Welcome to the Freedom Fridays Project Podcast. I'm Pete Clark, your host, the Whispers Guy. It appears that work expands to the time that we give it and I started to explore how I was investing my time and effort, particularly on Fridays. It's evolved to an exploration and experiment with time, energy, attention and identity, and a mindset shift from I have to, to I choose to. So if you're interested in exploring some changes to the way that you invest your time and energy, if you'd like some tips on the way as you make some changes, perhaps to your identity, if you would like the freedom of I choose to, away from I have to, then this is the podcast for you. So welcome to the Freedom Fridays Project Podcast. Welcome to this week's episode of the Freedom Fridays Podcast where I have a, I say this every week, a really special guest. But this guy really is for me a special guest, because we've lived in the same country for many years but we probably haven't met in that same country for many years. And my guest wouldn't even know that I've been following his journey over the last 12 to 18 months, and hence, that's why I'm delighted to have on my show today, David. David Riley, how are you sir?
Good to see your smiling face across Zoom here. And I apologise if there's any background noise, I've pulled over to a side street here on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland and so if we get any background noise, then my apologies.
That's okay. We've done 18 months of Zoom, David, I think we've seen and heard it all. So David, I start with the same question every week. This is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, people go through big changes. What's the big change that you've gone through over the last 12 to 18 months?
I've dragged my wife and three kids on a caravan trip around Australia, we've done a big lap over the last 12 months starting out in southern Queensland. We're just finishing up over the next few weeks and we've done a clockwise lap, right around the coast of the continent of Australia and so that's been I guess my big change, yes.
A little bit of a reveal. When we spoke earlier, David, you were a little bit unsure about whether that was extraordinary or not. And I'm going to wager quite a large bet not that I'm a gambling man, that anyone listening would go O-M-G, that is extraordinary! How did you, why did you, when did you, how did that? I'm sure there are a dozen questions that are firing off in people's heads so maybe I'll start with why, why now?
Well, it was probably a few things that motivated us to do it now. It's been something that I've been nagging my wife about for a few years now and she fends me off with legitimate reasons why we couldn't, we wouldn't be able to do it right then. But I think the kind of the pressing thing that motivated us was we've got three kids, our two teenagers, one sort of late primary school, and the oldest is 14 turning 15 and there's only a window of opportunity, when you've got where your kids become a little bit too old, to want to hang out in a tin can of a caravan with their parents for a prolonged period of time. And so that was one thing that kind of said, Let's do it, let's do it now. And I think the other thing of course, too was this once in a century pandemic, that reminded everybody that look, you can plan, but plans can change really quickly and you've got to really just where possible live in the moment. So I did say to Joanne look, we already had some plans underway, which was good, and when the pandemic broke, it was kind of like, well, is this a good time or a bad time? Look, it's just time, let's do it, and so we we started just before Christmas last year. We were fortunate that we had a an Off Road caravan which allowed us to go to places and see things that many people haven't and we've just basically followed the sun. So the southern hemisphere Summer, of course starts around Christmas time. In fact, today's the first day of summer that we're recording on first day of southern hemisphere summer. And we just headed south. So we've basically follow the sun right around the coastline, we did spend a few weeks in the early autumn, heading up through the guts of Australia, right through the centre, we went up from South Australia up through the Flinders Ranges up the Oodnadatta Track up to Uluru, which is that Ayers Rock that massive monolith that many see is the heart of the continent. And so we did travel up there through the early autumn, it was hot, it was early, like it was 41, 42, 43 degrees. Some of the locals said you're lucky, it's cool, there's a southerly wind blowing, it's really cool this time of year for when you're coming so you're fortunate to do it then. There were some occasions where my kids didn't want to get out of the car because of flies, blow flies that just jumped on you as soon as you, and we ate some meals with those black fly nets over our heads and sort of passing up food up through the middle, but it was still cool. So that was the only time we really left the coast, from at a great distance. Although in places over in Western Australia, we did go in inland a little bit to see things like the Karijini National Park and the Gibb River Road and places like that. So for the 12 months, we've just been doing a slow big lap right around the continent.
