now blogging at Black Dog Barking

Hello dear reader,

I have set up another blog where i’ll be making updates from now on: i decided (somewhat on a whim) to ride a bicycle around Australia to raise awareness of depression, anxiety and addiction. You can follow the adventure at Black Dog Barking, and i would really love to see you there: the more the merrier, and the louder the din we make about this epidemic of psychological (and spiritual) ill-being, the better.

Much love,

Ryan Bodhi Abhijan (Bodhi)

timmmmmmmmmbeeeeeer

I just heard a large branch or small tree falling in the bush behind where I’m camped. Of course I put my head out and looked at the bush directly behind me, as though such an appraisal could identify potentially fatal limbs or trunks, but anyway, i thought, “If it’s my time to go, I wouldn’t be unhappy that it was at the hands of nature.” I’m living the way i want to live, and to die living what I love would actually be kind of an honour.

where the wild lands are

What does “wilderness” mean to you? Is there any true wilderness left in Australia? If so, where is it? The coast around here in Mallacoota is called Australia’s Coastal Wilderness, but they’re logging in the state forests and pulling abalone out of the sea. If we “civilise” everything, where do we go to escape from ourselves and get back to a truly natural environment?

apocalypse dreaming

I had a frighteningly real dream about the apocalypse last night, and wondered if dreams are a way of our subconscious fears expressing themselves to our upper-consciousness. What do you think? The worst thing was that I had a passive-aggressive friend with me, telling me where Massive was and that I needed to escape.

mechanarchy

I am feeling truly blessed to be getting some much-needed TLC for Massive from a talented and passionate bike mechanarchist in Mallacoota … repaired rear derailleur, new bottom-bracket bearing (a cycling milestone for me) and and and and and … a three-piece chain-ring set to replace the two-piece set I was running … so we can chew up even bigger hills, steeper gradients, and generally increase our accessibility to the sort of off-road riding that will characterise this tour. Oh, and a dynamo hub so that my energy will go into charging my phone and powering lights instead of just going into the ground.

image

my greatest fear is enslavement by fear

As a cycle tripper, people often ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of trucks or robbers or snakes or whatever?” Lions and tigers and bears, essentially — mythical fears.

The question often surprises me because I think my greatest fear is enslavement by fear.

This dawned on me this morning as i was commuting from the lake where i’ve set up camp, to Kerang where i come to work.

I remembered the question and thought, Sure i’m a little bit afraid of those things — i have a natural and healthy wariness of them.  But i cycle because i value freedom, i camp because i cherish nature as a cathedral, and i trust people because i’m a philanthrope — i love humanity.

The alternative, which i experienced for a decade in publishing and i guess the twenty years before that, is no longer tenable to me.

The alternative to freedom is the enslavement of fear.

No thanks! I’ll try my luck with the lions and tigers and bears.

how to change plans and stack your bike like a zen monk

I told you i would change my plans: i am not doing the Quamby loop i wrote about on Friday, because instead i caught up with Max, who i met on the road around Koondrook.

Standing outside the supermarket inhaling a chocolate bar, a woman called Gale approached me and said, “You must have been in town all day — we saw you riding about earlier.”

Indeed, i had spent the afternoon at the library, and was always intending to stay the night somewhere in Kerang to met with Max and his friends by 8:30 the next morning at the clock tower. Talking with Gale about where i might camp the night, it slowly dawned on us that of course i should call Max, so that’s what i did.

Max's remarkable backyward is basically one big vegie garden, with tomatoes growing up out of the bricks and grape vines growing down from out the gutters — paradise

Max’s remarkable backyward is basically one big vegie garden, with tomatoes growing up out of the bricks and grape vines growing down from out the gutters — paradise

That night, sitting around Max’s kitchen table with my tent set up in his vegetable garden, he reckoned there was nothing much worth seeing on the Quamby loop, and that even if i did make it all the way up to Ouyen, it would be a two-day hike through sand if i wanted to get to the pink lakes.

I really want to see the pink lakes, and a two-day hike would not be beyond me if i had the right equipment. Alas, i do not.

So we brainstormed and i decided i would explore another idea i’ve been entertaining for a while: camping outside a town and commuting in to use the library/pub/cafe as my office.

So that’s what i’m doing now, but not before i joined Max and his friends on the long way to and from Barham — a 75km team ride, averaging about 30km an hour.

Such an average is a new personal best for me, but it’s really not a personal best when you achieve something like this in a team.

I bounced at the end, doing burnouts around the clock tower. It was a clean fall and i felt remarkably zen about stacking it into the gutter. After i picked myself up and dusted myself off, it was a chance to feel the body go through its natural response to a mild trauma, shaking and wobbling and generally letting go of the fright — and then, of course, getting straight back in the saddle.

Curiously (and perhaps sadly), stacking my bike makes me feel more alive than most other mundane activities. What a brilliant end to a magical day.

And now i’m at the Exchange Hotel in Kerang, standing up at a perfect-height bench-desk, about to knuckle down on the typesetting i couldn’t finish on Friday, my tent holding the fort down at Lake Merange.

Life’s good.

keeping up with road crew looks easy in a still frame

keeping up with road crew looks easy in a still frame

but this is my wait-for-me face, which i call Come Give me a Sweaty Hug

but this is my wait-for-me face, which i call Come Give me a Sweaty Hug

and this is the view i was blessed with on the way to Lake Meran for a well-earned rest. Wondering why i live this way? Well, this is pretty consistently the view out my window.

and this is the view i was blessed with on the way to Lake Meran for a well-earned rest. Wondering why i live this way? Well, this is pretty consistently the view out my window,

whoop!

dawn-time dawnings: i’m writing a memoir!

