It happened one night after my partner Siu On and I, Jelena, had been watching a rock climbing movie about the history of climbing in Yosemite Valley. As the end credits finished rolling, Jack Kerouac’s poignant words flash on the screen and sealed our fate; we looked at each other with not a word passing between us, and we knew it was time to stop talking about the things we were dreaming about doing, and actually do them.
At the time Siu On and I had just returned from a six month holiday traveling around the world, and I had returned to my job as a Government Procurement Policy Officer, writing mundane newsletter articles and Procurement Manuals five days a week, and secretly planning dream holiday adventures in my head. Siu On had finished up two years of a Masters Degree and was now in Australia on a working holiday visa, mowing lawns whilst we were trying to figure out how we could escape falling into the trap of career-marriage-mortgage that’s so prevalent in our society. Apart from the usual four week once a year vacation leave, or the times where I would panic like a trapped animal and quit my job to ‘figure myself out’ with traveling, only to return to the 9-5 prison when the money ran out, did I ever really live a life I felt was truly fulfilling.
We were one of the so-called ‘weekend warriors’, whose tribe members would leave the constraints of the city and working week behind to pursue outdoor adventures in their chosen sport. For Siu On and I this was rock climbing, and we’d make the six hour round trip after work every Friday down to our favorite area, Margaret River, to hit the wall hard and climb until our hands couldn’t form fists. We loved those weekends where we lived dirty and simply, and all we did was climb with a group of like minded people. Siu On and I would spend our week nights waxing lyrical on how we could live this lifestyle full time without the need to do jobs we hate, or have our family and friends worry about our strange life choices. However, Kerouac’s words that night, cut deep, really deep. We were at a crossroads in our lives where we only had two choices; to follow the herd or to go against it. That night we choose to go against it and plot our escape.
Unlike what you see in the movies, our escape wasn’t an immediate pack up our things and hit the road type of scenario; instead it was meticulously planned with an emphasis on biding our time, minimizing possessions and being frugal with our spending. No matter how you put it, penny pinching isn’t sexy, but for us it was necessary. With our plan in hand, we ticked off the ‘to do’ items including handing our resignations at our respective jobs and selling off countless possessions. Fast forward four months from the day that we said our final goodbyes and reversed out of the driveway of my parents’ home, and we have covered almost the entire southern part of mainland Australia, including West and South Australia, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and now New South Wales. Our great Australian road trip has allowed us to see more of Australia than most Australians have in their life time, with highlights including remote camping on the limestone cliffs of South Australia, seeing snow for the first time in a long time in New South Wales, and rock climbing as much as we like and when we like.
Although it’s not all sunshine and roses as we’ve had our fair share of money woes, loneliness and car troubles; however, its the lure of the unknown, the endless possibilities and new experiences that is keeping us going. We have been blessed with the kindness of strangers offering us housing, food and advice; and have met amazing people ranging from the wise grey nomads to outlandish European backpackers. All of the experiences we have been having has also helped shape our dreams for our future, with Siu On’s adventure photography business (Auyeung Photography) and my first steps into a serious writing and photography career. However, I know that I couldn’t be happier living this life right now than any other, and everyday we revel in that one question that brings us so much joy and excitement: What will we do today?
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
— Jack Kerouac