As 2017 looms in I find myself on the other side of the world. The opportunity came up to work in Australia. Freelance life is a series of exciting events followed by really unexciting nights and weekends spent at a desk. Sometimes you need to do what feels right, follow your instincts, and take a chance. The opportunity came, I grasped it with both hands and flew across the world.
Words & Photography by: Joanne Coates | @joannerebeccacoates
Over the last few weeks we (The Travelling Bag and I) have seen mountains, rainforests, the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere, been to the edge of the world and explored cities through a psycho-geographic approach. We’ve camped on remote beaches, walked through some of the last true wilderness on the earth, swam in rivers and cycled over hills.
There are a few challenges to travelling solo - anything heavy, it’s all on you, you get bitten by a snake, it’s all on you, get lost in the wilderness, it’s all on you.
Think of this as a modern-day folk tale. Not fighting the urge to go away on one’s own, but allowing opportunities to take you down stream. To meet people along the way by chance. To encourage encounters. My time with The Travelling Bag covers 1242 miles. Spanning time in Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. The chance to take adventure as it comes, taking note of nature whilst understanding and learning to live simply. To be happy as you are following the current of life wherever it may take you.
I was determined to see a different side to Australia. Not the side the mind conjures up, a place in the sun, beaches, sun bathing, the English language, a lack of culture and colonisation. The wilder aspects of the place are often played down, the democracy of its people in comparison to Europeans also played down. The diversity and vast expanse of the landscape on this continent offers a different travelling experience.
I was inspired by the journey of Lithuanian-born wilderness photographer Olegas Truchanas. A man who spent most of his life on the island of Tasmania, exploring more of the wilderness than most will ever see, let alone experience. Due to Truchanas’s efforts, the Huon pine forest was saved. He was also responsible for influencing the world’s first ever green political party. Despite all this, he died in a very tragic manner, whilst campaigning against dam’s being built in Tasmania at the time. He was to canoe the 'Splits on Gordons' river but slipped and fell campaigning for conservational causes in 1972. I was inspired by his journey, the way he travelled - within the landscape, rather than above.
The Travelling Bag Project offers a chance for us to connect our journeys, by acting as a platform for travellers to pass on stories to each other. I hope that all the travellers will be inspired by the mind of Olegas Truchanas, to take heed of the landscape and to learn from it, all whilst having an adventure simultaneously.
Part 1: The City Chapter
Travelling in a city feels an odd sort of way to be. I am a self-confessed, non-urban adult. I love spending time in a more rural setting and unless it’s for work, you won’t find me spending large amounts of time in any city. BUT Melbourne offers an in-between and Sydney is a beach city. They are both drastically different from any European cities I’ve lived or worked in. Spending time away from your usual work setting makes it harder to get on with your freelance to do list, Melbourne offered me an abundance of amazing places and I honestly can’t think of a better city for a freelancer to work in. The city is open and has a more embracing approach to creativity. I explore cities inspired by a psychogeographic approach. I never take public transport. I walk on average (or so my phone tells me) ten miles a day in the city. I playfully meander through streets, turning when and where I feel I should. I drift.
Sydney’s Cockatoo Island marks a different time in the city’s history, now a UNESCO world heritage site. The island’s unique position between two rivers, the Paramatta and Lane Cover, offers a unique perspective of the harbour bridge and CBD, removed but within the city’s boundaries. It is home to Australia’s biggest shipyards, which is what first drew me to the place. I have a huge obsession with maritime traditions and industry, see my North Sea Swells project for proof (http://www.joannecoates.co.uk/plight-of-the-fishermen-2012-2016/ ). This is a remote place, containing a hidden shipbuilding past, of penal colonies, of sinister punishment cells, and shrouded with legends. It was a place where people from all around the world worked. It was a place where romance happened. A place where tragedies happened. A place where new lives began. As you can probably tell by now, this happened to be the place in Sydney I found the most fascinating.
Leaving Sydney behind me, the next stop was Melbourne. After spending so much time in a huge city like Sydney the first thing a country loving person would logically do is find somewhere a little more rural. I headed to the outskirts of Melbourne to the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The infamous Kokoda memorial is a 1000 step climb. The memorial pays tribute to Australian soldiers. In Summer time, the track is filled with people. As I set off from the city at 6am, filled with the confidence I’d be hiking up alone. The steps themselves represent the golden staircase, a track between Uberi and Imita ridge. Filled with tree ferns and Manna Gum, the track is green but not to be underestimated. 1000 steps don’t sound like many, but factor in the heat and it becomes a challenge. The ascent is only 1.5 km but feels like more as you race to the top.
My Travelling Bag Kit for the City:
- Two notebooks
- Fountain pens are a must
- The Well at the End of the World // Neil M.Gunn
- A 35mm camera I use mainly as a visual diary
- 35mm film
- My laptop and phone
- My planner
- A hat (Australia taught me to always wear a hat)
- Sun Lotion
To apply for The Travelling Bag yourself email: email@example.com for more information.