Imagine tossing out pretty much everything stable in your life and taking a leap into the great unknown, without actually planning ahead (yes, some people do that) – for Greg and myself, moving out of the city and into literally the wilderness was more exciting than scary, and certainly promised great adventure… we got that and more.
How did we ended up living wild? It happened almost quietly. We lived in suburbia in Darwin (Australian Northern Territory) and had all the usual trappings, a mortgage, a car – I had a motorbike – jobs. I’ve been a writer all my life, but only in the background, and I was a long way from being published. I had no time to write, which was one of the things stacking up against me at the time.
The job I was doing was taking its toll because I hadn’t learnt how to leave it at work. It consumed me, and felt like I was there 24/7. While the people were fine to work with, the pay was poor and the hours long and awkward, being mainly split shifts, which meant starting early, having a big gap in the day, and ending late. On top of that, I needed to be fit and healthy, so I’d rise at 4:00 am, six days out of seven, and do aerobics and weights until 7:00 am, then get ready for work. I looked good, I felt good, but I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of life, and mentally, I was losing will and motivation.
Staff turnover was high, but I didn’t see that as a warning sign. Mostly we were dealing with a client base heavy in emotional stress which we tended to absorb, like it or not, and there was very little given in the way of emotional support. People burned out quickly and the average “shelf-life” was only three months. I was an old-timer, then, having survived two stints at eighteen months a piece, but now I had the shakes in my hands so bad I couldn’t carry a cup of coffee. I actually thought I had a brain tumor. I knew I had to step away.
Two positive things happened at once, Greg got a pay rise and we cleared one of our loans, and on that basis, I discussed with him quitting my job. Somehow that conversation expanded into taking it further than that and doing something we had always wanted to, getting a block of land and moving bush (as the expression in Australia goes). If we could find a place within a couple of hundred miles of Darwin, Greg could hang onto his job and commute, while I sat out there in the wilderness, writing to my hearts content. It sounded wonderful!
We launched the plan then and there, found some gorgeous acreage – except there was no house on it, and no power either. Water? Well, there were two creeks than ran dry for fully six months every year, so it was sort of there… and boy, couldn’t we have an adventure, huh? We could get a water tank and a pump and a generator and live in a caravan and a tent, and it’d be just like camping.
We leapt in with both feet and no hesitation. I quit my job, we sold the house, put some money into what we figured we needed – including a small secondhand backhoe that neither of us knew how to drive, but Greg thought might be necessary, and we moved onto the block on my twenty-seventh birthday.
I’ve written about that first day, when I was stuck there with my motorbike, an open trailer packed with our stuff that Greg had dropped off, waiting for him to go and come back with the caravan – waiting there until the dingoes came by and the sun went down and I had nowhere to retreat to, (see Doing The Pioneering Thing).
Did all this appeal? Heck yes, I’m a writer. I write science fiction, all about pioneering on new planets – there couldn’t be a better way to get some hands-on experience than to actually move out into the bush and pioneer with the technology of today. It was sci-fi to me, I loved it.
As it turns out, I don’t cover it enough in my writing. The communities in my fiction are better established than we were. The closest I got to it was writing about Mij in book two, The King’s Sacrifice, with Mij and her mom living off the land and off the grid – no power, no water, etc.
Did I ever regret living wild? No, not once, even with all the hard labor that came with it – almost five years’ worth – the worst being doing the laundry by hand. Not having a fridge was tough going, too. Being alone every day in nature, being to one responsible to keep the basics going – water, electricity, sewage disposal, wood collection for cooking fires – and watching my back (because as beautiful as it can be, nature is not merciful if you get hurt and you’re alone out there) kept me on my toes and very safety conscious. Greg left before sun up and didn’t return until after dark, and I dealt with everything in between alone, including would-be thieves and hoons out on shooting sprees.
Yesterday, however, in The first to move in under the bed was a seven foot python, I promised you a story, so here it is. Bats. That’s what turned up next to hide under the bed.
I heard it in the night. Flap-flap, flap-flap-flap. I found the emergency torch and looked around the tin tent, and saw a small bat flitting around basically over the place. It did all sorts of somersaults and ended up disappearing under the bed. I ended up following it, hanging upside down myself, to find it hanging from the bedsprings. It made me smile.
Thankful that the snake had been removed a week or so before, I switched off the light and went back to sleep. Cute, right? No, not right. One is fine, but the next night four showed up. Flap-flap, flap-flap-flap, flap-flap-flap.
Oh dear. Suddenly realizing that bats live in colonies and some colonies are HUGE, we knew we had to stop any more coming to the “new cave”. That meant blocking the entryway – completely – and we managed it with tarps.
Nature’s pretty bloody quick, you know that? There wasn’t a time when something didn’t take quick advantage of something we had done, and move in on us. We put in a small dam, basically a small ditch (think swimming pool size) to take advantage of a natural catchment area for an extra water supply. The creeks were running at the time, and not far away – so there was plenty of water, but what happened? Less than a week and we had twenty thousand frogs living in the dam. That’s what nature is like.
What else happened under the bed and to that tin tent? Well, I haven’t gotten to the lightning strike and the flood, yet…