sudden there are roundabouts!? You often have come to a complete stop. One area had 17 roundabouts in a row! To be fair there are no good beaches in Switzerland. Why spend time crafting the perfect design solution when you could be surfing or fishing with your friends like many people do in Australia? They’re not behind, they just have it so good they don’t care.
This may very well be an actual problem for Australia. They have it too good! I wonder if they’ll fall behind other nations because they’re just having too much fun? They don’t have that hustle that you see in other countries. That fire. Once the exports to China are run out, what then?! Or maybe they just have a better work/play balance than we do in Canada and the United States. That lack of design thinking is totally irrelevant if you’re camping or surfing. So who has their priorities right? Only someone like me who has been thoroughly indoctrinated into the protestant work ethic of American culture would even care about any of that at all but I digress.
Where I come from it’s totally normal to go to a cafe and spend a couple hours reading, or having a conversation with a friend on a weekend. Not so in Australia. You get your coffee and you go do something else. Coffee is not thing like it is where I come from. Not to mention good coffee is few and far between in many parts of Australia. There are some fantastic coffee places in the major cities but leave town a the quality goes downhill fast. When you come from the Pacific Northwest of North America like us, you get spoiled with great coffee. The fact that we we’re in Italy and France before Australia didn’t help either. Our standards we’re pretty high…
The climate of Australia is also quite something. In some places the climate is quite volatile and it influences everything. Serious flooding occurs practically every year in the North during the rainy season. There is so much flooding up north during the rainy season that most guys’ vehicles have snorkles on them so water doesn’t flow into their air intake. There are often depth indicators in the highways to denote how deep the water is flowing over the highway during floods. We have seen indicators that go up to 4 meters! Imagine 4 meter deep water flowing over a national highway…
You can literally follow the summer around inside the country and that’s just what we did. We weren’t alone either. There is an entire group of people called the “grey nomads” who drive around the county following good weather and staying at their favorite spots. They have reunions with friends all over and seem to have a really fun lifestyle. It is a great lifestyle because we just did the same thing, the same thing minus the flash landcruiser, the massive caravan, and the grey hair.
Australians are the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. One evening Dorothy and I found ourselves at a rest area on the side of the highway hundreds of kilometers from anything. We we’re done driving and decided to just stay there overnight. (rest areas in Australia are often more like campsites than the drug and prostitute ridden rest areas of north America). A guy rocked up and we got to chatting. We casually mentioned our electrical problem with an auxiliary battery. Before you could say kookaburra he was in our van fixing it. When he was done he said “let’s have a roast” and walked off. We looked at each other as if to say “is this guy for real”? He then proceeded to literally cook us a roast with potatoes, veggies and everything. He had known us for less than ten minutes. This happened to us a few times so there is statistical validity to this claim! Thank you Bendigo Chris!
Many Australians have this personal charm that is seriously laid back and disarming. Strangers coming up and talking to us at length for no apparent reason often sketched us out. We probably weren’t that receptive at first because as “city slickers” we had defense mechanisms in place to avoid the “crazies” of the world that would come up to you and just have a conversation. Pretty sad that big cities do that to you eh?!
I’d love to go on and on about Australia but suffice it to say if you haven’t been you should go. I will remember our adventure in Australia for the rest of my life and we will certainly be going back to Australia in the future.
Thank you to all our friends who invited us “call in” to see them. Thank you to all the drivers who put up with our slow van. Most importantly thank you to Marie, Ken, Pete, Michelle, Rex, Craig, Lisa, Chris, Phil, Trish, John, Shirley, Steve, Di, Tony, and everyone else for your friendship, your hospitality, and all the adventures!
Thank You Australia
My Garmin Forerunner GPS watch tells me we’re doing 52.4 kilometers per hour on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry en route to Tasmania. Life is good and I’m really enjoying the adventure. I fire up Hootsuite to tell people I feel good about helping save a young girl’s life a few days earlier. I brag about how I helped in saving her life. I thought I was “all that” for helping out… Then I started searching the web to try to contact her and, um, well let’s go back to the start:
We we’re at a beach in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere called Port Broughton. It was “hot as” as they say here in Australia so we wanted to go for a swim. Just as I reached the water I see two women yelling at me from a floating platform about 100 meters out in to the ocean in waist deep water. They we’re hysterically screaming “call an ambulance”.