I think I really am actually writing a coming-of-age memoir. I’m coming of age, I know that much. And I’m writing about it. Bloody oath I’m writing about – I can’t friggen stop writing about it. Some friends are telling me I need to get out of my mind, away from the computer – and what?, into their car!? No way Jose. I’m on my own trip, and today I’m fucking thrilled about it. Yesterday and the days before that? Not so much. Tomorrow? Who knows. But today I’m really actually writing a memoir. I wrote down a summary as a potential pitch recently, when i got excited about an unsolicited email from an agent. But now i can’t find it, which is good – it’s the sort of thing that should be written and re-written from scratch, even as an exercise for writing the actual damn thing. It was something like:

High-school suburban stoner makes it good in publishing before growing disillusioned with the industry and the whole entire industrialised West, heads to Thailand in pursuit of peace, returns an alcoholic, has a nervous breakdown, finds God, travels to Turkey thinking he’s got this peace thing under control, does a lot of hardcore meditation but returns to alcoholism nonetheless, returns to Australia, has another breakdown, catches up with God again and decides to share his story.

Something like that. If i rewrite it every day as i approach the idea of thinking about maybe extracting these Adventures in Sobriety posts and developing them into a manuscript, maybe in ten years i’ll have the concept distilled enough to fit it on a blurb that people might actually care to understand.

The summary i wrote for the agent was a lot more succinct and far less sarcastic and it sounded like a cliché, but whatever.

I have long maintained that clichés are clichés for a bloody good reason – when enough people can relate to an idea easily expressed by some phrase, story or experience, it can become cliché. Cliché gets a bad wrap among the over-educated arts elite, because there is this obessesion with originality – as though using cliché is somehow shamefully derivative. Not necessarily – it’s not the nature of the boat, it’s how you use it. I’m not sure if that really works, but you get the idea.

My superego gets in the way sometimes, suggesting I can’t tell stories for shit and who would care about my story anyway. But then my ego chips and says, Abhijan, you’re fucking awesome! Write this memoir and share it with whoever will listen. Your story is great – you’re a fucking trooper.

I don’t really care what either of them have to say. I’m going with my gut. I’m going with feeling on this one. And right now, the hours I spend sitting down at my journal getting longhanded with my story – they are the most peaceful hours I get, at a time when my life is in a seemingly constant state of upheavel and change.

So that’s what Adventures in Sobriety is about for now. All of the above.

I worry sometimes about whether putting this all up online is a kind of narcissistic exercise – a cry for help, a plea for attention. But right now I don’t care about that either – in one sense because i actually don’t care, but in another: i bloody do need help. Help!, i’m a drunk and a stoner.

But also it’s a cathartic process for me, and I’m arriving at insights I might never have arrived at if I hadn’t been scribbling away at this. So telling the story is as much for me as it might be for you. Of course I’m keen to hear if it resonates with you – that would be grand. We can learn from each other in sharing our stories. So bring it. Yes, I’m looking at you!

getting home drunk

Trawling my journal this morning in search of anything approximating coherent, linear, sensical longhand narrative, i came across this, which could be an aphorism:

One of the fundamental things i know about getting home is it’s hard to do so when you’re drunk.

Insightful, no?

It goes on:

It’s fun to zig-zag your way around the streets when you’re 20-something, but as you enter the 30s you realise it’s lonely and cold outside, where you’ll most likely wind up if you don’t sober up and get home.

budgeting my way to international low-cost living

I am doing my life administration today and i have this vision of publishing my finances in the vein of Thoreau’s Walden.

I use YNAB (You Need a Budget), a piece of desktop software that helps you plan for expenses and get ahead—in their words:

Personal home budget software built with Four Simple Rules to help you quickly gain control of your money, get out of debt, and reach your financial goals!

I used this software in 2013, when i first established my freelance business, and in that year i survived entirely on my freelance income, putting away the income-support payments i was receiving through the NEIS program.

I saved over $10 000 in one year as a fledgling freelancer, which i then spent travelling in Turkey and Greece (with added financial support from Mum, who took me there on the three week holiday that became a nine-month spiritual adventure), where i continued operating my business part time.

Budgeting can be a powerful tool for achieving our goals in life, and one of my goals is to demonstrate through Flux Comb and the actions of my life that there is an alternative to the traditional lifestyle we are offered in mainstream Western society.

Because i don’t have a steady income at this stage …

… actually, scratch that:

i receive welfare payments, and i have one regular client in Sydney, plus i’m looking for paid work as i cycle tour in Australia,

so i’m surviving on approximately AU$16,800 / year.

My ambition is to get off welfare by attracting enough paid work and freelance work to bring in around $20K. Because i live out of my bike (Massive), and i am getting off drugs, my living expenses are quite low. I could happily live as a cycle-touring digital nomad on $AU20K, especially when i get back overseas to places where the cost of living is much lower.

So effectively i need to attract approximately $15K / year in either paid work or freelance work, to get off welfare and make up the rest of the $20K i’m not already earning through freelancing.

But for now, because i don’t feel entirely certain i can expect that sort of coin to flow reliably to me, what i am doing is just using YNAB to track my expenses for a month or three, while continuing to fly by the seat of my pants.

After a quarter i will have a good idea of my actual living costs (accommodating expected fluctuations in frugality), and then i will have a better idea of whether i actually even need $20K—maybe i can do Australia on less.

And if i can do Australia on less that $20K, i can feel confident i could live anywhere else in the world: the cost of living in Australia is among the highest in the world (this might have changed since 2013—the dollar is weaker now); it is approximately 50% cheaper to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand than it is to live in Melbourne, Australia.

I want to go into the details of how i’m using the software to do this, but it wouldn’t be relevant to anyone who wasn’t either looking at my screen or using the software themselves already. I imagine an online spreadsheet that will update in real-time to demonstrate just how inexpensive it can be to live the life of your dreams.