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From the Archives: June 13, 1996

February 17, 2012
Cafe Barbette, Minneapolis

I began writing twenty or so years ago during a time of intense internal struggle and emotional strife.  Writing grounded me to this earth at a time when my ground was crumbling beneath me.  Freefalling and flailing,  it was my pen I held onto for dear life.  It was a while after I started writing, however, after I started naming dreams, coding them into language, and putting them on the page that I realized words are living, breathing things, capable of jumping off the page and into my life.

The journal above began on May 23, 1996, five months into a solo journey through Australia.  My journey through Australia began from seeds of thoughts, of uncovering a desire that I didn’t know I had to travel the world.  Before I began writing, I did not dare to dream a dream so big as to travel to another country, albeit alone.  Before I left for college, I had been to exactly five states total, three of them adjacent to Minnesota.  Possibilities of travel were not discussed in our house, and frankly, were not believed possible.  For the sake of brevity, suffice it to say, a series of serendipitous meetings, overheard conversations, and simply being brave enough to write, “I want to travel across the world,” led me to the day, December 30, 1995, when I boarded a Qantas Airlines flight to Melbourne, Australia with $500 in the back pocket of my Levis, and no plans for where I would stay my first night across the world.

At the time of this entry, I was 24 years old, $70.00 left, hitchhiking up the east coast of Australia.  Here, from the archives of my journals, are my words then:

June 13, 1996- Lookout to Koo-to-Loo, on the top of Dunk Island.  I’m here with Robert who’s a 25 year-old Dutch guy I met in Bowen.  He came to Mission Beach last night and we were supposed to go to Tully today, but my heart was resisting.  I don’t want to go to “Tully,” the wettest place in Australia, to pick bananas.  It’d be fun to live in a caravan with Jason and Robert…but not that fun.  So instead of wasting my time and money waffling, I decided to make the most of the $70.00 or so dollars I have left.  So we took a water taxi to the island, evaded the camping fee, and climbed to Mt. Koo-to-Loo.  We’re going to sleep right here, at the lookout, on the ground.
Yesterday I spent the day ducking under barbed wire and electric fences to pick goldies out of cow pies while a big red bull with horns chewed and stared at us pick through his shit.
Me, Canadian Mikey, Canadian Rob, and English Teresa roamed the pasteur.  Last night we sat on beds, cutting the shrooms into fours, so if one of us got poisoned, we’d all get poisoned.  Then, with the gooey ones, we seeped them in hot water, and passed the ‘shroom tea around in an initiatory way.  I felt like I was a member of some secretive club. 
We walked out onto Mission Beach, and since there was a new moon, the stars were in full blaze.  The Milky Way looked like a big shadow of Santa and his sleigh.  We laughed hard for a while, but then it died and I died out, and the air was chilly, so I laid on the couch and talked with Simon.
Now I’m going to hitch from Mission Beach to the Atherton Tablelands to Cairns, and fly to Sydney where I’ll work and shed my backpacker lifestyle for a while.  I am a little bummed that I won’t be able to dive off the reef, but I have a lifetime.  And I continue to have new experiences every day–my writing is the thread that ties them together. 
Tony’s sending some clothes to Sydney for the winter, and it dawned on me how unadventurous it seems to have the luxury of air mail and fiber optic long-distance phones.  I don’t feel far from home at all.

The last line of that makes me laugh considering all that has changed with technology.  All of it makes me laugh, and makes me so happy that I have a record of something that would otherwise slip into the recess of my brain, tucked in the gray matter, away from memory.

For this and many other reasons, I am so grateful for this simple art of journaling…


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