Wow. David, I'm sure people listening, and I've thought about it, I'm sure people would say things like, wow, I'd love to do that. But I reckon less than 1% actually do it.
I guess there are obstacles for why people wouldn't be able to have this kind of adventure or any I guess, significant adventure and those obstacles are real and sometimes they're imagined, they're in our head. And what would the obstacles be, Pete help me out here, I guess money might be a significant one to people. How do you finance that kind of that kind of adventure?
Was it expensive, or what did you manage on a relatively simple budget?
Yes, yes and yes, so yes and no, and yes and yes. So look for that kind of, I would say that it's probably, now we did things pretty simply but if anyone was wanting to do something like this for 12 months, you're probably looking at about $35,000-45,000, you're looking at about $3,000 a month. Accommodation is quite cheap, we did it, our accommodation was about $500 a month. Which, if you're prepared to free camp a little bit and your set up allows you to do that, you can do it really, really cheaply. Fuel is about $1,400-1,500 a month on a bad month. But I'd like to suggest that there are many people in Sydney doing, spending that on fuel each month anyway commuting back and forth from work. Food again, maybe $1,200 a month and so all up it works out, you know $40,000 for the year, about $3,500 a month. So look, we rented out our house to do it. I had a little bit of long service leave and a bit of annual leave up our sleeve. And so I guess with any kind of change or any adventure, whether that be travel like we're experiencing or maybe a new, maybe getting involved in your own business or doing something else I think if you can just do the maths and if the financial maths kind of work out a little bit, but there's a bit that you're unsure about. I just encourage, as we've discovered and discovering if you just kind of take a step of faith and go out and do it, all of those minor details work themselves out, don't they?
Yeah, I think so.
Pete, I was going to say you would have experienced this with setting up your own business, you kind of pull out a napkin or an envelope or notepad or something, you work out a few finances and you say, look, it's there or there abouts I reckon we can do this.
Well, that's an interesting perspective David because I'm not a numbers guy at all. I'm more faith driven in terms of I'm going to trust it's going to be okay. I didn't even work out if it was going to be kind of okay, I just assumed it would be. And I actually gave myself a timeline rather than a money line. I'm going to do this for 12 months, see what happens, as opposed to I need to earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, whatever it might be.
Then there you go. So if you can say, well, let's just give it a go for a year and what's the worst that can happen? And be realistic about that because some people catastrophise many things, but if you can say what's realistically the worst that can happen? Can we come back from there, if it was the wrong thing to do. And if you can get your head around that then these kinds of experiences that our family and others have had like that, can go from, wouldn't that be great to do something like that, to wasn't that great, we did it.
Yes. You talked about taking a leap of faith, the listeners might not know that you're actually a man of the faith and your role is, one of your many roles is a minister. Were you able to use those skills and background on the way around?
