Escape route: Melbourne to Wallace (day 1)

Where in Oz: Victoria
When: Monday 18 August, 2014 (day 1)
Distance travelled: 92km
Accommodation: Kim’s parents’ place
Nights stayed: 2
Accommodation cost: $0
Highlight: Kim’s mum’s sensational cooking
Lowlight: saying goodbye, not knowing for how long

When we began plotting our escape in early 2012, we figured we’d need a couple of years to achieve what we aimed to do before hitting the road to travel Australia indefinitely: kit out Saj for long-term travel; choose and purchase our home on the road; pay off our financial commitments so that we would be debt-free; save $25,000 (which seemed perfectly achievable at the time!); research work options and do whatever training/‘upskilling’ might be useful for finding work on the road; and roughly plot what route we’d take. We planned to leave in autumn 2014, before Melbourne’s winter set in, so after relocating from Lancefield to Melbourne in May 2012, we initially chose the date that our lease would end, 18 May, as our departure date. We later changed the date to 31 May, so that Paul could see out the Japanese financial year at Mazda (and receive the annual bonus!), and we’d have a couple of weeks after moving out to shore up the return of our bond and finalise any other financial details. This date also meant that we’d still be leaving Melbourne before the start of winter (albeit only technically speaking!).

Time flew by, and six months out from our planned departure date, it was clear that we couldn’t possibly achieve everything we’d hoped to (particularly on the financial front!). We made the decision to forge ahead as planned regardless, and started to plot our route in earnest. At that point, our only ‘imperative’ was to be in Exmouth (WA) for the 2015 whale-shark-swim season (April to July), to achieve one of Kim’s ‘bucket list’ items just a few months after celebrating her half-century, so we mapped out a few options that would fit with this plan. Figuring that once we crossed the country to WA it would be a long time until we were back in the eastern states, Paul favoured going directly to far-north Queensland first, to ‘do the Cape’, then across the top via the Savannah Way (another ‘bucket list’ item, and the route that originally inspired our escape). It was decided; and we could finally start to respond to the often-asked question ‘Where are you going first?’ with ‘Cape York’, which sounded very exciting and adventurous indeed!

By late March 2014, when we learned that Paul required an operation that would see him laid up for several weeks, we knew, and had more or less accepted (as we didn’t really have a choice!) that we would be enduring another Melbourne winter before making our escape. However, it wasn’t until Paul had undergone surgery and was recovering well that we felt confident of committing to a new departure date. We definitely wanted to have left Melbourne (if not Victoria altogether) by Paul’s birthday in late August, but had become a little wary of fixing on a date, lest the Universe throw us another curveball! During the course of a weekend away, our very dear friends Brett and Lauren had mentioned that they were planning a trip to Japan in August; figuring that was as good a time as any to start our travels, we suggested that we could house-/dog-sit for them while they were away. They agreed; we were committed to our first house-sit, and would depart Melbourne on Monday 18 August. Allowing for a week between finishing work and starting our house-sit in regional Victoria, we planned a relaxing last weekend in Melbourne, with farewell drinks and plenty of recovery time, then a couple of days at Kim’s parents’ place, where we would also drop off a few boxes of important documents and the like for storage. So our first stop would be the not-so-exciting, nor adventurous, hamlet of Wallace, just 100kms north-west of Melbourne!

Once Paul had recuperated, we could finally throw ourselves into the final stages of packing up our life in Melbourne in readiness for a new life on the road. The final couple of months flew by in a whirlwind of activity: online selling; garage sales; tip runs; delivering items to be stored with family and friends; preparing the car and camper trailer; and getting the house ready for final inspection before handing the keys back. In the end, we simply couldn’t do it all, and left Melbourne exhausted and delirious, though not before a fantastic, fun (and occasionally teary) 13 hours of drinking, eating and saying farewell to friends and family – fittingly, at the place where our relationship had started 10 years and eight months before (Brunswick’s Retreat Hotel).

After arriving at Wallace in the early afternoon of Monday 18 August, we spent the rest of the day in a bit of a daze, drinking and eating (did we mention Kim’s mum’s sensational cooking?), and slowly, slowly, starting to feel the chaos of the past six months subside. Nonetheless, we still had to unpack, sort and repack the car, and sort and scan some important documentation in order to take only electronic copies with us. Happily, though, we also visited our friends Paul and Krissy in Ballarat, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon tea with great conversation and delicious treats. We left Paul and Krissy’s place armed with freshly laid eggs, just-picked kale, and delicious home-made chutney and jam; after having whittled our worldly goods down to very little over the past six months, this bounty of gifted produce gave us a great sense of abundance (thank you, Paul and Krissy)! So by the end of ‘day 2’ of our new life, we had taken a few deep breaths, were feeling a lot less stressed, and could start looking forward to enjoying it…

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