Back in the days of early college, as an eager freshman, I made a schedule for myself of what classes I wanted and needed to take to graduate. That personal project provided a good framework for me in successfully navigating my course through college. Though it was a schedule, it was very much a shifting one; revisions were constant as I switched my major from engineering to environmental science, finally settling on biology. Classes fell into and out of my master schedule depending on which minors I became interested in, and which minors fell out of favor. As that young, expectant freshman, I constantly looked ahead at my master class schedule; I was excited to get past the prerequisites and take some of the most challenging and interesting upper-level classes. The future seemed more exciting than the current prolegomena.
As you can tell from this anecdote, I’m a planner. Charting out my college courses was a way of making a schedule for myself, a way of organizing things in a logical, sequential order. My master class schedule certainly helped guide me in getting the most out of college, at least in terms of packing classes in.
Then, after graduating, I still found myself trying to plan ahead. The tendency to create a schedule for myself bled over into my life post-college. Very quickly, my college master schedule morphed into a behemoth of an itinerary. Instead of a time frame of semesters, it became a time frame of months and years. Instead of classes, the items on the schedule became different jobs to work and travels to take. My schedule grew into one giant Excel spreadsheet I refer to (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) as my “Life Timeline,” an unwitting plan for the rest of my life.
As a tool, my Life Timeline has been helpful in navigating post-grad life, just as it assisted me in arranging a class schedule during college. As someone with a multitude of interests, perhaps too many to reasonably pursue, it has provided a framework to allow exploration of as many of those interests as possible. On the timeline is a list of jobs I’d like to work and different places where I want to live. Piecing all these temporary gigs and seasonal jobs together on my Life Timeline is like working with a giant open-ended jigsaw puzzle. Somehow, I tell myself, I can do it all. I can fit all these possible options into one cohesive itinerary. I can schedule an efficient life of trying out my options.
At a casual glance, it may seem like I have my future all planned out, at least maybe to a dozen years in the future. And sometimes it can be the case. My Life Timeline can sometimes act with a deterministic will on me. It can put on the blinders to other spontaneous opportunities, causing me to work with a one-track mind to accomplish the next item on the list. Having a timeline sometimes makes my future seem more rigid, less open. I will look ahead at my perfectly scheduled life, seeing with envy all the things I want to do that haven’t arrived yet. A veritable lust for the future.
Looking ahead at my Life Timeline, replete with fun new gigs and interstitial adventures on the horizon, it is far too easy to get ahead of myself. To wish that I was at a future stage already, enjoying and experiencing the adventures to come, instead of the hum-drum I seem to be in now. This is a future lust. A tendency to rush through to the finish instead of enjoying each opportunity in the moment and seeing what it brings.
But don’t ever devalue the present because you’re always rushing forward to the future. It is the present right now that is making you into who you are. Life is a piece of music; the beauty is in the entire composition, not just the finale. Hopefully, most of the steps—those vitally important steps—have been enjoyable and also growing experiences. Relish the process of becoming, and stop longing to arrive at some perceived utopian future state for yourself. Unlike college, with earning a degree salient on your mind, the post-grad future is inextricably open. Be okay with arriving at an unknown destination.
Remember: you have more time to do the things you want to do than you might think. Consider where you were just one short year ago. When I look back even one year from today on my Life Timeline, I didn’t accurately predict where I’d be now. And that’s usually been the case. Even though I have a schedule that ‘plans’ out the rest of my life, it remains a flexible schedule, constantly growing and changing based on the person I am becoming. Don’t have such a lust for the future that you miss out on the opportunities in the present and the way it shapes your future.
Patient Trust (excerpt)
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
To see the aforementioned Life Timeline, click here.
This post was also published on “The Post Calvin“
This is my first blog post back in the United States. Yes, that means my Australian adventure has ended. What I initially intended to be a year or more of work and holiday in Australia concluded after spending a comparatively short 187 days in the country.
In an earlier blog post, I summarized an outline of the itinerary I had conceived for Australia. It was an ambitious plan for sure—my goal was to drive around the whole country and experience all the best that Australia had to offer. Seeing how this trip would be my only working holiday visa in Australia (and in all probability my only visit Down Under), I wanted to make the most of it. With the naïve idea that I’d be able to see everything worth seeing in Australia, I calculated a very thorough travel schedule so that I wouldn’t have to bother coming back to the country. After all, it was a long 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney just to get to Australia. Below is a map of what I originally envisioned for my year+ Down Under:
Needless to say, things didn’t work out very much as planned. Good, equitable work was difficult to find; shady fruit picking contractors swindled me out of a good chunk of my meager earnings; and my campervan experienced breakdown after breakdown. The accumulation of adverse experiences in Australia eventually led me to abandon the working holiday dream altogether. Though fate didn’t seem to be on my side, I don’t regret the journey at all and felt like I learned many invaluable lessons that I couldn’t have learned otherwise. Practically, though, as a major consequence of the essential unpredictability of eking out an existence in a foreign land, my idealized Australian itinerary changed drastically. Here is a summary map of where I actually traveled:
Probably the most noticeable difference between my idealized itinerary and my actual itinerary is the extent of the travels. Though I put over 15,000km on my campervan, I still only covered a fraction of the Australian continent. Major destinations like Queensland’s tropical north and the Outback’s red center were never reached. Travels to Western Australia and the Northern Territory were scrapped from the plan entirely.
