Blog 14: Australian Capital Territory & New South Wales - Canberra to Tuncurry
Beach and sunshine again - hooray!
It is strange, but after having so many rapid commitments of places to be at particular times, this week has felt like we are really 'back to it,' on the road with less time pressure and more freedom to make-it-up-as-we-go-along. We have done some great stuff over the past couple of weeks of scheduled things, but it really nice to have more freedom again.
This week, on Foraging for Vegan Treats:
After our last post we got to go and have a very nice vegan dinner out with Ewen and Dee. The food wasn't as mind blowingly amazing as we remember from our first visit about four years ago, but it was good. Probably because we have a more diverse array of vegan food experiences as a reference.
Monday morning we made our way to the Australian War Memorial. Words can't really do the experience justice, but I will try. Humans are really stupid. Really really really, tragically, heart breakingly stupid. Some other group of humans has a different skin colour, language, culture, belief system, in-group or (natural resource rich) geographic location and groups of us decide they should die. The Australian War Memorial is a solemn and appropriate shrine to the victims of this stupidity. Both perpetrators and respondents, those who have no honourable recourse but to meet force with force, violence with violence, venom with venom, for the sake of those us who do not.
Australia is a lucky country. Yes there are many social issues here around indigenous inequality and persecution, domestic violence, homelessness and housing affordability. But on balance, most people have it very good, most of the time. One of the reasons for our quality lifestyle is that women and men of our nation will hazard their lives in defence of this lifestyle on our behalf. These women and men deserve our thanks and respect. Not all of them come home. The Australian War Memorial is also a fitting memorial to those who take these risks on our behalf. The tomb of the unknown soldier was especially moving, and beautiful all at the same time - one body found that represents the many who couldn't be found. There is no glory in war, only the sadness of loss for anyone involved.
Go and have a cup of tea, relax a little, maybe spend some time reflecting on the nature of military service and come back and read on in a little while.
In the afternoon, we went over to check out the National Portrait Gallery. Australians from all walks of life who have contributed in some significant way to our national story and identity can be found here. Some are famous. Some are people who quietly achieved an extraordinary scientific discovery, without much fanfare. Or lead a life of service to their community, outside the spotlight of media recognition. Some are infamous in their fame. Deborah Mailman hangs next to Archie Roach and Paul Kelly. A much younger Bob Brown is a living saint defending the Tasmanian wilderness. Princess Mary is regal, elegant, refined and larger-than-life. A much younger Margaret Court is a tennis superstar and national heroine. Ian Thorpe as Venom from Spiderman. The stories are as interesting as the images of the people. The cafe also had a tasty vegan tart. Well worth a visit.
Tuesday morning, Gary the Land Rover got his first wash since we left Perth. He also got some stylish new door magnets advertising this travel blog. He is now more cream (Chawton White) than grey. So of course it rained on the drive to Sydney.
We found our lodging for the next couple of nights. Smokers alley in permanent residentsville in a Caravan Park. Good enough for two nights. Close to the train station into town at least.
We ended up catching a bus into Newtown, having a couple of cheeky drinks and then eating dinner at the all-vegan 'fish' and chip shop, Bliss & Chips. Super delicious, probably not very healthy. The lady who was running the show was delightfully friendly.
Full of vegan deep fried goodness, we waddled over to the iconic Enmore Theatre to see a show: 'The Minimalists.' Here are some thoughts from each of us on the experience. We wrote these thoughts separately without reading the others first.
For me Minimalism is about having less things to allow you to live a fuller life. Having a smaller selection of things means less time spent choosing, agonising which is the best thing to use/wear. It is about having items that you love and value that are of good quality (not quantity), that you use often. I don't believe in saving the good china for a special day, use it every day, as long as it brings you joy! The belongings you have are just things to be used, they should have a purpose or function. I'm a believer in this quote "the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it". The things you buy directly equate to your time. Money in money out. Would you rather work less, and have less stuff? Stuff and money does not equal happiness. Society and social media constantly tells you you need more, the latest version, the newest fashionable item. If you don't have it you're not good enough, cool enough, fit enough, sexy enough. Constant comparison and millions of options leads to spending and buying in an attempt to satisfy the gaps in self worth. This only results in too many choices, feeling overwhelmed and still not feeling complete. It also has a huge impact on the environment - all the stuff people throw away, single use fashion, electronics, homewares. I'm a firm believer in second hand goods, buying things of quality, things that are ethically made, locally made (to benefit my community and minimise the impact of the distance travelled), and have a purpose.
