The great Aussie trip. Some travel by planes, others by trains, buses or caravans. People love to travel around Australia. The travellers are as varied as their modes of transport. When Mick Miller contacted Austockphoto and told us about his recent journey around Australia, we knew his story was unique. In March 2014, Mick left Sydney in his beloved 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, with no schedule, nothing booked and no plans for when he would return home.
What was life like leading up to this time?
My life was incredibly manic. For 24 years I had been working as a performance coach preparing athletes for the Olympic games, as well as juggling the demands of a couple of businesses, managing staff and private clients.
Tell us about your dramatic turning point
In early 2013, while drying off after a swim, I discovered a lump in my neck. Within the week I had a gland removed from my throat and further scans for primary cancers. The following days were character building to say the least, my situation was serious and no one could give me any guarantees. A second operation on my neck and throat followed, before being told that as a precautionary measure, I would need to complete an eight week cancer treatment program. The sales pitch in short was was, we are going to have to nearly kill you to keep you alive. In those 70 long days I lost over 25 kgs, and I realised this was not just a physical challenge, but a spiritual, mental and emotional challenge as well. It brought me back to zero on everything, each time I woke up, I was just grateful I was still here.
So why a road trip?
Following my 70 day stay in hospital, an old friend invited me to stay with him until I was physically and mentally able to decide what was next. It was through his encouragement and experiences that I decided to set off in my trusty blue 1968 VW Beetle ‘Rocket’, which I’ve owned for 15 years.
Tell us more about ‘Rocket’
Rocket has no radio or air conditioning, and I drove the entire distance around Australia at a maximum speed of 70km per hour. It was slow and hot – and I’m grateful for every minute of it!
Rocket connected me with people from all walks of life, all across the country. Wherever the Beetle went, it made someone smile, and would open up conversation. From stories of people being conceived in a Beetle, to someone stealing a Beetle, to a German police officer telling me he used to drive a Beetle in Berlin, it was an incredible talking point.
Tell us about your stand out experiences
To be honest it was the whole journey, from the sunrises to the sunsets, to the people I connected with, it was an incredible experience. I slept at camp sites, B&B’s, pubs, on the back of trucks, in open fields. Nothing was booked. It’s very hard to pinpoint a thing that stood out. It really was everything, but here’s a shortlist of sorts:
• Learning to play the Ukulele in Cairns
• Becoming a fully qualified tourist advisor for the Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek
• The trip from Darwin to Derby, there was no power, no phone, it was so incredible because there was so little there, but so much
• Breaking down on a dirt road in WA and waiting in my deck chair till another car came along
• Driving Rocket along the longest, straightest road in Australia, the Nullarbor plains
• The beauty of Kangaroo Island in SA
• Watching tennis, Formula One and Polo in Melbourne
• Helping repair a broken barge on the Pieman River in Tassie
• Joining in some local live theatre in Strahan
I truly embraced anything and everything, living each day with gratefulness.
So what are you doing now?
I’m now living back in Sydney, but have not returned to my old way of life. I have just launched a new book “Travelling Around Australia Mick’s Way”. Profits from this work go towards a charity that raises funds and non financial gifts for people who are in the midst of post cancer care. I understand that people need different things, and seek to provide for people in whatever way they need – financially, groceries, petrol, a holiday house.
We love how incredibly inspiring Mick is; his spirit for adventure is so quintessentially Australian. We’ve enjoyed getting to know him and love being able to share stories like his through Austockphoto. If you know of someone who might be interested in sharing their personal journey with us, please let us know.
For more information about Mick check out his website www.mickmiller.com.au