Today is Wednesday, September 20th. I have been working at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary for over two months. And despite the beauty of the place, the interesting work, the relatively calm rhythm and the security (accommodation, meals and wifi provided and a good pay), I do not feel very good. Or rather I do not feel good anymore.
The first month was full of discoveries, wonder, learning.
The second month was full of clashes, anxieties, disappointment and ill-being.
What has happened that completely change my appreciation of the experience?
I have always had a lot of problems with social relations. Interacting with others has always been associated with many questions, disappointments and misunderstandings. Apparently, I do not understand others. And I do not understand why I can not understand them. Since I started traveling, it has not changed. When I left France almost two years ago, I had in mind to go to Japan for a year. The n°1 country on my list of places to visit. This journey to the other end of the world had to change me mentally and physically. I was finally going to find out who I really was, to overcome these feelings of ill-being and disappointment that have inhabited me for years and to have successful relationships.
Of course this was not the case. I spent six difficult months in Japan, filled with loneliness and misunderstanding. Everything was not bad, on the contrary. I have seen wonderful things, made incredible experiences and learned a lot. But what struck me was this feeling of extreme solitude associated with difficult exchanges. Yes it’s normal. Japan is a very different country from France, people behave differently and the language barrier is a hard obstacle to overcome. I was most certainly naive to think that traveling a few months in Japan were going to be able to find the solution to all my problems.
Rather than obstinate me and end up being disgusted with this country that I love so much, I flew to New Zealand. There sure I was probably going to be able to change. The country of wide open spaces and hiking. Everything I love. This time I spent a year there and despite all the wonderful things I saw and the great experiences I’ve had, the feeling is mixed about social relationships. Even in a country with a very European culture and without too many problems of comprehension (I speak relatively good English), I did not have, or not succeeded, to have very successful exchanges with others. Again I felt very lonely. I met a few people with whom the exchange worked very well but the rest of the time was quite disappointing. I had several clashes probably due to too high expectations and I spent almost the entire year without real friends. And let’s do not even talk about love relationships. I’ve always been a loner but at 28 years old, I feel like I really need to find real contact, a true exchange. Whether it’s a friend or a partner, it does not matter. I just need to share what I live with someone.
So here I am in Australia since July. My initial plan when I left the NZ was to work for six months, to travel the country for two months and then to go travelling in Asia by bike. Now that I am in Australia with a one-year visa I think I will stay there and enjoy the full year to discover as many things as possible.
This is also why it is probably soon time to leave Arkaroola. I thought of spending six months here but after two and a half months I think it’s better to go elsewhere. The country is so big that spending six months in one place is perhaps a shame. Associated with this, an experience again very mixed concerning social relations, it’s time to face the obvious.
Arkaroola is lost in the middle of the Flinders Ranges. This is what is called an Outback Resort. This means very little contact with the outside, with “civilization”. Just the semi-desert nature and the tourists who arrive every day. It does not bother me, on the contrary. I love nature, hiking, quiet and I like working in hospitality. Exchanging everyday with the tourists of passage is one of my little pleasures. But most of the time the exchange remains very superficial. The people with whom I could have more in-depth exchanges are my co-workers. But that is not the case. I have one or two people with whom I have some developed exchanges but that’s it. So where is the problem ?
Probably the people I work with are just different from me. First they are (almost) all Australians. Most have lived a great majority of their lives in the Outback and their pace of life and way of seeing things is different from mine. The team consists of about twenty people, ranging from the twenties to the sixties. They are nice but not very warmhearted. Or that’s what I feel. Ask someone else he will probably tell you something else. But apart from a few people, I do not feel much “warm” in the exchanges. People are very detached and individual. It may be the way of living that wants that. So it is certain that when one lives and works permanently with the same people and that they don’t get along very well, things are not full of joy. I had several clashes this last month with a few people from the team and with the manager who have upset me a lot and left me depressed. For a time, I lost sight of my travel goals and my willingness to change. But fortunately since two weeks I try to relativize what happen to me, to concentrate on the essential things. No need to insist, there are people with whom the exchange does not work. Better to take the whole as an experience and learn from that.
But maybe the problem comes from me. Most certainly a big part of the problem comes from me. Despite all my efforts to stop this, I still have expectations far too high. Whether in relations, experiences, visits or meetings, I always expect too much. I drop, on people I just met, different from me, my expectations. And unconsciously I expect them to respond to my anxieties and my existential questions. And I always en up disappointed. One would think that after two years of traveling, I would have finally learned the lesson, but apparently this is not the case. And even if I have started to change, change is not yet big enough to be noticeable. This experience in Arkaroola is probably one of the toughest (concerning the relational exchanges) that I have experienced since I started traveling. Yes, probably harder than what I have experienced in Japan. So the language barrier ins not the problem. Maybe it’s just my character, the people I meet and the environment where I meet them. But all these difficulties and disappointments may have taught me at least two things. Apparently I am either made to work solo without team. Or I need to be in an environment allowing more exchanges (a larger team or just do not live and work on the same place). I have not yet found the right situation for me. The second thing I learned about this stay in the Outback is that the beauty of an environment is not enough to erase the lack of relational exchanges. Arkaroola may be beautiful, the lack of successful exchanges make it a mixed experience (at the time of my writing).