I get overwhelmed if I go to a shopping centre (mall for our North American readers) unless I'm on my "A game" with purposeful plan. Too much choice. Too many options. Bright lights, colours, noise. What if I don't choose the right one? Have I done enough research? But it costs too much. Should I try another shop? What if it's sold out by the time I decide? What if I like the white one better? I know it is best for me to avoid these places to reduce stress :).
When we packed up our house and it's contents it was clear we had too much 'stuff'. A lot was given to the charity shops, given away on the facebook page 'buy nothing' for our community to re-use or sold on 'gumtree'. Living out of our car now life is easier. Things I thought I'd want like jewellery and nice-ish shoes really aren't necessary. I want to feel comfortable so I wear what the activity we do requires I wear (mostly 'active wear'). I probably still have too much clothing with me... Being on a strict budget and having limited space really helps to avoid buying unnecessary things. We also learnt this whilst saving for the wedding and honeymoon. I'd rather spend our hard earned money on an experience than an expensive pair of sneakers. We've had the luxury of time and distance to contemplate what our 'dream home' would look like.
After hearing "The Minimalists" talk at the Enmore Theatre in Newtown, Sydney, I had a few impressions. They're good salesmen. They both had difficult childhoods which led them to aspire to make lots of money to achieve the western (American) definition of 'success'. They both realised money and possessions don't buy happiness. That connection, relationships and stillness bring joy. What I didn't gain from their talk was the 'how' to become a 'minimalist' or about the pressures society puts on us to buy. Admittedly this was a talk that went for 60-90 minutes so cramming it all in was tough. I read their book a while ago, and I don't recall much from it - whoops! They do have a podcast that I haven't listened to (still figuring out how to use the podcast app on my phone, and stay within my data limit) so they may cover this stuff there.
Some of their famous (pithy) quotes, that I enjoy:
"Love people, use things. The opposite never works."
"Our memories are not in our things. Our memories are in us."
"Consumption isn't the problem; compulsory consumption (consumerism) is the problem."
The show was interesting but not ground breaking for me. I'm not anywhere near 'mastering' this thing called Minimalism. I'm far from being an expert, I've not read that much about it, but I have tried to put my thoughts about it into action. I do love the concept. Less is more. Less is now. Less.
What I knew about minimalism before the show in a nutshell: Minimalism is about having less stuff so that you are less distracted from the important things in life. The micro-economist in me says it is also about maximising the utility of the goods you own - if you ain't using it, sell it or give it to someone else who can.
The show started with the building up, vaguely folk-hipster soundtrack leading into the applause as our two stars took the stage. 'Imagine your life in one year, two years, five years.' 'How might your life be better with less?' I turned introspective. This certainly felt like the beginning of a religious revival. I also had flashes of Jim Carrey in 'Yes Man' making a covenant. Great film. My personal stance is that (generally) organised religion (sometimes called a 'cult' if they don't have a very large membership base) is a tool used by the empowered to manipulate the disempowered into social/cultural compliance. I had to examine these thoughts carefully - I sort or arrived at: Religion doesn't have a monopoly on the way humans relate to ideologies. Even secular ethical belief systems can inspire the inner fire that a sense of belonging to a shared faith gives theists. Most people want to believe in something - why not minimalism?
My critical brain followed the stories of our two speakers. Fits the self help book sales mould: Hard childhood, check. Professionally successful in spite of life challenges, check. Became wealthy but miserable/unfulfilled, check. Significant life event that made them really look hard at their situation, check. Found a belief system that bought true meaning to their lives, check. Blogged, podcasted and shared their experience into a worldwide phenomenon, check.
Ruth has their book on kindle. We didn't buy one of the hundreds of copies from the boxes in the show lobby (that even came with a brown paper bag to wrap it in, so, you know, you can protect it from use). The waste averse environmentalist in me cringed very hard. The crowd seemed to be mostly a mix of devout faithful adherents, fervent in their zeal to listen to their idols (only exaggerating a little bit) and curious peer/family hangers on who wanted to find out just what this whole minimalism thing was about.