Like an idiot I yell back “I have no phone?!”. It wasn’t the time or the place to explain I was a traveler and I use Skype for voice communication… Luckily someone had a phone and was already calling an ambulance.
I raced out to the platform as fast as I could throwing my frogskins on the beach. I don’t know why I did this but you don’t think straight in a panic. (The sunglasses broke…)
There were two panicked ladies trying to resuscitate a non breathing and very purple young girl. Her name was Hayley and she looked like a healthy young girl except that she wasn’t breathing. Hayley’s friend said she was just lying on the platform tanning and then she stopped breathing. (Hayley had a heart surgery before so this is probably why this happened)
She had some nasty vomit (or fluid or something) blocking her airway so I took it out. She was totally unresponsive, didn’t appear to be breathing, and purple at this time. We made sure her airway was clear and tried to get some air into her lungs. I was positively freaking out on the inside but trying to remain calm on the outside. Little kids screaming, crying teenagers, and adults yelling made for all out chaos.
Before I knew it there was a whole group of genuinely freaked out men and women on the little floating platform. So many that it was almost tipping over. People we’re literally falling over themselves in sheer panic trying to help this little angel. Hayley’s mother appeared and was trying to talk to Hayley and help out. Then a man stepped off a tin boat and almost wiped out completely but I caught him. He behaved and sounded like a doctor.
We realized that she’d have to be transferred to shore before the ambulance could do any good. It wasn’t one of those spinal cord injuries or anything like that so we decided to move her. A local man (who later had a fireman’s uniform on) brought his tin boat and we lifted her into the boat. I felt strange physically lifting her because people we’re standing around and they weren’t doing anything. Just staring. Not to mention lifting a little girl who was purple and didn’t seem to be alive was actually quite scary.
Three people continued to perform CPR on Hayley as she was taken ashore in a tin boat. It was quite precarious.
I made it to shore before the boat did so another bystander and I lifted her out of the boat. We didn’t have anywhere to put her down. There we’re rocks, weeds, and crap everywhere. We first tried to lay her down on a kids inflatable boat but the doctor yelled out “too soft” as he disembarked from the tin boat. Too soft, meaning for the chest compressions of CPR. Someone else grabbed a wooden plank and we laid her down on that. All of that happened in about 4 seconds.
The three gentlemen from the boat continued to perform CPR on her and at this moment the first ambulance arrived. It looked like a volunteer ambulance and the poor folks seemed positively overwhelmed and immediately called for backup. You have to understand we’re in the middle of nowhere and having an ambulance there within minutes was pure good luck because they must have been in the area.
They took out the machine you see in the movies where they “shock” the patient and yell “clear”. Turns out a defibrillator is another thing that is quite terrifying in real life. It’s robotic voice will haunt me. They shocked her several times and her little body twitched violently. The machine would sometimes recommend a shock and sometimes not recommend a shock. I think that meant her heart was starting and stopping. I don’t know, I wasn’t going to ask questions either. Not exactly appropriate.
At this point I felt like a useless person just standing there gawking so I waited on the road and directed the other ambulance and rescue vehicles into the area. It was hard to find the little spot and it turns out they needed some guidance.
After that we just waited, and waited, then waited some more. There wasn’t anything I could do to help. We tried to be respectful and stay well back.
After what seemed like an eternity a helicopter arrived and landed right on the beach. Then they airlifted her out (to Adelaide I think) and people told us that “she’ll be fine”. Everyone seemed to think she would be fine. I thought she would be fine as well because none of the rescue people seemed to be in any kind of a hurry. I thought that meant all was ok.
When she flew off in the helicopter I wasn’t sure what to feel. I was just hoping she’d survive.
Five days later and Dorothy and I are on the ferry to Tasmania and I’m trying to contact her.
“Ladies and gentleman this is your captain speaking. Dolphins have been spotted out the starboard side of the ship. That’s the right side”
We see dolphins playing in the bow wave of the massive ship and at that very moment I find a Facebook page with Hayley’s status and discover she had passed away after five days of fighting for her life in hospital. It was like a kick in the stomach. It was an awful feeling and I had never even met her.
