Ryan turns the key in the ignition of our “Adventure Camper” and pulls out onto the long, straight, dusty road that leads to National Highway 94, on to Coolgardie, down to Norseman and across the 1,100 kilometer (684 mile) stretch of Nullarbor Plain.
Every Australian we’ve met has told us this is the longest, dullest stretch of nothingness we will ever regret driving across, but these off-putting descriptions have done little to dampen Ryan’s enthusiasm as he turns up the radio, bounces in the driver’s seat and accelerates towards the desert. You can see from the smirk on his face that his imagination is not dulled, but rather stimulated by the emptiness on the horizon.
There is a distinct feeling like none other when you start a new journey and a world of possibilities is laid out before you like a breadcrumb trail to your future, better self. Whether you are stepping on to the deck of a sailboat, getting behind the wheel of a camper van or standing in front of the departures board at a train station with a backpack and no itinerary, in those still moments before your journey is set in motion, you can almost see your future travel-worn self relishing in the experience of new and strange foods, sharing a beer with a wise old storyteller or taking in the sunrise from a mountaintop. And the motivation to move forward is never stronger than in those moments before a journey begins.
I think back to the many great journeys of my life so far and I feel incredibly fortunate that, 15 years after I first left the U.S. to teach English in Russia, I am still in love with that exhilarating feeling of moving towards the delicious unknown.
That feeling has pushed me onto the platforms of the Trans-Siberian railway, onto a ferry to Finland, into a Jeep driving through the Caucasus Mountains, to the deserts of the Middle East, to the cobbled streets of Spain and onto the colorful buses of South America. And with my English teaching certification in hand, I could get work wherever I went, ensuring my travels would never have to end.
Along the way, that meandering path I forged as I taught English around the world inspired me and Ryan to build Teaching House, now the largest CELTA teacher training school in the world, which has sent thousands of teachers abroad to do just what we’ve done. And, in turn, this inspired us to build IH New York and IH Boston, two English language schools that bring students from all over the world to learn English in the U.S. and experience life in New York and Boston.
So, what may have looked at the time like aimless travels into an unstable future, in fact, formed the very livelihood that allows me to continue doing what I love after all these years – traveling, teaching, writing and discovering new passions, whether it be sailing, surfing, ski racing, roller derby or racing across oceans in the Clipper Round the World Race.
And here I am now, sitting in the passenger seat of a camper van as it rolls towards the Outback, oddly excited to see tumbleweed blowing across a barren landscape. Because against the backdrop of the Australian bush, I can see what lies ahead is another journey, a new experience and an opportunity to grow.
That is the beauty of new beginnings: roads, oceans and train tracks are blank slates on which you can scribble your own route leading to an endless network of beautiful, unimaginable possibilities. The only thing you need to be sure of is the desire to take those first few steps. Knowing where those steps lead is not important, and there’s no point worrying about where you’ll end up because worrying will only slow you down.
As a wild kangaroo bounces alongside us on the road, Ryan shifts into gear, kicking up a cloud of dust as we pull away from Perth. We have no idea how long we will spend in Australia, or even where we want to go next. But none of that matters. We have the open road, our wild imagination and the experience to know that opportunities are created by those who go looking for them.
What part of a new adventure do you love most? What is it about a journey that speaks to you?