Tribute to the Outback, Part 2
We went to the Outback exactly 1 year ago. I didn’t know what to expect. I was filled with fear, anticipation, and unease. We spent 6 months living in a pop up camper trailer, 1 hour’s drive on a dirt road away from the closest town, 6 hours away from the closest city and supermarket, and $50 worth of data away from contact to the outside world. We had a pool and each other and that’s about it. I was pushed to the limit on more than one occasion and surrounded by people going through the same extreme emotions. Tensions were high, voices were raised, tears were shed, and relationships were tested. We were thrown into a life we knew nothing about and were stripped from the comforts we’d previously taken for granted, forced to accept a new reality. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out where this is going… Inevitably, those 6 trying months lead to a lifetime worth of personal growth and self realization.
The transformation I went through in the outback is hard to put into words. In fact, I’ve been trying to write about it ever since our time there came to an end, but nothing has felt right. Hell, this doesn’t even feel right. I don’t know how to explain the boredom and the stillness and the immense amount of nothing without sounding like I’m complaining. I don’t know how to express the amount of stress and pressure we felt in our new roles without sounding weak and lazy. I don’t know how to talk about my achievements without sounding like I’m bragging. But most of all, I don’t know the words to describe the incredible change we went through without sounding… well, weird. I’m hoping that the 7 months we’ve now spent away from the Gorge has given me the perspective I need to finally put pen to paper, or more realistically, fingers to keyboard.
Part 2: Time to Shift My Priorities
Time is the most valuable thing we have. Money is fluid, people come and go, but time is linear. Once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. And really, every minute we have is precious, because we’re each limited to a finite number of them.
I don’t think this is a revolutionary idea. In fact, it’s been a very popular instagram caption as of late. Trendy millennials preaching to the masses from their digital alters… #blessed. But this concept is relatively new to me. I spent most of my life believing that if I had money, I’d be happy. I’d never understood the phrase “you can’t buy happiness,” because in my experience the things that brought me happiness, like horses and pizza, weren’t free. Everything has a price.
I’d always placed value on money. I grew up believing that if I could be wealthy, then I could be happy. I knew I couldn’t necessarily, literally, buy happiness, but I knew I could buy comfort, and to me that was the same thing. So that was my plan. Go to a good university, make good connections, graduate with good grades, get a good job, have a good salary, and have a good life. It wasn’t until I was faced with the real world that this idealic plan started to crumble. I’d always known I’d had a relatively lucky childhood, but once I was a post grad, I began to realize how lucky my parents had been as well. Yes, they had worked very hard. Yes, they’re incredibly smart. But also, yes, they were in the right place, at the right time. I started to panic because I knew it would be next to impossible for me to replicate this equation for success, which had been my plan all along. I started to adjust my expectations. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t be wealthy, but if I could be comfortable, I would be happy. Okay, maybe I couldn't live in San Francisco because lets be honest, I probably won’t be a millionaire, so if I move somewhere where a good salary goes a long way and not to a shitty apartment in an undesirable part of town, I would be happy. I was starting to shift my thinking, I could feel it. I knew I was on the brink of a life altering revelation and so I did the most logical thing I could think of… I quit my job, packed my bags, and followed a hunch that maybe this guy I met on a beach in Thailand could lead to something special. I started traveling the world in search of experiences that would give me answers. But still, everything revolved around and came back to money. Every fear I had for my future was in regards to how much money I’d make. Every fear I had for the present was in regards to how much money I was spending… it was what I worried about because to me, money meant security and safety, and that’s what I really valued most. And then I moved to the Outback.
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know by now that I spent 6 months living in Outback Queensland, Australia. You’re also probably aware that it was a bit of an adjustment for me and that I didn’t always handle the challenges with grace or humility. I felt thrown into a completely uncomfortable environment, stripped of normalcy and the everyday comforts I’d become so dependent on. The first thing to go was any care I’d once had for social media. I realized within 2 days that I wouldn’t have the luxury of cyber stalking my friends or even keeping in touch with people who didn’t reach out to me personally. The next thing to go was a need for the indoors. Living in a tent and showering outside brought me very close to nature and even though I’m still no Steve Irwin, my tolerance for spiders in the bed is certainly higher than it was before. The changes were all more gradual after that, but they were much more profound. About half way through, when I’d really acclimated to my simple life out there, I realized how silly my lifelong obsession with money had been. See, at Cobbold Gorge, we were making $20/hr and working 60-70 hours a week (on average). We didn’t have any expenses or temptations. We’d “splurge” and treat ourselves to a $5 ice cream every couple of weeks, but other than that, we were pocketing everything we made. My bank account grew quicker than ever before and at first it was exciting to watch the number get higher. But eventually, with nothing to spend it on, that money lost its value. It might as well have been Monopoly money because it was all but useless there. I knew we were saving up for a couple of really big and expensive trips, but in the moment and on a daily basis, I found that I just didn’t care about money. So what was left to care about? My time.
Right about the time when money lost it’s value, time became insanely valuable. Even though there was nothing to do, I loved my time off. I loved the time I took to myself to grow as an individual or simply relax by the pool with a good book. I was working long hours and huge weeks to give myself the luxury of time at the end of it all. Yes, the money would get us around Australia, but it was the time we were earning that was so special. Everyone earns money, and a lot people earn a lot more than $20/hr, but very few people have the time to enjoy it. I began thinking about this a great deal and realized how skewed my priorities had been. Money is fluid. It comes and goes, and given my own family’s financial ups and downs, I should have known that all along.
Even people come and go from our lives. No matter how much we love someone, there will probably come a time, for one reason or another, that they’re no longer around, and therefore it’s not just the person we value, it’s really the time we get with them. Life is all about adding value to the time we have left. It’s about spending more time laughing than crying. It’s about surrounding yourself with people you enjoy spending time with. It’s about making healthy choices that hopefully buy you a little more time. And it’s about living a life that, every once in a while, makes you wish you could freeze time, slow it down so you can live in the moment just a little longer. But we can’t freeze time. Or speed it up when things get hard, for that matter. It just is what it is and it keeps ticking forward regardless of how your day went, how much you laughed, how hard you cried, how badly you wish you could stop it… And that’s why time is the most valuable thing we have. You can’t work harder to earn more of it. You can’t buy or trade it.