Sometimes the real world seems like such a hard place to be. Sometimes I dream of a place and time where I never have to peer at a text message on a tiny cell phone screen, never have to pay bills and never struggle with online banking.
In this fantasy land I also never have to wear a cycle helmet because it’s the law and, if I don’t wear one and a police car passes by, I’d get fined and have demerit points added to my driving licence. Yes, the laws when you live in Queensland really are that draconian!
The place I want to disappear to is a place of total freedom, with no problems and no obligations to fulfill. It’s also a place that doesn’t exist but that hasn’t stopped me looking for it.
As someone with more than their own fair share of experience in running away from problems I often want to disappear. I’m a sucker for dreaming about exotic, problem-free destinations and very determined in my quest to visit them. Kiwayu Island in Kenya is still one of the best places I’ve ever disappeared to.
What’s it like to disappear?
So, with my constant yen to disappear, the Tracks movie resonated deeply me. It’s based on Robyn Davidson’s book about her decision to set off on a 1,700 mile (2,735km) journey across the Australian desert and her experiences.
It wasn’t a decision she made lightly and in fact she spent several years planning and preparing for her trip because she really wanted to disappear for a while.
But first she had to learn how to handle and train camels. Then she had to get some camels of her own. Finally, she had to get sponsorship for the trip from National Geographic because that was the only way she could afford to do it.
No one believed that such a grueling journey was even possible but she was determined to attempt it anyway. A fiercely independent and private young woman, Robyn was determined to make the trip alone and succeeded in her mission against the wishes of her family and friends.
The journey took nine months and consisted of endless days of walking and camel riding through the harshest of conditions.
I haven’t read the Tracks book yet, although it’s lying by my bed, but I’m loving the photos and added insights in the coffee table hardback From Alice to Ocean- Alone Across the Outback. It includes photos by Rick Smolan, the National Geographic photographer who photographed Robyn, and excerpts from her bestselling book Tracks.
I found a brilliant interview with Robyn Davidson online too with some thoughts on why people want to disappear and a few quotes I want to share from that interview.
On why we want to disappear and technology
“I resist the idea that we should be available 24/7. So, I’m probably a bit odd in that way. But I also think that the story continues to be popular because people do long to disappear under the radar for a while. When you think about it, every culture in the world has had space for people to do that, either as a pilgrimage or that sense of it being important to understand and love solitude. So, I don’t know what it means that in our contemporary world we’re connected all the time. It seems to me that it’s not so much about connection as it is about control.”
“The reason the filmmakers made the film is because it’s a burden that we can’t ever untether ourselves from civilization now. They are hoping [people] will find the story interesting because it’s about trying to find yourself.”
On life and death
“Death is ever present. We sort of carry our skeleton around with us.”
On escaping from the rules and confines of society
“When there is no one to remind you what society’s rules are, and there is nothing to keep you linked to that society, you had better be prepared for some startling changes.”
Do you ever want to disappear?
Until I read that interview I thought I was strange to want to disappear. I still find it hard to believe that other people long to disappear because that seems like a failure in some way.
It feels to me that by saying I sometimes long to disappear that means I don’t appreciate my lucky life and don’t love my family.
So I wonder how many of us would like to disappear, if not forever at least for a while?
What makes us want to disappear?
Getting off the grid and being free from beeping phones, constant connectivity and information overload is my main reason for wanting to disappear. Even though I take care to disconnect every evening after 7pm and most of the time at weekends, there’s still a nagging sense that I should be connected or that I could be missing something by not being connected.
So to be somewhere where connection is impossible for a prolonged period of time would be incredibly restful.
The modern world is great but we all need to take a break. That’s why I sometimes long to disappear for three months or so, to a simpler place with less demands and more time in nature.
To a place where there is plenty of time for solitude and quiet contemplation. A place where we communicate when we want to on a face to face basis, not screen to screen. When I think about disappearing for a while that’s the place of which I dream.
Do you ever want to disappear? Where would you disappear too? How long would you disappear for? What’s stopping you from disappearing, even if only for a short time?