August 18, 2018

Twelve Months In: Sabbatical Recap “Was it Worth it?”

Throughout June and July of 2017, I quit my job. I sold a lot of my possessions. And then I essentially ran away, relocating thousands of miles from my friends and family. Looking back a year later, was it worth it? The answer is a very loud, "God, yes!" Even though my expectation of what I would accomplish in my Australian year was a complete and total bust, I would without hesitation start the year over again if I had the funds.

I had three main goals for my self-imposed sabbatical. I hoped to figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life. I expected to travel the entire circumference of the country’s coastline. And I had hoped to birth a baby cow during one of my WWOOF experiences. Of those three goals, I completed none of them. And this, my friends, is abnormal for me. I’m someone who obsesses over goals or tasks I have set for myself, and I get very worked up when things don’t go as planned. However, I am completely at ease about not completing any of my sabbatical goals – sure it would have been great to tick them off the list but I’m not losing sleep about it. Here’s a recap of what went wrong:

To start, I summed up my life epiphanies, or more accurately I discuss my lack of epiphanies during my sabbatical in this post. To save on space and me having to repeat myself, give the post a read and we'll jump to goal number two and take a look at my map of where I’ve been to see how far I made it. The initial plan was to start in Cairns (★1) and make it all the way around the country clockwise, ending up in Darwin on the northern coast of the Northern Territory. From my current (and expected ending) location, Perth (★37), I fell short of roughly 4,100 kilometers. That is a massive gap. To put that in perspective, on a US map the distance is similar to driving from New York City to Las Vegas. 
Full map details under Mapped.

I started the year off with a pretty solid schedule to make it all the way around the country but as life goes, things change. Throughout my travels, I realized there were loads of places I wanted to see that hadn’t been accounted for in my original schedule, and there were also places I loved that I ended up staying longer. Both of those factors put me behind schedule. Australia is huge. In order to complete a full circuit, I needed to keep moving every few weeks.

In addition to all the fabulous places to see, the biggest factor of my incomplete goal was lack of travel funds. I’ve done great with my budget, far better than I expected. However, when my sister, Bean, came to visit in April my strict monthly budget went out the window. We still traveled like backpackers, sleeping in our campervan Glenn, but we made sure to do and eat anything we wanted. I am so glad I didn’t restrict myself while she was here. We had a truly fabulous three weeks, and the extra three weeks of traveling I might have been able to complete wouldn’t have compared to the experiences we had. (I hope she never reads that.) On the map, Bean and I covered ★17 through ★33 in three weeks.

Since my funds ran dry sooner than expected, I’ve chosen to stay in Perth to earn a bit of money before heading on to New Zealand. Before I leave in September I hoping to add a few more stars in the Western Australian region, but I won’t make it further than that. And that my friends means… I have to come back to Aus! At some point in the future, I will be back to complete Perth to Darwin to Alice Springs to Adelaide, and then a few weeks in Tasmania. So I guess this failure works in my favor; I’m already planning to return before I even leave!

My last goal of birthing a cow isn’t something that’s really in my control. In reality, people don’t assist with cow births unless there’s an issue and the mother or calf are in danger. So it’s better for the cows that I didn’t have to help out. At least I got to see this beautiful babe!

So back to the question: Even after those failures, was it worth it? Absolutely. I would love to explore every country at this depth. I have loved living with locals to understand their relationship with the country and land. And I have loved traveling from state to state, discovering the little variances. I love that I have become so accustomed to the accents that I no longer hear them. I’ve fallen in love with meat pies and caramel slices. Before I go I really need to choose a footy team worthy of my loyalty!

So thank you Australia and all of your people for letting a loud American live among you and learn your ways. And more importantly, thank you for always asking if I was Canadian 😆.

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