I believe in exploring. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not want to explore.
I was very fortunate to grow up on a farm where there was space and opportunity to indulge childhood fearlessness in adventure. Once we were old enough, my siblings and I spent much of our play time unsupervised. There were five of us and only two adults. I suspect our parents realised quite early that we had some practical common sense about us, and they did teach us the basic rules of life – that actions have consequences and that some things are out-of-bounds for very good reasons. Well, actually it was my uncle who probably taught those lessons best when he gouged his foot with an axe while chopping wood.
I grew up with a 1958 map of the Parish of Nelungalong. I marvelled at the way the landscape was represented by lines on a page – flat and functional – yet still beautiful with added layers of information that transformed, and gave history to, the familiar landscape. The farm of my childhood is not marked, but Amy’s Lookout is clearly shown. We climbed it on many occasions. There was something official, solid and timeless about this map, but we did not need it to find our way. My family knew the land from experience and oral tradition, and I learnt from them.
This old paper, that is scented, creased and yellowed with time, is a stark contrast to the 2005 calendar hanging on my wall. The calendar is permanently opened to a shiny version of a 1753 Dutch map of the Western Australian coastline from Willem River to Rottnest Island. It is a reminder of an all-too-brief return to fearlessness when I headed off in 2004 with no clear plan and no idea what might happen.
Western Australia in the 21st century, with so much activity geared to harnessing the tourist dollar, is not 1753. My trip was more a holiday than an expedition, but I will call it an adventure. It was a deliberate step out of a well-established comfort zone. I left my camera at home so that I would have nothing to install between me and what I was seeing. It was a time for doing – not recording.
Much of my childhood fearlessness is gone in favour of an adult need to establish one’s own safety and security. My fearlessness is, however, not forgotten. My need to explore is in part satisfied.