Look in a yes, so you're right I'm a ordained minister. In fact, when you and I used to work together, Peter back, 20 odd years ago, I ended up, we stayed in contact, of course, over those years, but I ended up going and studying theology and becoming a minister. And so yes, so that wording I mentioned, a step of faith is both, kind of an expression, but also literal. And, yes, so what I found, of course, was that, in our travels, when you meet up with someone around a campfire, in the middle of nowhere, people have time, and also a headspace to talk about the deeper, more meaningful issues of life. And so, look, there were one or two occasions when they would say in, so what do you do for a living, and I tell them, and that was the end of the conversation. And often, I'll even apologise or say, Look, you know, is there anything I need to apologise for on behalf of the last few 1000 years of the church's existence? But look by and large people, I've had some wonderful conversations with people and we've also been able to stay in a few church car parks to which is a nice perk of the job, to save us some money. So, yes, but look, there are, we mentioned obstacles, money's one, kids are another, our kids, one's in a couple of years into high school, another one goes to high school next year. And there's a third one who is just happy to just be wherever. But, yes, I mean, one of the obstacles I imagined was, Is this going to impact upon their schooling, but the opposite is true. It's accelerated their schooling, their education has been fantastic. And I'd encourage anyone thinking about doing something, whether here in Australia, or in the States, or your listeners over there in Europe, if they've got kids of a high school age, they're old enough to be for these sorts of experiences to have lifelong, well a lifelong impact upon them, where they're old enough to remember and young enough that they're not having to, I don't know, stop uni for a while. So it's been it's been great for us. But then, of course, you've got, you've got the imagined obstacles to why you couldn't do it as well and they are imagined. What if we get bogged? What if we get lost? How is this going to impact my career? What if we damage the car or whatever, and we've done all of that. We've got bogged we've damaged the car and all of that but it just adds more stories that we've shared as a family. In fact, did you read about a week or two ago that family that got bogged? Yes, on the Oodnadatta Track, we were up the Oodnadatta Track, we were in that spot in March, lucky enough, it didn't rain. And you know, these people had to get helicoptered out, and I saw some online comment, this is a mum and dad and two young kids and they left their caravan there, and they'll go back in after Christmas to try and retrieve it. And I saw some online comments, Oh that's my worst nightmare. I reckon that'd be fantastic. What a great story, no one died and they've got a story that they'll tell for the rest of their life. So all of those imagined obstacles of why you can't do it, they are imagined. And sometimes you've kind of got to say, Well, look, let's, if there's been something in your heart that you wanted to do, for, and I won't go away, and this experience didn't go away, I tried to make it go away, but it wouldn't go away. I kept on bringing it up with my wife and if your listeners have something on their heart, that won't go away, just do it.
Great advice sir. You may remember, I've got an education background. And so I trained the teacher, and I remember years ago, I can't remember who it was, but they defined education as everything that you remember, after you've forgotten everything that you've learned. Meaning, the school based stuff is negligible, negligent, almost immaterial compared to life experiences. And you've just given your kids a whole lifetime of experiences in 12 months.
Yes, that's yes, and that is Pete, that's my, I hope I can get a little bit sort of, a bit vulnerable here with you, I knew that I would regret not doing it. If we, laying on my deathbed in years to come, hopefully years to come I know I would regret not doing something like this. But the other thing too is that, you're hoping that when you've, when you get into your dotage, and when you, you're hoping that you give your kids experiences that encourage in them a sense of curiosity, a sense of wonder, a sense of, confidence, that well if we can do that, then changing a job or change a career, or asking that boy or girl out or going travelling or, if I've done that, that I can do this. And it's, hopefully, that when I've died, that my kids will remember me fondly for providing those kinds of experiences with them.
David, I think you've, very simply but profoundly defined what I think education should be about in all its realms, as in curiosity, wonder and confidence.
I didn't mean to steal your next book there, Pete, but there you go.
If I may I'm going to continue to vulnerability point. Because throughout lockdown for me, I feel very fortunate and I'm humbled, we've obviously created this, my wife and I, but we're so fortunate that we've got three great kids and all five of us get on and during the lockdown, we weren't locked down in, in an off road caravan. But some of the things we've done and chatted about and experienced and discussed and I said to them the other night and I'm welling up a little bit because I felt it and I'm about to say it again. I found myself falling in love more and more of my family as every week passed. What was that like for you in a tin can?
