This word kept coming up in conversation every time we mentioned the fact that we were road-tripping across Australia from Brisbane to Perth.
Ohh, so you’ll cross the Nullarbor.
The term “crossing the Nullarbor” means driving about 1,200 kilometres on the Eyre Highway between Ceduna and Norseman in South Australia and Western Australia respectively. Between these towns the traveler crosses the ‘real’ Nullarbor Plain (the treeless, limestone plain) as well as other regions with different characteristics.
Everyone had something to say about the Nullarbor Plain, or Desert—mostly about how long a drive it is with not much to see or do. Most people we spoke to had never actually driven it themselves, though. Because we drove about 3,700 kilometres across Canada last year (much of which is uneventful in landscape and activity, depending on which route you take), and many more days at this point driving thousands of kilometres across Australia, we didn’t think approximately 1,000 kilometres of flat road was going to phase us much.
The road itself wasn’t as “deserted” as we expected, especially while traveling during the winter low season; actually, there were lots of others traveling east- and west-bound along the Eyre Highway. However, there weren’t as many people camping out like we were. Most people we saw had comfortable trailer homes that could keep them warm at night when winter, desert temperatures could drop close to 0 degrees Celsius. There were a lot of very basic places to sleep for the night (roadside bays with no facilities or even garbage bins sometimes). It was quiet and peaceful. In this way, it felt like it was only us out there.
The Great Australian Bight (see map above)
One day, we stopped at the Head of Bight viewing platform and tourist spot to see the incredibly blue waters of the Southern Ocean and the beautiful Southern Right Whales. Every year, mothers travel from Antarctica to give birth to and raise their calves. Southern Right Whales are endangered due to extensive hunting in the 1800s, but are now considered a protected species in Australia and are recovering slowly from near-extinction.
Life on the (very) open road allowed us to enter into some pretty deep personal reflection. When there is little stimulus and most of your time is spent inside a vehicle, what more is there to do than think? It was as if we became like that which surrounded us.
Nothing surrounded you, Jess.
Wait, no. What I mean is that we became a little quieter, a little more “off-the-grid” (literally, with next to no cell phone reception for the handful of days we took to cross the desert), a little more simple. We saw a few things along the way, but mostly we spent our time in the truck. We would settle into a camping spot shortly before sunset, cook, and then sit and talk. Or, sit and not talk. Just the three of us, in the peacefulness of nothing.
As I shared in a caption on my Instagram account,
Long days driving with not much excitement or activity. Leaves you with a lot of time for quiet thought. This stretch took me through some of my past, and a lot of my future. You don’t realize what lingers underneath until you have the time to unearth it. All I can say is that if for no other reason, travel to gain perspective on your life. Have no expectations except to be surprised at what comes bubbling up to the surface in your daily experience of new things – hopes, fears, regrets, beautiful memories, and everything in between. You don’t have to travel far to learn more than you ever thought you needed to.
Shit comes up when it’s quiet. The road, the slower days of travel, much like meditation for example, can be a space where there is discovery of yourself and those around you. You don’t expect it because on the surface there isn’t much happening (you’re just sitting in the car…right?) But underneath is where all the work is being done.
We are fortunate to have a strong relationship because this kind of travel is the make-it-or-break-it kind. It was not easy and we worked hard to listen to each other and understand each other as we both dealt with the demands of emotional and mental growth. All in all, though, we are grateful for our ‘less eventful’ time crossing the Nullarbor. It taught us much more than we ever expected.