:( :( :( This is me, after reading about her passing. :( :( :(
From all accounts she was a very special young lady. I should also mention that I don’t yet know how she died but it may have been related to a previous heart surgery she had.
There isn’t really much more to say than this. Let’s just be thankful for every single day we have together.
Also, just know that CPR is super important. I could have WAY better prepared for this situation by taking some simple life saving classes. I could hardly remember anything since I last learned CPR when I was about 13 years old. Spend a couple minutes and give yourself a refresher on CPR.
Here is the only photograph I could find of Hayley:
♥ right back at you Hayley. R.I.P
My condolences go to Hayley’s family and friends. I’m sorry we couldn’t do more.
UPDATE: here are some better links and resources regarding CPR:
“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…” – Henry David Thoreau
Last year I wrote a “year in review” style post about the year in my life. I figured I’d keep that going again this year. It’s fun to look back and ahead to the new year.
Dorothy and I have been fortunate enough to have another fantastic year. We’re healthier and happier than ever.
The Start of 2010
We started 2010 living in a chalet in whistler complete with hot tub and BBQ courtesy of VANOC. The first few months of 2010 we’re spent going back and forth between Whistler and Vancouver. We had two AMAZING roommates in Duncan and James. As you can imagine living in a chalet at Whistler was quite a treat and having two great roommates was just bonus! It was a fascinating time up in Whistler. The place was being turned upside down in preparation for the olympics and people we’re partying like crazy.
I can now check off “live in whistler” from my bucket list…
During this time I got to see the Olympic torch go by a few times. I streamed it live on my phone and friends from various places around the world watched from my phone. In fact 2010 was the first time I ever did any live streaming from my phone.
In order to get ready for our big trip I started to pear down on our possessions. Anything we didn’t want to keep was either sold, given away, or tossed out. We’d already been living a minimalist lifestyle but this process still took longer than we’d anticipated. It really is remarkable how much “stuff” works it’s way into our lives. Our goal was to get rid of everything we possibly could. From furniture to to clothes. We we’re left with a few items which we put in storage. Things like our vintage bicycles and photo albums. Things that you can’t really replace.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympics
Before we knew it a little event called the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games took place! Dorothy worked to help put the olympics together so we had “backstage” access to many of the events. We had an official VANOC vehicle with no driving or parking restrictions. Since we we’re at Whistler for part of the games we could actually walk to some of the events. We ran into Buzz Aldrin at men’s super G. I was more excited to see him than to see the skiing… My family also came out to Vancouver to see some of the events so it was really fun.
It was a crazy fun time. We we’re working, partying, enjoying the Olympics, spending time with family, and getting ready to leave town.
The end of the olympics we’re really special for Dorothy and I. It was the most incredible day I’ve ever spent in Vancouver. People we’re lined up at bars all over the city to watch Canada play the United States in Men’s Gold Medal Hockey. After we watched Canada win at a pub I went out into the streets and saw the city literally erupt with joy. Someone was smart enough to record the audio of the city as Canada won. You can watch it (or rather listen to it) below.
There was a massive party in the streets and total strangers we’re hugging and high fiving everywhere. It was amazing and i’ll never forget it. This epic street party lasted all day long, right up until the closing ceremonies.
Being at the closing ceremonies was an incredible experience as well. It was the end of a chapter in our lives. Dorothy had been working day and night for YEARS to help put the olympics together and it all came to a close on that night. It was an emotional and exhilarating time for everyone.
Here are my Vancouver 2010 Olympics photos.
It’s hard to believe that was just the start of 2010 for us.
After the Olympics wrapped up we went on a Round The World trip. #RTWsoon went into #RTWnow mode! (RTWnow is the Twitter hashtag for people who are on Round The World trips and want to share content and experiences with each other.)
On April 1st 2010 we flew to Toronto, dropped off dog with Dorothy’s family and then we flew to Paris. We’ve had an amazing trip that will literally have taken us all the way around the world when we finish.