The part where members of the audience got to ask questions was almost painful. Instead of considered questions about practical applications of the minimalist philosophy, it was mostly a chance for true believers to seek a cathartic endorsement and validation from their idols. At this point I do applaud the speakers for being careful about dispensing psychological advice when they are not trained pyschotherapists. It was really one of those biting-your-fist-in-your-mouth cringe moments. Perhaps a producer can screen the questions beforehand for their future shows?
I wanted to jump up there and yell at the crowd. Wake up dumbasses! This isn't a religion. It is a practical ethical decision structure for dealing with the consumerist nature of our modern (western) world. STOP HOLDING ON SO SERIOUSLY. Ungh. Reflecting on the things you believe in, the values you adhere to and being open to the concept of having your mind and beliefs changed about a thing is something I am very passionate about. Not seeking validation for your decisions from another human (or imaginary omniscient authority figure), but, instead, being comfortable within your own skin about the choices you have made in your life. Self acceptance. At least, I will continue to be passionate about these things until someone convinces me otherwise.
There was no talk about children being bombarded with advertising messages that they need products and toys to be happy and cool. There was no dissection of the concept of gift giving at Christmas and Birthdays (and just because) as the socially endorsed correct way of showing your love or affection for someone. The impact on the environment of our consumerist choices. The carrying capacity of planet earth. Newer, better, faster, more efficient, shinier. Your loud, worked, fuel guzzling V8 with the 3 inch exhaust does, in fact, make your penis seem bigger to girls on the side walk. Having more and better stuff than your peers/rivals bings you happiness, right? Right? Wrong.
They did actually get that last one. Maybe if I listened to some of their podcasts it would cover these concepts in more detail. Maybe somewhere on the highway in the next week or three Ruth and I will. Or not, I think she has a pretty good handle on their work and we talk enough about how the ideas of minimalism can/should/do/don't/will apply in our life together that I am content.
If nothing else the show was good for making me think about the stuff above. I will freely admit that a young and gullible Adam dabbled in Christianity and Amway. Perhaps as we get older we do accumulate some wisdom to go with our knowledge.
That is it for the reviews of The Minimalists, back to our regular programming.
The next day we decided to catch the ferry out to Manly for a wander around. Ruth picked up a very cute new swimming costume (Ahem: she needed a one piece for certain up and coming water sports. A bikini will not do) and we had some not-particularly-satisfying, kinda bland vegan hotdogs, and quite-satisfying, delicious and flavoursome vegan icecream by the water before enjoying a couple of beverages at a local craft brewery. Back on the ferry and it was off for some dinner hangouts with Alex, Sara, Talon and Cousin Joel. We had a great time with the Davies cousins and look forward to our next catch up.
Thursday it was time to skip town and get back to somewhere more sparsely populated. A long drive through Sydney exurbia eventually took us northwards to Gosford, lunch on a picnic blanket by the beach in Terrigal and a two night stay in between two lakes and an ocean in Budgewoi. It felt so good to be surrounded by trees and space again.
Friday morning saw us wander through some local bushland to the beach, via geocache number twenty. A very cleverly constructed puzzle container that was fun to find and log. We ended up wandering around a small island in a lake over a footbridge, before running away from the mosquitoes back to camp, via a very cool geometric climbing playground thing. Ruth finished off her previously mentioned special secret project: crochet lion beanie.
Yesterday (Saturday) we broke camp early to head into Newcastle. We stumbled upon some local craft markets by accident with a very rad guitarist (and passable singer) doing John Butler covers. We did manage to escape without buying anything - its nice to admire other peoples craft. After a picnic lunch we popped down the road to give blood (not everyone can, so if you are over 50 kg, haven't had a tattoo in the last four months and feel well and healthy - do it!) on our way through town.
One of the phlebotomists at the Red Cross centre had been vegan for six years and pointed us to an awesome vegan place in Minmi for a very late second lunch / early dinner. Her haemoglobin levels rose when she went vegan! It happened to be the cafes second birthday, so they had all kinds of celebratory stuff going on. Serendipity rocks!
A bit weary, but with content stomachs, we made our way here to Tuncurry for some beach side relaxing.
This morning we checked out a nice little sheltered beach, just near where we are staying. It deserves a swim this afternoon (still Sunday today right? ;)).
Oh look, a photo from the future: Afternoon watermelon by the beach.
Well there it is, one of our longest ever posts. At two thousand five hundred and fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four words. And counting.
Be safe, travel well and question what you believe.
All of our Love,
Adam and Ruth