I guess there's a difference in that some people have experienced lockdown in parts of the world where they couldn't leave their flat so I can understand where cabin fever sets in and tensions rise and people think well that's just, you square that or cube that in a caravan it's going to be far worse but it's not the case. In fact, with a caravan you're spending far more time outside and you really only, your caravan really is just there for for sleeping. That was our experience anyway, we were going on walks and at the beach and sitting outside of an evening around the campfire and so, although I did have a number of times where you're lying in bed or heading off to sleep, you're chatting with your kids or in the bunks down the other end of the caravan. And you have this realisation, of course that your greatest earthly wealth is within five or six metres of you. You've got your wife beside you, your partner, you've got your, in my experience, my family of three kids down there chatting, and everything that matters in this life is there. And so the experience, as many have experienced through this once in a century pandemic, is a reminder of just the importance of the simpler things in life. The family that you've got there, Pete, in your house. Have you got enough food for the day? Yes. have you got some warm to sleep for tonight? Yes. Well, that's all you need, isn't it? That's all you need, this worrying about tomorrow and all those other concerns, they quickly fall by the wayside when you have these experiences like you've had and like many of your listeners would have had. Just to remind you of what's important.
I'm making a big assumption that, and since I've known you, and I'm guessing your journey since then, that you're a relatively introspective, reflective, you think about your thinking you've done a lot of work on yourself. Over the last 12 months, what did you learn about yourself that was maybe a surprise to you?
Over the last 12 months? Yes, look, I think it's a... I've been keeping a journal each day, as I have for the last 20 years. Now I say, look, I journal each day, it's only five minutes, 10 minutes each day, where you just reflect on your experiences and what you're thinking about. I've encouraged actually, my kids who probably aren't old enough to keep a regular journal, but part of their schooling, this year has been keeping a journal, each day, as well. And one of the things they kind of roll their eyes at me when I suggested each day, is to say, look more than just writing about what you've done, or what you've seen, write about how that made you feel. And it's my hope that as I've learned and as you've done, Peter, when you've, because I know you do something similar, you start seeing commonalities crop up with your experience and I think your question was, what have I learned about myself over the last 12 months? Is two things, one is that it's a reminder to me that we should regularly upend our lives. Every couple of years, or in my case, probably every 10 years, just do something that completely upends it, because it's a reminder that things are going to be okay. Things will be okay, no matter what happens. And so, the experience has reminded me that dramatic things can happen in your life and yet, you'll still not just survive, but thrive. So I'm not sure whether that's yes, I'll probably when we hang up from this Zoom chat Pete I'll think of something more profound, but that's the answer that comes to mind for me.
And there was a second thing, or was that the second thing?
Yes there was a second thing wasn't there, there was two things and probably it's also been a reminder that there is some continued work I need to do on myself. I thought that I was immensely patient but there have been some events, some occasions, some incidences where I have lost my cool with the kids, lost my cool in a way that even shocked me. And so I've had a think about that and say what was going on during that time? It wasn't the kids that really set me off, they were just a trigger, there was something else going on. What was it, what fear, what concern? What was going on that had me lose my cool, more than I should have and more than I expected?
That's a very honest and vulnerable answer sir, thank you. I note that you use the words 'reminder', despite me asking you about what did you learn about yourself, and what I observe in most of the insights that people have, whether it's 12 months around Australia in a tin can, whether it's a change of job or lifestyle, or a change of country, is depending on what stage of life they're at, it's often a reminder, it's often, Oh I know that but I needed to be reminded of that. And it's rarely something that comes as a surprise to them that they don't know What the surprise is often is, how often or how much they'd forgotten. And so it acts as a reminder, as opposed to something brand new, which I think in itself, tells us a little bit about our humanity, in what we need to thrive and survive.
That's right and so I mentioned journaling before, and doing a daily journal. And it's been a practice I've been doing for the better part, pretty much since last year or two of high school, on and off, but certainly pretty much each day, or at least every second day for the last 25 years. And as well as a journaling process helping you to work through whatever you're going through at the moment, what I didn't expect with this practice was and Pete, you've probably known this borrower earlier than me, and maybe many of your listeners will have as well, I'm late to this, this understanding was that when you read through your old journals, and I tend to do this, each day I'll read through one from 20 years ago, one from 10 years ago and one from a year ago, you through that practice, you are reminded of many lessons that you had but forgot. Forgot about and so that kind of, little bit of autobiographical reminder of what you're capable of, what your weaknesses are, how you tend to respond in certain circumstances and situations. Having that reminder there on your bookshelf, in the form of a journal, yeah, I've found a real blessing for my continued growth.
