We all discover things through experience. Sometimes those discoveries lead to major changes in our life’s direction. Sometimes it is small things that can have significant changes in the way we experience life. And so it was for me….
“Are you aware of the time?” Laura asked gently as I examined the stubble on my chin. Neglecting to shave for a few days sure did make me look older, almost like every picture I had seen on wanted posters!
I quickly made the decision to shave, even though we were on somewhat of a deadline, and time marches on regardless of whether we want it to, or not.
I look at the clock on the wall….8.45am…we still have time.
We had spent the night in a gorgeous little bed and breakfast, tucked away in a back street of Mission Beach. The room was Victorian in design but large with a comfortable king-sized bed and a sitting area. The bathroom belied the Victorian style, being modern and with all the best facilities.
We were both excited for the planned activities of the day, while the aroma of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee beckoned us. Breakfast was a sumptuous affair with fresh fruit (pineapple, banana, passion fruit and more) seducing our taste buds as we enjoyed the solitude and peace.
A solitude that was soon broken with the arrival
of other houseguests, an Italian traveler with her French husband. Over bacon
and eggs, we engaged in the typical sort of small talk that fellow travelers
indulge in whilst on the road.
“Where have you been?”
“What have you seen?”
“Where are you heading next?”
“How long will you be here?”
It had been over a decade since I had visited my home country, Australia. Much had changed, but much had remained the same, and I was interested in how our fellow houseguests thought of Australia.
In response to my question, they smiled and said “ Australia is a beautiful country – so…civilized.” They went on “Great food, very clean, friendly and safe.”
While nodding in agreement, my heart swelled with pride that my home country measured up so well to these seasoned travelers.
After breakfast we checked the time, and quickly took our leave knowing we had only a few minutes to finish packing and make it to the docks to meet our launch.
It was a dreary day, heavy clouds threatening to
send lightning and chaos toward us, with heavy rain and thunderstorms
predicted. Driving toward the dock provided limited opportunity to see the
beach, but the occasional glimpse provided a scene of crashing waves, white-tops
as far as the eye could see and rolling ocean waters.
I looked at Laura “I hope this launch is a
decent size…we are in for a rough crossing”.
The glimpses of ocean I had seen through the thickets of eucalyptus trees, occasional palm trees and thick undergrowth, sent a warning that all who travelled beyond the safety of the shoreline were entering hostile territory. The full might and power of an angry sea was sure to pummel even the hardiest of sailors into submission.
And we were far from being experienced sailors. We knew nothing of the winds and tides that would be our opponents as we made the crossing. Fear of the unknown was magnified by knowledge of the risks. I could feel my sphincter tighten as I realized the enormity of the challenge we faced.
“We are going to need a bigger boat” I quipped,
nervously, as we pulled into the boat ramp and saw the small 24ft outboard
motorboat waiting for us. (Jaws remains one of the best fish stories ever – and
I love to use that line!)
We arrived at the dock right on time at 9:20am
and met our captain, Jason. A tall bronzed Australian, with a strong
accent and typical Australian attitude (“She’ll be right, mate!”). He took our
bags and dropped them into the front of his boat (launch) bobbing up and down
on the water. Of course, the dock was behind a seawall, protecting it from the
turbulent waters we were about to cross.
Jason warned us that as we rounded the seawall, we would be in for a rough ride.
“We will have a few bumps at first as we go round that reef, there” he said, pointing to our right, “and then we will hug the beach as much as possible before making the crossing. I will try to get you there without you needing a chiropractor when you arrive. Stay seated, there are grab handles each side, and the life jackets are under your seat. It may get a bit rough at times.”
A passenger subject to the debilitating effects
of seasickness would have been in trouble the minute we left the dock. Rounding
the seawall, we were hit with the full force of the ocean, her four-foot swells
lifting and dropping our launch (boat) mercilessly, causing it to bob like a
But, for us, it was exhilarating!
Neither Laura nor I suffer from the effects of
motion sickness and found the rise and fall of the boat exciting. The bow dug
into the swell sending walls of salt water over the bow and onto the heavy
plastic squall sheets that surrounded the front of the boat, obliterating
everyone’s view for a few seconds.
The 50-minute trip across to our island was filled with the sound of bumps, crashes and roars of excitement as the boat lurched, dropped and climbed the ocean swells.
There were times, I confess, when I thought we were doomed to break apart and end our days swallowed by the angry sea. In those moments, caught between fear and exhilaration, my mind raced through my life. Memories of the wonderful things I knew, and the mistakes I had made, intermingled with my hopes for the future created a blur of emotion.
At those moments that seemed to last forever, among the cacophony of the raging ocean around us, I understood that life can be extinguished in the blink of an eye. It was up to us to wring from our lives the joy, fulfillment and purpose that gives life meaning…before that eye blinks closed permanently.
