The, umm, what do we say, overweight woman, younger than me no doubt if I cared to check, waddled over from her passenger’s seat in the huge stretch Winnebago and without introduction immediately launched into the standard interrogation.
You’re not a reporter are you, I joked.
There’s no real interest in the bike, or me, here and it’s hard to discern why my method of transportation has caused her so much anxiety. Deep down I know it comes from her own insecurities mixed with a (barely concealed) hostile indignation that I should be allowed to have such freedom. How come you’ve abandoned your wife, your children and your job? It’s a terrible indulgence to give up the consumer ethic, etc. Surely you must prioritise comfort and security above all else in life, the way I have, (even if that mixture of cosiness and sloth will kill me, sooner rather than later)?
I can sense it’s all there bubbling away incoherently in her head.
I smile and try to appear friendly. The usual 20 Questions are easy. I respond, as always, with more courtesy than has been offered up.
Actually, there’s an additional question round here, that is often made into a statement: come across the Nullabor? The fearful emptiness is big in the mind of those city dwellers who have just traversed the road from Ceduna to Norseman, (about 1200 desolate kilometres), in their tin cocoon, airconditioning on, stereo blaring and cruise control engaged.
Nuh. Came over the top, I state casually, as if that was the easier option. Melbourne to Esperance is about 2700km via the most direct route: I don’t mention I’ve come 14,000km.
The last demand, I guess that makes it the 22nd Question now, not often asked, isn’t so easy to flick off. It strikes to the heart of my motivations.
Huh? Translate that as “Why?”, delivered with a whining Ozzy accent.
There’s the obvious 97 reasons which I don’t often articulate.
- Maybe it’s time for a little adventure;
- I always wanted to;
- thought it would be a good idea to see the world and started at the front door;
- life without a safety net might prove more intense;
- got sick of staring into a computer screen after 15 years;
- wanted to see if effort combined with discomfort really did, in fact, equal pleasure, (the jury’s still out on that one);
- wanted to feel the shuddering of the earth from deafening thunder claps as huge dry thunderstorms passed immediately overhead;
- found I could no longer be bothered to talk reluctant people into making common sense decisions on a daily basis, (as they say, common sense isn’t so common any more);
- to get over a feeling of ennui with life;
- or was it just boredom, if it’s not the same thing;
- felt it was time to oxygenate the brain;
- felt some decent exercise was in order;
- in fact, time to get healthy, and even fit;
- broke up with my soul mate and thought it might be the best therapy;
- I’d already made millions, didn’t want any more cash and need to fill the days in somehow, (actually that one may not be true);
- just felt like it;
- time to face the real, “real” world;
- wondered if I could I cope with periods of solitude, (well, durh);
- makes Monday morning feel really good, (if I remember it’s Monday);
- wanted to muck around with some good, honest characters who knew how to live life to the full;
- thought it would be interesting to exchange inane philosophy with fellow travellers who have toured the world looking for the answer;
- thought it would be fun to see if materialism matters at all, (of course not, you have the best fun with a whole lot of nothing and your new best friend);
- wanted to feel the exhilaration of standing on a featureless plain looking out to a huge, barren horizon with not a cloud in the sky;
- might just find I’m capable of having a great time;
- umm, why the hell not;
- it would avoid having to deal with my long term future;
- always wanted to camp at a remote waterhole and wake up to a cacophony of bird song;
- to avoid work for as long as possible, or, at least for a goodly period;
- to feel the wind in my hair; to watch a full moon rise over the spinifex;
- to watch shooting stars track across a night sky where stars are just as bright on the horizon;
- and for each of the other 73 reasons.
But, when it comes down to it, there’s really only one.
I don’t want to sleepwalk to extinction.