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Hiking the Australian Goldfields

Hiking the Australian Goldfields | After the Heartbreak
Hiking the Australian Goldfields
Me by the Goldfields Track sign

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).

Getting prepared

I started reading up about travelling solo when you are…ummm…getting into your senior years. πŸ™‚ 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.

Computer screen

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.

Guided pack free 3 day walk

The Goldfields Track links the great goldfield towns of Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria. It follows pretty creeks, gullies and ridges of the Great Divide from the wet temperate forests at Daylesford to the dry northern plains. Along the way encounter an array of nectar feeding honeyeaters as well as colourful parrots. Add to this our afternoons and evenings in the spa country towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Spa, local produce and wines and you have the perfect walking experience.

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. 😎

  • I will look after myself well and not add any unnecessary layers of stress eg no worrying about things that might not happen.
  • I will take the time and breathe…enjoy my surroundings and not rush.
  • I will not panic when plans go awry, but sit down and think through the best strategies.
  • I will stretch my comfort zone just enough to experience the highs of achievement and self-capability.
  • I WILL talk to strangers (a hard one for me as I’m an introvert).

Time to Go…What have I Forgotten?

Packing a suitcase

Of course I had a list (Sheesh….I always have a list πŸ˜†). 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. πŸ˜‹

Practicing NOT Getting Lost!

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.

Melbourne street with tram

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! 🌟

First Day of the Hiking Trip

Group of hikers before setting out

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.

The second day was the hardest!

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! πŸ˜…

Final day… and a big tick!

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.

If you would like to find out what happened as I ventured out a little further afield, check out what happened in Italy and England. πŸ˜‰

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.

  • Joyce says:

    Marlene; I really enjoyed your solo trip and your wonderful photographs. I have never been able to travel on my own although I have gone to events alone. I give you kudos for your courage. When I became a widow twenty years ago I was still working full time and took on another teaching position as an adjunct professor…that took up time. I cannot imagine myself going off on my own…you should be so proud. I also lived far away from family so I relied on phone calls and email connections. You must be doing that as well.

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Joyce, I maintain connection with my family mostly through the social media of today….which wasn’t around 20 years ago. πŸ™‚ I can’t say I’m that courageous…in fact I’m an introvert…but I read so much about solo-travel that I wanted to at least give it a go. I’m off on my first overseas one in a month and I’m scared! But I’ll go anyway and will write about it on the blog. πŸ™‚ Cheers, Marlene

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