The Notepad is a monthly column written by @rubyclaireee exploring what it means to be a guest on this wild and abundant planet. Most of these thoughts have been scribbled, in some way, in the notepad she carries in her backpack (or pannier).


I used to spend hours floating out at sea, watching the surfers dance their way to shore.


There was something about being at the mercy of the ocean, treading water above all that sea life and diving deep below each pounding wave, that made me feel expansive and small all at once.



I was a freelancer at the time, working minimal hours, hitchhiking across the state and wild camping on the side of highways. I was climbing mountains and booking one-way flights and fighting the temptation to Make a Plan. With rose-tinted glasses I was abundant and excited and open to the world. Without them I was lost, unsure of myself, and completely disconnected from my body.

Sometimes I wonder where that unbridled sense of freedom went; how it came to be replaced by hesitation, detailed to-dos, a burgeoning fear of the unknown. I don’t swim out beyond the break anymore.

In fact, I barely allow myself to float unless I’m dead centre of the red and yellow flags with a friend or two.

Every adventure has a packing list and each day’s activities are planned in my Google Calendar moment by moment. Sometimes I go to book a spontaneous  flight and I hesitate to the point of inaction. What the hell happened? Where has all my spirit gone?



‘You’re less likely to take risks as you get older,’ they say. 

‘You’re more aware of the consequences.’

‘Welcome to growing up! This is proof that you’re maturing.’

And maybe they’re right. The 28-year-old me has read far more books about the Bad Things That Happen to Women and heard far more news reports of loved ones drowning or getting lost in the bush than I did when I was a teenager. But I don’t think it’s just that.

Firstly, the fact that I have a full time job with limited annual leave and restrictions on when and where I can take time off results in minutely planning every day I get. Winging it often results in a great adventure, but when you’ve got a ticking time bomb there’s hardly space to sink into whatever chaos arises and smile your way through it.

You just want to get to the part when you get to relax!!!! Or ride the bike down that mountain!!! Or wake up to that sunrise in your tent!!! As a result of all of this, you start to condition yourself to believe that this is the only way to enjoy adventure, the only way to appreciate the outdoors.

You start to fear the what-ifs. You forget how to navigate a world you once, in all the privilege of youth and whiteness and Centrelink access, embraced.

Coupled with this is a significant humbling to the wildness of nature. Not just the fires and floods, both of which we have seen enough of in recent years. But the wildness of harmless beauty too. The Burning Palms forests and the school of fish darting from rock to weed.

The Gymea lillies that flower for the birds. It’s as if I don’t trust myself to sit there amongst all that beauty. Look at what we humans do to spaces like this. How do I have the right? How dare I take up space with my iPhone and my arrogance and my conditioned desire to conquer things? I haven’t learnt true respect yet.

I’m collecting far less stories with all this caution. Scaling a mountain in Peru and holding on for dear life with a fraying rope earns you social clout, a feature in a magazine and a good dinner table conversation, but it isn’t sustainable, nor particularly desirable for most.

We have kids and mortgages and jobs and ageing parents and therapists and people who should see therapists to contend with. All of this can blur the sense of accessibility and confidence in the outdoors.

My relationship with the outdoors is shifting and it’s not what it used to be. The emergence of respect – the deep, soulful kind – is allowing me a confidence that looks a little different.



While I remain on my well-planned bike-packing journeys and weekend camping trips, I’m finding that going for a wander on my own, discovering an orchid I haven’t seen before, or gazing up at the shelf of a staghorn, is watering the seed.

Maybe I’ll head out beyond the break some day, forget about the surfers and float atop the big blue, or maybe I’ll just perch on a rock nearby and watch with awe and gratitude.


Feature image to @lachlan_fox