You said that it was in your heart and you, over many years, were trying to convince your wife. I'm guessing maybe your kids were too young to even understand the possibility. Focusing on them for a second, what help them thrive in dad's adventure and when did it become our adventure, not just dad's adventure?
So look, Joanne, my wife, Joanne's preference is normal, regular routine and a predictable rhythm to life. So I've got to really give it to her for being willing to do this with the other family. Look, the two older girls were also a bit reluctant to come around on this on this trip, but when you're 14 and close to 13, you don't really have a lot of leverage in what the family does do you. And then the nine year old boy, he was just happy just I don't know playing Lego wherever it was, he could do in his lounge room or in the back of the car, he was just happy with wherever we were. And you remember that, you know that joke, you may have heard the joke of the man who goes out golfing every Sunday and one day he doesn't get home until five or six o'clock at night and his wife says, how come you're so late he says Oh, you know Jack my regular partner, he has a heart attack on the first hole. My wife says Oh my goodness, is that why you're late? He goes, Yes, so you know for the next 18 holes it's hit the ball drag Jack, hit the ball drag Jack . And so that joke is a reminder for the first two or three months of our trip around Australia, for the first two or three months, I felt like I was dragging the family around the country. But something happens, I think, and people who've done something similar to this will recognise this dynamic, and that is that after about two or three months, you start getting into your rhythm. And you need to give, if anyone is thinking about doing a trip like this over an extended period of time, you've got to allow yourself a few months of frustrations and difficulties and even wondering whether you're done the right thing, but just know that after a period of time you find a rhythm that it just all starts to start to come together. So, look, the question was, I forgot the question Pete. What do the kids...?
Yes when did it switch from dad's adventure to the family adventure? And what did you do, what could they do to support themselves through that because, nine months on from having it switched, it's self sustaining, I'm guessing.
Look it switched for each of us at different periods. There's the middle child, child number two, which took a lot longer to stop saying, you've taken me away from friends, to that comment late one night around a campfire where she says, Dad, I'm really glad we're doing this. So it happens at different times, depending upon the personalities and proclivities of your kids. I'm still not sure that my wife is exactly there yet, we're coming to the end of it and I can see a smile and a glint in Joanne's eyes that we are coming. And I've said one of our options is to keep going and she's really sort of clamped down any kind of conversation of that nature. So I think, although I know or hope that in, over the next few months and years, Joanne will also look back at it with very fond memories, as I know she has, but I think she's looking forward to getting back to a more structured lifestyle.
What is she looking forward to the most?
Look, she's a gardener so she likes her gardens, I think she's looking forward to a little bit of space of her own and so we do have some other projects planned for next year. And one of those Pete is she wants to buy a farm in New South Wales, nearer to family and so, she's leveraging this 12 month trip now by saying, Hey, you did this, David, so look, let's for the next project, why don't we do that. She's got a bit of leverage, she's got some, I think that's her trump card. So I think she's looking forward to getting back into into gardening.
So you're coming to the end of this particular adventure. What are you looking forward to, and yet, what are you not looking forward to?
Look our, so at the moment, I am writing a book this sounds really highbrow doesn't it? Really, and I'm writing a book, well I am. I'm writing a book on the first two people, two young guys, 21 year olds, who were the first to drive a motor vehicle around Australia back in 1925. It's an incredible story of adventure and they did it in a tiny second hand Citron seven horsepower car that was just barely enough room for the both of them, overcoming incredible obstacles. It took them five months to do it and it's a story that's never really been written down in detail, and so why not me to write the story of this book, seeing as we've just done this, seeing as a centennary is coming up in a couple of years time and seeing as that these two young blokes were missionaries that belong to my church. And the car is now held in the National Museum of Australia there in Canberra and it's a great story. So I'm going to write a book and I've had access to a whole bunch of archives that allows me to do this, I'm in the process over the next few months of writing this book. I do need to, and I say I do need to head back out on the road, to go to some of the places these guys went to, to research this book so I will be back over in Western Australia next year and other places. But my wife tells me I'll be there on my own. So there's a bit more travel and adventure to do this in preparation for that. And look, I am dreaming a little bit I managed to come across, about a month ago, the same model car that did the 50th anniversary lap around Australia back in 1975. It hasn't been driven since, it's in perfect condition. Wouldn't it be great in a couple of years time for the centennary, to drive that same car around Australia to commemorate that event. So that's what I'm in the early stages of planning as well.
