Beau Miles has challenged himself to walk the 90km it takes to get to work – again. Amy chatted with Beau about the release of his latest short film ‘The Commute’ and what he learned after the first time he set himself this challenge four years ago.
Beau Miles is no stranger to a self-imposed challenge. His latest short film, The Commute, sees him trek 90km from his home in rural Victoria into the beating-heart of Melbourne. He follows one of the country’s busiest freeways in an attempt to be present in a space he and thousands of other commuters speed through every day on their way to work.
This may sound familiar – Beau’s conquered this challenge before. But this time, when he arrived at his place of work, Monash University, he immediately stepped into a classroom and gave a workshop on adventure. Sounds about right.
Read more: Why This Bloke Walked 90km to Work
AF: You obviously didn’t hate it too much the first time to want to do it again. How did your experience change from the first walk to the second walk?
BM: I made tweaks because there were bits in the first walk that were unnecessary. When you leave with so little, you only need little additions or changes to what time you leave or what route you take to make it a bit more pleasant and doable. In saying that, I didn’t do it to be pleasant, I did it to be different.
The biggest change was that I first did it close to the peak of summer, and it was just stonking hot, and so I had to drink a lot of fluids. And being summer it’s harder to get fluids, there are no creeks running.
So I was relying on old half-finished Coke cans and Pepsi bottles and whatever people have flung out of their car. And there was just no food. And I didn’t make it a note to look for money. I really was calorie deficient that first walk.
So the second time, I did it in winter and looked for money and it was a piece of cake in comparison.
The whole idea is to have a sensory experience and not necessarily flog myself. I didn’t want to make this an Antarctic exploration where you’re suffering all the time. I wanted to go through a safe enough bubble to watch the world go by and observe anything and everything, from roadkill to other people to good things and bad things.
The highway section looks so intense. Do you feel exposed being the only person out there in the way that you are?
It was oppressive. Our big highways in Australia, they never sleep. There’s no let up with traffic sounds.
I walked up the middle of an 8-lane highway towards the end there, and it’s just full on. You sort of lose your humanness a bit because you can’t even think straight. And then when you do, you go so internal, you’re kind of missing all the things you’re there to see anyway.
I make the analogy, that it’s very similar to the wilderness in that you feel very isolated, which is the odd thing because they’re the busiest roads in Australia, but no one really goes there as such. We just zoom along and you’re listening to something that takes you away from the very space you’re moving through.
When you’re walking there, you can’t help but to be very present and you realise just how alone and vulnerable you are.
What did you end up talking about at the workshop and how did the students react when you turned up fresh off an adventure?
I stunk to high heaven, I ate a fair few sandwiches that were there, there was a school group that’d come up and a few odds and sods of people that turned up.
I just tried to relay the experience that had just taken place and never before had I given a presentation where the experience is so fresh. Which I actually found more difficult than I thought – I thought I’d just relay the story in a chronological order and I’d just tell the story of the road. I didn’t yet have a really great lineal structure of what had taken place, because I was still trying to digest what had happened myself.
What it made me realise is that the great power of going away is reflecting afterwards. And I didn’t give myself any time to reflect on what had just happened and what was the most meaningful.
So it was a bit of a rambling tale that I told for an hour and a half, but it was certainly authentic! And there were some artifacts from the side of the road, and a live artifact with sunburn and a cracked lip. But I did my best to convey the 30 hours by the roadside.
Photos by Rodney Dekker