Abbreviated list of cities we’ve visited in the 2010 calendar year:
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Geelong, VIC, Australia
Adelaide, SA, Australia
Port Augusta, SA, Australia
Cooper Pedy, SA, Australia
Uluru/Ayers Rock, NT, Australia
Alice Springs, NT, Australia
Tenant Creek, NT, Australia
Katherine, NT, Australia
Darwin, NT, Australia
Kununura, WA, Australia
Broome, WA, Australia
80 Mile Beach, WA, Australia
Port Hedland, WA, Australia
Krratha, WA, Australia
Exmouth, WA, Australia
Cape Range, WA, Australia
Coral Bay, WA, Australia
Carnarvon, WA, Australia
Monkey Mia, WA, Australia
Denhim, WA, Australia
Shark Bay, WA, Australia
Point Quobba, WA, Australia
Kalbarri, WA, Australia
Hutt River Province (A ‘sovereign’ area within Australia. We met “Prince” Leonard himself)
Geraldton, WA, Australia
Jurien Bay, WA, Australia
Perth, WA, Australia
Fremantle, WA, Australia
Rockingham, WA, Australia
Bunbury, WA, Australia
Busselton, WA, Australia
Margaret River, WA, Australia
Augusta, WA, Australia
Cape Leeuwin, WA, Australia
Albany, WA, Australia
Esperance, WA, Australia
As I write this we’re at our “secret” spot for Christmas. A friend of ours who has been traveling around Australia for the last 18 years “reckons” it’s his favorite spot in all of Australia. Only the locals even know it exists because it’s way off the beaten track. So we’re very happy to have been invited here. We wouldn’t want to spoil the fun and tell people about this place. It’s quite nice with no tourists here and the fishing is fantastic! Living the beach lifestyle and living off the sea is like a dream.
We still have the entire East Coast of Australia to see including the Great Barrier Reef! We will fly back to Los Angeles on May 1st 2011. About a week later we’ll fly to Vancouver, then Toronto, and finally we’ll be in the 1000 Islands area for part of summer 2011.
This trip has changed my life forever.
I’ve never been more inspired and happy in my life.
My Photography In 2010
Just a quick note on my photography.
I’ve been into digital photography since about 1999 when I bought my first digital camera. I’ve probably taken almost a million photographs by now. Photography is such an important part of my life. In 2010 I really focused on my photography school. I’ve found that helping other people learn photography is really fun.
In 2010 I sold all my Nikon gear (lenses and all) and switched entirely over to Canon. So far I’m happy with Canon but Nikon is still far superior in terms of the ergonomics of the camera itself.
I’m starting to really hate flickr and I’m still looking for a better alternative. I have yet to find a better photo sharing and hosting service. I’ll probably try photoshelter this year.
Speaking of photos… Here are some random photos from this year. I would upload higher resolution versions but we have slow internet here at the moment.
Here are some photos from this year:
Things I Hope To Do In 2011
I stopped doing “new years resolutions” a few years ago. I find new years resolutions to be like “the secret” style thinking where you just think positive thoughts and hopefully something good will happen to you. I believe in taking concrete action towards very specific goals and just making things happen instead of letting things happen to you.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I plan to embark on another epic trip.
I hope to continue traveling whilst working (online) for the foreseeable future. The digital nomad lifestyle is full of adventure and excitement. I’m not keen to stop that anytime soon. Maybe we’ll drive from Alaska to South America in customized Mercedes Sprinter Van? Who knows… As of now there is no plan for fall 2011.
I hope to spend a big chunk of the Canadian summer with my father in the 1000 islands.
I will probably publish the ebooks I’m writing now. Maybe I’ll sell a copy or two. Who knows, I’m just doing it because I enjoy writing anyway. I might just give them away.
I think I’ll stop doing any consulting work for the time being. It’s just not that interesting anymore.
I will dramatically improve my photography school in 2011. I will update the course content, improve the student forum, change the price structure (raise prices), and make it scale a little better. A Chinese outfit is looking to license the course and it’s content so that could work out nicely. We’ll see…
Wrap It Up Already!
I hope you all had a great year and wish you the best in 2011!
Dorothy and I miss you guys.
Here’s to 2011!! Happy New Year everyone!!