Hiking the Australian Goldfields
Hiking the Australian Goldfields
This trip was a practice run for travelling solo. My husband and I had planned to spend our retirement doing lots of travel as both of us loved it, but since his tragic death, everything changed. Now my travel future would have to be about going it alone.
I was nervous but determined that I would continue to travel, and take him along in my heart.
Read: The Day My Heart Broke
After having made that big decision, I leaped in with two feet (typical of me) and booked two overseas trips for the following year. Eeek! What was I doing!! Are you stark raving mad! (Yes, I talk to myself too which sort of confirms it).
I started reading up about travelling solo when you are…ummm…getting into your senior years. 🙂 My research brought me to the website Solo Traveler and I can highly recommend it as it brought me down from that cliff….metaphorically speaking.
One of the first things I learned was that it is recommended that newcomers start out in more familiar environment first, and have a practice run (or two…or more) where the surroundings are not so scary and you don’t have to deal with language barriers.
Good advice, so as I was starting to get into hiking (a new interest since my husband died), I decided to book a hiking trip in another state – Melbourne and Victoria looked like a good place to start. I’d been there, but never on a hiking trip, and never alone. Phew… decision made! Here’s what I booked.
I then gave myself a good talking to about having a positive mindset. I needed to think about everything I do as preparation for my future as a global solo traveller. Here’s the list I wrote for myself. 😎
Of course I had a list (Sheesh….I always have a list 😆). At exactly the right time (Type A personality, remember?) I was out the front with my packed bags, waiting for the airport shuttle to arrive. I had decided that true independence meant getting myself to and from the airport so despite kind offers from friends, I caught the shuttle. The trip to the airport was my first challenge as I made myself chat to the other passengers which is definitely not a comfort zone.
And then I hit my first hiccup. Storms were causing a delay and resulted in the plane sitting on the tarmac for a full hour. With my new ‘I can handle this’ mindset, I called the shuttle company to inform them that I would be arriving late into Melbourne. Gee I felt confident! Well…sort of. 😋
Waking up in my Melbourne hotel room, I decided to practice my navigation skills by walking around the streets surrounding my hotel. I don’t have the built-in compass that my husband seemed to intrinsically possess, which is why I always depended on him to get us back to where we were staying. Now I needed to learn…and fast.
I set out with some trepidation but enjoyed being in a new environment. When I felt disoriented, I stopped in to a cosy coffee shop to peruse Google maps and try to get the map to make sense to my map-challenged brain. After many hours walking the streets, I did find my way back to the hotel. Woohoo! Gold star for me! 🌟
The first day was easy actually….both the hike and being with a group of strangers. I put in the effort to introduce myself and chat to most of them and we all seemed to get on well as a group.
I did find though that as the group spread out along the track, I was happiest when I was walking relatively alone and not needing to make conversation. I enjoyed feeling like I was walking along by myself and got into some moments of fairly deep introspection while enjoying the scenery.
It was a convivial group that met for a delicious 3 course meal at the end of the day (yes…no camp food on this trip!) I felt very relaxed as I chatted to everyone and I enjoyed the easy-going atmosphere. Things were going well and I was feeling good about having booked this particular trip. It also helped a lot that I had booked a room for myself as it allowed me some mental space.
Quite an arduous day as we walked 20 kilometres! Once again, I found the best thing for me was to be in the middle of the group, alone with my own thoughts. There were a few striding out in front but I stayed with the middle pace and kept to my own thoughts while feeling part of the beautiful scenery around me. Just magic…especially when we came across an echidna!
Of course the well-organised leaders made it easy as we didn’t have to carry anything except our day packs. Even though we spread out, they always waited for the group to catch up and get together if we needed to change direction, so it was quite easy. I had had more opportunity to get lost in Melbourne! 😅
The final day was similar to the previous days, but through different countryside so lots to see as we walked along. When we finally reached the end of the track we were delighted to find a waterway where we could cool our feet. Then it was a goodbye to everyone and the trip was over.
I didn’t make any lifelong friends but I wasn’t expecting to….my primary expectations were to enjoy the hike and…. importantly….. to prepare myself for travelling away from home with no familiar faces around me, and to be responsible for myself.
Overall I think I achieved all my aims and did OK. As an introvert I needed the space to walk alone when I needed to, and to withdraw to my own room after a sociable evening.
This trip gets a big tick from me as it provided all those things. It does require a reasonable level of fitness but it isn’t like getting to Everest Base Camp or anything ridiculous like that.
Oh, and please comment below if you have your own solo-travel experience as I’d love to hear about it.
Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.