Though I am disappointed at not being able to see such remarkable places, I’m not distraught over the lost opportunity. In conversations about my Australian trip, people often remarked that my journey was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’. And, while making my plans for Australia, I took that sentiment to heart. I preconceivingly figured that I would never travel to Australia again—that this particular Australian trip would be my only chance to see places of world heritage value like the Great Barrier Reef or the Outback. Thus, I wanted to make sure I uncovered every stone Australia had to offer, so I could forever check the continent off my bucket list.
Abrasive reality—and sheer practicality—saw through my meager attempt to see everything in Australia. It is an impossibility to overturn every stone and leave nothing new to see in a country. Even if someone were to visit every square meter of a place, they would still have more to discover in the nooks and crannies. Such a person would still need to see the same things again, but from a different angle. Such a person would still need to spend more time in the country just to understand how the incessant elements of time and change affect a place. Fully seeing everything a country has to offer as a visitor is an absurd notion indeed.
As it so happened, I left many stones unturned in Australia. Though I wish I could have stayed longer and traveled more, I’m happy to say that I still have many reasons to go back to Australia in the future. Though I have no definite plans to revisit, I can see scenarios of returning soon to my much favored Hobart town for graduate school, or of returning only after many decades have passed as a grey-haired tourist. It’s also quite possible that I may never return to Australia again. But one things for sure: I never want to think of my stay in Australia as only a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity.
Having landed in Sydney over three weeks ago, I’m starting to feel the urge to break out of the city and hit the open road to explore the Australian countryside. Getting started in another country has been a test in patience so far. My initally-planned one week in Sydney has stretched into nearly a month, due to various difficulties. Most recently is the slow wait for paperwork in the mail as I navigate the process of owning a motor vehicle in a foreign country.
Some of you may have seen my new Australian travelling companion on Facebook, Frank the campervan (note, I wouldn’t have chose the name for myself, but it’s bad luck to rename a vessel). Me and Frank met in Sydney and hit it off right away. We both yearn for the open road and love camping, so it was a good match. Frank is also a Starwagon—I love that he’s a bit celestial…
Me and Frank are making plans to go around Australia. Frank was born to travel and is already a veteran of some cross-country roadtrips. Of course we want to see everything the country has to offer. Here is a little sketch of what may take place over the next few months…
Our proposed route is to visit all of Australia over the course of a year (and maybe a little bit extra too). Overall, the route is about 21,000 kilometers, before any spontaneous side trips are taken. It’s an ambitious distance, but I had good practice in the United States before coming to Australia, driving over 30,000 kilometers in the course of my five month Western US road trip. Here is a month-by-month outline of my plan (follow along on the map—notice the route is color-coded):
November/December: Cherry Harvesting in New South Wales
January to April: Grape Harvest/Wine Making in Victoria
April to May: Berry or Vegetable harvest in Tasmania
June-August: The big holiday drive. Melbourne to Adelaide, through the outback to Australia’s red center, then Darwin to Perth following along the Indian Ocean.
September/October: Grapevine pruning in Western Australia
After October, my Working Holiday visa expires. If, however, the $21 an hour agricultural minimum wage puts me in a good financial situation, why not stay and play more?!? Here is a ‘bucket list’ of places I’d like to see in Australia:
- Cities to visit: Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
- Climb Sydney’s Harbour Bridge
- See a concert at the Sydney Opera House
- Watch a match at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds
- Go wine tasting in one or more of Australia’s wine regions: The Hunter, Murray, Margaret, or Barossa Valleys.
- See the attractions of Australia’s Red Center: Uluru, Kata-Tjuta, King’s Canyon, Devil’s Marbles
- See the dry Lake Eyre bed and other saline inland lakes
- Spend a night in the Outback
- Cross the Nullarbor Plain in Western and Southern Australia
- Travel Along the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria
- Visit the wildlife reserve on Kangaroo Island
- Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef
- Sailing in the Whitsunday Islands
- Visit the tropical rainforests of Cape York
- Climb mount Koscuiszko, the highest point in Australia (2,228 metres)
- Embark on a 4-wheel drive adventure on Fraser Island’s Sand Dunes
- See the earliest multicellular fossils in the Ediacaran Hills in South Australia
- See the ancient Wollemi Pines in New South Wales
- Learn about aboriginal culture in an aboriginal village or in Kakadu National Park
It’s an ambitious course I’ve set for myself. But then again, that’s the way I like to live. Making trip itineraries is one of my favorite pasttime activities—but it’s all the more enjoyable when the trip plans are real instead of hypothetical. In the coming months, expect to see some outcomes of our travels!