Eventually we found safe harbor as the captain expertly navigated a series of rocks protruding from the sand of a small protected cove. The sandy beach was surrounded by palm trees, the white sand beckoning to us as I could only imagine the calls of the Sirens beckoning the sailors of old.
As Jason expertly guided his boat, he reminded us “You are in Far North Queensland. These are tropical waters. We do have sharks and crocodiles, so I suggest to you that you refrain from swimming at night. Stinger season (a deadly jellyfish in tropical Australian waters) has started but you will be really unlucky if one were to sting you here.”
With those words ringing in our ears, we jumped into a few inches of warm tropical water and met our caretaker, Chris, whose skin was like deep brown leather from too many hours in the hot tropical sun.
He showed us to our house, gave us a quick tour, and before departing said “Now, you may hear me blowing leaves away each day. I usually do it in the mornings. I like to do it each day because here on the island we have a snake known as the “death adder”. It is about 12 to 18 inches long and likes to sleep in the leaves. It will probably only bite you if you step on it, but be careful, ok? It probably won’t kill you if it bites you, but it will make you pretty sick.”
Two warnings in the space of 15 minutes reminded me of the truth of something I have known since I was a young boy.
Everything in Australia wants to kill you!
Another reminder of the fact that life can be
cut short at any time. Another reminder that it is our responsibility to create
and live the life we want.
It took less than 60 seconds for that thought to
leave me when I walked into the living room, an open-air affair looking over
the trees and down to the rocks surrounding the cove we landed on.
Thoughts of sharks, crocodiles, stingers and snakes were replaced instantly by the peacefulness that can only be found when nature in all its glory sneaks up and tells you to open your eyes.
Gazing out over the tropical ocean, the seas became calm in that instant of time, the howling wind reduced to a gentle breeze, and the scent of eucalypt filled the air with hope and peace and the promise of good things to come.
Fear and anxiety was washed away, replaced by calm and purpose.
In that moment time became meaningless and life became simple.
As busy professionals, both Laura and I had found ourselves tied to our laptops and cell phones almost 24/7. There was always another email to read, a phone call to make, a problem to fix, and a decision to execute. Our lives were not our own – they were driven by the needs of the corporations.
Our trip to Australia was planned to include some family time, and some work time. Computers were never far from our fingertips while cell-phones sat in our pockets ever ready to disrupt the day with calls.
Knowing we were on vacation, thousands of miles from work did not change the fact that we were tethered to somebody else’s demands.
We made a conscious decision to unplug for a few days.
After a week of family reunions in Melbourne, a short but awe-inspiring trip along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, and a few days working together in Surfer’s Paradise, Queensland, we now find ourselves here, in Far North Queensland, on an island.
With no clocks.
Time is not relevant here.
Life is driven by the geography of the landscape.
We allow ourselves to be tied only to the biological needs of the body, the movement of the sun, and the path of the moon across these endless skies.
In fact, time has no meaning without these movements in the sky, and without our biological patterns. Without these things, time has no meaning and no relevance beyond reminding you of what you think you need to do.
Laura and I spent several days without clocks, without cell phones and without work. We slowed down, reconnected with each other and were able to live in the joy of simple things…like watching the sunrise after waking naturally from a sleep free of dreams and interruptions. Feeling the cool sand between our toes as we walked along an untouched shoreline, listening to the native birds as they settled for the night.
I took some time to start writing again, something I had not done for years.
And this blog emerged.
But I want to keep it as simple as life without clocks. Life without locks, without thinking about thinking you have to think about what you should be doing.
As I look around me, every day I see people struggling through life, filling it with the empty calories that do little to create fulfillment, purpose or joy. I see people willing to swap time with their children for dollars to buy a bigger house. I see people who can’t afford to feed their children, betting on a big win in the lottery to take away their cares.
I see young adults slaving away at college courses to satisfy their parent’s wishes, and I see others who have been dumped off the roller coaster of life, falling through the cracks and now spending their days on the streets, seeking safety in the emptiness of a cardboard box.
Life can be hard.
And we humans have a way of complicating everything we touch. In fact, if something is not complicated yet, we create ways to make it harder. If something is simple, we don’t believe it can be any good.
So, what can we do about this?
I feel like I was brought into your life to help you discover one thing, and one thing only: life is simple. Not “life can be simpler” or “simplify your life.”
Life is simple. Just that.
Now that you know why I am here. I’ll be writing about this topic and others as the months go by. I’ll probably be influenced by comments from readers. Go ahead, influence me, Why are you here? I promise to keep things simple 😉
And here is a tip for today:
Try unplugging. Leave your cell phone at home when you go to a movie, or in the car when you meet friends. Just try it for an hour or so…and, after the first few minutes of anguish and feeling lost, you may discover that being unplugged is simple…and fun!