That looks like an obvious next invitation to guest and talk about that experience, sir.
Here's in invitation Pete, if you in a couple of years time you want to jump in this tiny little 100 year old car with me and circumnavigate the continent, Pete I can think of far worse travel companions than you.
I think I'll take that as a compliment. You started by, and I know you're not spruiking advice necessarily, but you had this idea that if something's in your heart that won't go away, find a way to do it. This has obviously been in your heart, and you've now done, it has it gone away?
No but it is something where, even if family circumstances wouldn't allow me to do something like this ever again, I'll look back with incredible fondness of the experience, so, but I've always, look, I've always had a little bit of travel wanderlust in me. That's where you and I met over in the UK 20 odd years ago, I thought I'd go over for a year and ended up being there 10 years. Pete, you've got a similar experience too, you went from the UK to Australia, back in the mid naughties and you gave yourself two years didn't you and here you are 14 years later still living in Australia as well. So look, folk that do have a little bit of, what do they call call it, itchy feet, wanderlust? Know the experience if they're listening in and they've got that they know the experience that it never quite leaves. You may be able to put the lid on it for a little while but every now and again, it comes out and whether that's a weeks trip here or a years trip somewhere else, rather than having a single trip of a lifetime, why not have a lifetime of trips?
Ah David, boom, boom!
Yes, that's not my line by the way, but it's a good line.
That is a great line.
Yes, but why not? Why not, if it's in your heart? And I think that was the case for me with with ministry, Pete. I tried many things before I finally succumbed to that calling, I tried to avoid it but like the story, the ancient story of Jonah in the Bible, where he tries to escape the calling on his life. Finally, you've got to succumb to it and just follow it. And so that was in our current experience, that was what it was like, it was it won't go away Joanne, we just have to do this.
David, I'm going to pause our conversation there because I can't go past that Hollywood line of it was more than a trip of a lifetime, it was a lifetime of trips. We finish these David with kind of four or five quickfire rounds. So I'm going to fire a couple of questions at you. If you'd be happy to answer with the first word that comes to mind. What's your favourite Aussie word?
Aussie word. Goodonya, good on you, which is kind of like three words but the way the Aussies say it, it's one word isn't it?
It's spelt all one word. What's the rule you like to break?
Yes, if the majority are doing it, then it must be wrong.
What's one thing you wish you knew the day before you left on your trip
That - the day before I left on the trip - that it'll be alright in the end. I think that's pretty much what you could approach this pandemic with too can't you, it'll be alright in the end. As a species, we've survived far worse and all of those, I know this is meant to be a quick fire thing, Peter, but let me just throw this in for those who may be concerned about the pandemic, and what all of that means. It'll be alright in the end and if it's not alright, it's not the end. It will be all right in the end.
I've got to stop, I'm going stop there. You've just given us too much there. I can't ask another question now. If it's not alright, it's not the end. Oh, my goodness. Sir, I am so grateful, humbled and delighted that you came on and shared a small part of what has been an extraordinary year. And don't you ever believe this story that you're not an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things. It's been a real pleasure David and I do look forward to us grabbing a hug and a beer together when you finally make it back down to Sydney.
I'll take the hug but being an ordained minister of the Christian faith, I'll have to forego the beer unfortunately, Pete.
Of course, I forgot about that. Yes, of course. Of course. Of course. Of course.
David, thank you for your time. It's been my pleasure indeed.