Let the Countdown Begin – 1500 More Sleeps
When I left Coffs Harbour High School half way through Year 11 in 1976 I joined the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited (CBC Bank) as a 16 year old junior in the town of Dorrigo, about an hours drive inland from Coffs Harbour. I was too young to get my drivers license so had to board in Dorrigo during the week.
I was lucky that a friend of a friend who lived in Dorrigo had a girlfriend in Coffs Harbour. He used to spend the weekends with her so I was able to get a lift from Coffs to Dorrigo on a Sunday evening and return again straight after work on a Friday afternoon.
During the week I boarded with a 74 year old widow. Whilst I absolutely loved my new job, I hated living in Dorrigo and was so homesick. In those days banks opened at 10.00am and closed at 3.00pm (5.00pm on Fridays). My work day began at 9.00am and we generally left around 3.30pm (We had a set routine of balancing and getting the cash in the safe and the strongroom locked and us out the door by ten past five on Fridays). As I knew nobody in town I had a lot of idle time on my hands to be homesick. At 16 years of age I wouldn’t of even contemplated going to the pub!
Dorrigo had two television stations in those days, NRN11 and the ABC. My landlady normally only watched the ABC and when a program came on that she deemed “inappropriate” – and there were many such programs – she literally got up from her chair and switched the TV off. We would sit there in silence, me staring at a blank TV screen for half an hour to an hour until a “suitable” program was on and she would switch the TV back on. It used to drive me crazy so I normally retired to my bedroom straight after tea which was served at 5.30pm on the dot.
Luckily I was only in Dorrigo 6 weeks before I was transferred to Urunga, about 20 minutes drive south of Coffs on the coast. Here I stayed in a boarding house until I was old enough to get my driving license when I moved back home and I used to commute each day. After 6 months in Urunga where I trained to be a teller, I was transferred to Bellingen which is between Urunga and Dorrigo.
While I was at the Bellingen branch of the bank the accountant at that time, Wade Duncan went on annual leave. The relief accountant was a young guy who fascinated me with stories of all the places he had been to as a relief officer. In those days relief staff covered the whole state when someone went on leave. After Wade came back from holidays I spoke to the Manager, Les Saker about applying to be transferred to relief staff. He was supportive and my application went in to Head Office. Subsequent to that I was transferred to Ballina on the far north coast of NSW where I worked for about 12 months before finally being appointed to NSW Relief Staff. I was allocated to country relief which was my preference and I spent over 5 years on relieving staff, working throughout New South Wales, before transferring to Victorian Relieving Staff where I travelled extensively throughout Victoria and had 2 stints in Tasmania, including spending my first Christmas away from family.
I loved relieving staff. I got to see and experience some wonderful places and meet some fantastic people. It’s true what they say, travel really does broaden the mind. Country relief usually meant at least 2 weeks in the same town and I always made a point of staying at least one weekend in the town I was in. This enabled me to taste a little of what it was like to be a local. It also meant some exploring of the surrounding area and on occasions, socializing with the bank staff.
Some of the towns I have worked in New South Wales include Aberdeen, Ballina, Batemans Bay, Belconnen (ACT), Bellingen, Bowraville, Cardiff, Dorrigo, Eugowra, Forster, Gosford, Grafton, Green Point, Inverell, Jesmond, Katoomba, Kingston (ACT), Maitland, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Richmond, Scone, Tamworth, Taree, Tottenham, Toukley, Ulladulla, Umina Beach, Urunga, Wagga Wagga, Walcha, Wallsend, Warilla Grove, Wollongong, Wauchope, Windsor, Woy Woy as well as numerous suburbs throughout the Sydney Metropolitan Area.
During my 2 years working in the bank in Victoria I worked at Belmont (Geelong), Charlton, Kaniva, Maffra, Maryborough, Orbost, Seymour, Swifts Creek, Tangambalanga, Tongala, Toora, Warragul, Warrnambool, and in Tasmania at Launceston and Moonah (Hobart). I also worked at a number of Melbourne suburban branches.
The longest I stayed in one town was the 10 weeks I spent at Orbost in Eastern Victoria. It was a great spot, great country football with “pleasant Sunday mornings” spent at the local Footy Club. I stayed in a share house with two of the staff members. One of my jobs at Orbost was to get the Savings Bank ledgers up to date with interest accrual in preparation for computerization. It was a very repetitive job but as I enjoyed maths I actually enjoyed the work.
Probably since those days it has been my dream to one day travel right around Australia, stopping where I want, when I want, and for as long or short as I want.
We all know that life gets in the way of our plans and dreams, but I have never lost sight of my goal to one day retire, hitch up the caravan, or climb aboard a motor home and head off into the sunset.
As a child we never went camping as such. We had the odd holiday but never camping. As a teenager and early years of adulthood I experienced camping for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it. Getting away for a weekend with a group of friends was so much fun and most long weekends saw me camping somewhere or other.
As a parent we took our children camping, especially when the kids were real young, and some of my happiest memories was camping with the kids. Two trips in particular spring to mind. The first was when the kids were real young and we had 2 weeks away in Esperance and Albany. To hold all our camping gear I borrowed a trailer from a mate, Kelvin Griffiths. The first week we stayed at a Caravan Park in Esperance, sleeping in 2 separate 3 man tents. Josh, Jacob and myself in one and Nathan and the boys mother in the other. We spent several days and evenings fishing off the jetty where I think it was Jacob that caught a sea snake. We then spent a further week just out of Albany.
Another trip was when the kids were a lot older and we did a road trip from Perth to Kalbarri and Coral Bay during the July school holidays. We took 2 vehicles, the family sedan and my Ford Econovan. The van carried all the camping equipment and even our kitchen freezer. With 2 adults, our 6 kids plus a school friend of our eldest daughter it must have been a sight watching us set up our two site camp with 5 tents circling our kitchen area. We had a week in Kalbarri and a week in Coral Bay. Coral Bay remains my favourite camping spot on the West Coast of Australia.
So as the years have flown by the dream of unrestricted travel has remained. In recent years a number of friends and others that I know of have commenced their Grey Nomad life. Some just venturing away for an extended weekend or maybe a week. Others have ventured further afield whilst some have done “The Big Lap” over a period of 12 months or more and yet others have completely sold up everything and hit the road permanently. Some have retired, brought the 4WD and caravan and sadly, passed away before they got out of the driveway. RIP Bill.
I have always said that I don’t want to do it when I am “too old” to enjoy it. It takes courage to sell up, pack up and hit the road indefinitely.
So with all these things in mind and a belief that it is now or never, I have decided to “hit the road” when I turn 60. To allow for contingencies, both financial, family and otherwise, 60 can be anywhere between actually turning 60 on 3rd September 2019 and 2nd September 2020, the day before I turn 61.
As I write this blog, D Day (Departure Day) is scheduled for Saturday 4th July 2020. (Update: I couldn’t wait in the end. I left on my adventure on Saturday 2nd February 2019)
That is 1500 more sleeps!
If you are interested in following my adventures, from the motivation, planning and implementation phases through to the actual trip, then bookmark rayaroundoz.wordpress.com as I count down to D Day.