One thing I'd hoped to lose by travelling on a tight budget was my possessiveness – from the man with a mobile phone to the man in a mobile home, that sort of thing – but I didn't really want to end up losing my possessions themselves. Within the space of four days both my sleeping bag and my camera – the two most expensive things I own, after my little computer – were no more, one to theft and one to a swimming hole in Litchfield National Park. What a pain.
Losing the actual items wasn't the problem, though I was particularly sad about my camera, as that was a present, and it didn't so much disappear as die right there in my hands... sob! The problem was thinking afterwards, 'If only I'd made sure my bag was safer,' or 'If only I'd taken it off the line when I last checked it: it was dry, after all.' In the normal course of things you'd just shrug your shoulders, kick the nearest small furry animal and get on with it, but when you're a long way from home and on your own, losing possessions is a bugger.
On the other hand, I met a girl in Litchfield whose entire backpack had been stolen from a hostel on the same weekend, which makes my little losses, both of them speedily replaced, seem trivial. My new sleeping bag cost less than half the price of my previous one, doesn't leak feathers everywhere, is warmer, comes in a much better bag and weighs less; I've bought three disposable cameras to see me through to Melbourne, where I can easily get a new camera; and the very friendly people I met in Litchfield are going to send me copies of their photos of us all in Litchfield and Douglas Hot Springs, so I won't miss out on the photos I'd already taken when the camera went swimming.
Money, Money, Money
Anyway, I'm over the distress and I'm setting my sights on Melbourne, where I can sell all my stuff and go back to the glorious situation of being able to pack everything I own into one little bag; this appeals to my sense of tidiness, and if you own very little, there's very little to be stolen or dropped into the river. Having thought about it, though, I'll probably end up getting another car in New Zealand and it'll start all over again; my original idea of cycling round New Zealand was fine as an idea, but you end up spending most of your time cycling from A to B, rather than doing the wonderful bushwalk at A, marvelling at the views at B and visiting the sight-of-a-lifetime at C en route. I want be able to really explore New Zealand, and for this the only real option is to go by car, but this time I'll try to get a station wagon, so I can kip in the back and camp absolutely anywhere, rather than in pricey caravan parks. I quite fancy going feral1, as they say round these parts.
My problem is money – not the lack of money, but the way in which I spend it. I'm trying to do things within sensible budgets – not too little that I spend my time doing nothing and eating instant noodles all the time, but not too much that I spend everything too quickly – but I've spent quite a bit in Australia. New Zealand is not a problem, and I can afford six months there from the earnings I've made as a writer in Oz, but it might drain the resources for any onwards travel. The problem is one of attitude; I have a credit card that I can start filling up if I need to, but if I let myself spend away, as I did in Sydney and Melbourne, I'll soon end up broke and not necessarily better off in terms of travel experiences. It's hard to define; on one hand I'm trying to be a shoestring traveller, not spending much on beer, eating well but cheaply, avoiding tours, public transport and expensive caravan parks in favour of cheap campsites and beautiful National Parks, but on the other hand I have money coming in from articles that could support me for a while, living like a king. I guess Jarvis Cocker hit the nail on the head when he wrote:
Still you'll never get it right
'Cos when you're sitting there at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your dad he could stop it all
This doesn't sound like a problem as such, but there is a bad side: I'm becoming obsessed with the financial planning of this trip. I've always been interested in money matters, but here I'm constantly controlling my expenditure and planning the rest of the trip, almost to the point of distraction. I regularly tweak my budgets, which I keep in a spreadsheet, and it's almost too much; I'm always drawing up new travel plans to fit changing budgets, when I could simply slap it on a credit card and just go and do what I wanted to do in the first place. I suppose I'm having to draw the line between doing everything I want to do and doing everything I can afford to, while knowing in the back of my mind that if I wanted to get into debt, I could afford to do almost everything, it's just a matter of how long I want to spend travelling. I think what I need is a mate who says to me occasionally, 'Sod it, let's go out, have a ball, spend loads, and just forget about money for a while: she'll be right2.' I guess that's where my friends in Melbourne come in...
In fact, the only thing that worries me about getting to Melbourne is that it signals the end of my trip round Australia; sure, there'll be plenty going on in the city, and there'll be plenty of trips from the city to do, but it's going to be the end of this type of travelling for a while. That little tent will have been my home for six months by the time I get back to the city, and then I'll be selling it; it'll definitely be the end of an era.
1 What the English call 'gypsies' or 'new age travellers', the Aussies call 'ferals'.
2 'She'll be right' is another timeless Aussie saying, meaning that everything will be fine. Quite who she is, and why she'll be right, is not something that is particularly relevant. A similar saying is 'She's apples', which makes even less sense, but every language has its strange idioms, I guess. After all, Bob's your uncle...