What My Backpack Taught Me About Bravery
Looking Back on a Year in Australia
By Victoria Hubert
When my partner and I first arrived to Australia around this time two years ago, we had no idea what was headed our way. Mud feels impossible when you’re stuck in it.
Australia lives its entire existence on two opposite ends of extremity: hot red dirt and bright blue sea. An Outback sunset can sit on the horizon for what feels like hours turning everything in its wake orange. A flock of crying Kookaburras at dusk sound exactly like a pack of howling monkeys.
Australia lives its entire existence on two opposite ends of extremity: hot red dirt and bright blue sea.
In twelve months, we traversed through all seven states—mostly overland—sleeping in tents and the front seats of rented cars, cooking on a single burner stove, waking up and going to sleep with the sun.
Looking back now, what I know to be true is this: we can never truly know the depths of what a year may hold for us—it’ll always be more difficult than we plan for and it’ll always be better—but I do believe a lot comes down to making decisions and sticking to them, even the crazy ones.
Here’s what I learned:
Faking bravery can become bravery
I was never a scared kid but in my twenties I became a scared adult. I suddenly hated flying in airplanes or driving on the freeway, even as a passenger. I didn’t like walking to my apartment in the dark or staying home alone and I became irrationally certain I would die before reaching thirty. I traveled a lot. I said yes to a lot of things. I faced most things head on but still, I believed I was faking my fearlessness. I wasn’t actually brave. I was scared all the time.
But then I carried my life on my back for nearly a year. I learned that I both know and don’t know how much I’m capable of and still, it impresses me daily. It took nearly a year of faking bravery before I understood I wasn’t faking it anymore, that maybe I had never been faking it, that maybe faking bravery was the exact same as actually being it.
Age is irrelevant
I’ve compared travel routes with people three times my age and shared drinks with kids just out of high school. Where have you been? Where do you want to go? What place has been your favorite? The road doesn’t judge you by how many years you have or have not been on it.
Love can be big in its smallness
Traveling with a partner can feel huge, but it’s often the small things that pull us closer: The dishes washed and put away. Dinner already on the stove. A long story from work that day. Staying up late conspiring over where to go next. Laughing at the same jokes until we can’t breathe. Love isn’t grand in the ways we expect it to be.
Kindness is alive and well
Over the course of our year in Australia, I met strangers who shared a beer with me, who offered me a free place to sleep, who pointed me in the right direction and wished me a happy birthday but, mostly, made me feel like I wasn’t as far away from everything I knew as the miles on the map suggested.
We all miss someone
We all count the time difference on our fingers and rely on a fuzzy video call with a poor connection to somehow bring us closer to home. We all begrudgingly depend on money and we all have days when we’re unsure if the life we’re living is the one we want. We all grip the arm rest when the plane hits turbulence. We’re all terrified to die without having completed something, without having seen beauty up close.
Money won’t bring you happiness
But here are some things I found that do: staring down at your feet in ocean water so clear it’s like looking through a glass window, taking a free hot shower at a truck stop after 3 long days on the road, climbing to the top of a snowy mountain and howling like a wolf, pointing to a map and saying let’s go there and there and there.
Trust your feet
And your hands. And your head. And your heart. Trust them to keep you balanced. To keep you moving. To keep you in the light. And most of all, trust that they will get you to where you’re meant to be going. Keep kicking. Your feet will get you there. They always do.
Photos courtesy of Victoria Hulbert