Living a Simple Life in the Blue Mountains, Australia
Autumn in the Blue Mountains is magical. The landscape is a kaleidoscope of colour with leaves on the trees ranging from green to red, amber, yellow and earthy brown. Then with a whisper of a breeze, they silently fall to the ground, trees left naked and unadorned, completely and unashamedly exposed. In contrast, the people on the streets are rugged in colourful scarves, boots, and warm jackets, adding layers for warmth. The air is crisp and cool, with smells of wood and pine. As I putter along on my motorbike I imagine people are indoors, cooking hearty meals, and keeping warm around slow combustion fires.
Sometimes it feels like every other place on the planet has so much more to offer than your own home. I felt like this for years. I always saw the same people, went to the same places, and did the same things.
Then, at 17, I left my home in Bathurst, Australia, a small country town, on a rickety bus bound for Sydney. Pulling out of the station I remember seeing my mum standing on the concrete pavement watching and waving with tears streaming down her cheeks. All I had with me was a small bag of clothes, a Walkman, a few dollars, a book and a wonderfully overwhelming sense of dread and excitement. When I look back now I realise that this humble trip, was my first step into living a simple life–independent and in solitude.
Pulling out of the station I remember seeing my mum standing on the concrete pavement watching and waving with tears streaming down her cheeks.
I lived in Sydney for years and was mesmerised by the city’s charm. I lived in every kind of arrangement possible–from terrace houses in the heart of Kings Cross, to Couchsurfing in a beach house packed with bronzed beauties, to living alone in a range of tiny flea ridden flats and humble studios.
But there it was, that nagging urge inside that wouldn’t let up. That feeling of not being able to see beyond the horizon, and so desperately wanting to. So I went travelling. First I headed to Southeast Asia. Then I took a road trip with some Brazilian friends around South America, Then I worked in the UK in Edinburgh and Oxford. Later, on a university internship , I travelled through rural North India.
At some point, I realised that what I really needed to explore was Australia and on an emotional level, myself. You don’t have to travel far to find what you are looking for. For me that means finding ways to travel, that don’t have to be expensive, nor take a long time. One way I now do that is by exploring local haunts on a motorbike while doing regular things and relishing in simple pleasures, like observing the changing seasons.
My destination today is Hartley Vale, a picturesque village cradled by mountain escarpments only a half an hour from Leura, my home nestled within a world heritage national park, in NSW Australia.
The morning sun splinters through the only crack in the curtain. Sharp with surgical precision the light is aimed directly at my now burning retina. Stunned dazed, and unamused I roll out of bed, stumble to the kitchen, boil the kettle and find my way to the bathroom to splash sub zero water on my face. I get dressed in front of an open fire. Into warm bike clothes I plunge, lots of layers, sadly thinking how I look like a marshmallow man from the 80’s classic, Ghost Busters.
Living a Simple Life in the Blue Mountains, Australia
I zip up my jacket and throw my bike bags over my shoulder, swaggering down the cottage steps through the mist to my bike parked out front. I turn the key and the green light blinks on. Swinging my leg over the seat, I bring my booted foot to rest on the frosty ground. Engine on, I give a few revs, release the clutch and burst into motion.
As I ride along I think about the things that attract people to the Blue Mountains, a tourist haven in it’s own right. This region boasts a plethora of activities; bush walks, canyoning, abseiling, rock climbing and mountain bike riding, not to mention extravagant stays at art deco hotels, eco resorts and yoga/meditation retreats as well as live music, festivals and markets.
I weave my way through a series of connected villages each with its own vibe and identity, and each with a story to tell. I see how some are trendy and upmarket, whilst others are poor and struggling. How close we are but how disparate we can become. Arriving in Hartley Vale, I pass a wood fired pizza joint, artisan shops; the local ironsmith, and a harp maker, alongside a farm machinery workshop.
Enjoy everything that is front of you. Even if it is not what you expected.
The purpose for my ride today is to stock up on some local free-range eggs and honey so I stop off at a road side market. Also tempting at the stall are the local cherries (great for a Clafoutis, the famous French pastry), peaches, nectarines, and a vast array of chutney and jams that would make my grandmother weep.
My travel philosophy is to take time out to be present. To look around and see things as they are. To connect to a community and place, anywhere you are in the world. Look people in the eye and greet them with a smile. Enjoy everything that is front of you. Even if it is not what you expected.
Living a Simple Life in the Blue Mountains
Living a Simple Life in the Blue Mountains, Australia top photo credit: 123_456 // Blue Mountains