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Thoughts on Humans from a Long Trip in the Australian Outback

The place that made me love and hate humans at the same time

Image by author — Taken somewhere between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, Australia, 2014

6 min read

The Australian Outback is the most magic place I’ve ever seen in my life.

It’s the place I’d return to tomorrow morning if I could.

I can’t help but think Mother Nature created it to help humans put things into perspective; to remind us that we’re small, insignificant, and irrational, but we’re also one of the most beautiful species.

Reflecting in the Outback

My partner Aloha and I travelled for two years in the land of kangaroos. We bought an old van, got it fixed, and used it as our mobile home around Australia between 2013 and 2015.

Image by author — Taken somewhere between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, Australia, 2014

We travelled from Melbourne to Cairns, from Cairns to Adelaide, from Adelaide to Melbourne, from Melbourne to Alice Springs, and from Alice Springs back to Cairns.

Screenshot by author from googlemaps.com (Map data ©2024 Google)

We often found ourselves in remote areas, alien places for people who come from Lombardy (Italy), the second most populous region of the European Union. 

Everywhere we go in our country, we see buildings. Everywhere we turn, we see humans and the products of their creative minds.

In the Outback, we saw nothing but land.

The Land.

Image by author — Taken in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia, 2014

We were far from the cities, far from busy roads, far from the world. Everything around us looked still and I felt I was in a foreign dimension where time didn’t exist.

Who are we?

Why are we here?

The vastness of the Australian desert would amplify unanswerable questions that humans have been asking themselves since the beginning of eternity. Behind the wheel, it seemed to me I was driving towards infinity.

I struggled to believe where I was.

Image by author — Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Australia, 2014.

“We are so small. My problems are so small,” my troubled mind would often think while driving towards the horizon in awe.

The disarming beauty of the desert’s endless expanse of nothingness often made me think about our relationship with the Land. Why can’t most of us live in harmony with her anymore? Why do we keep building and producing and wanting? Why do we mistakenly believe we don’t have enough?

“Look around,” the Land seemed to whisper.

“Look at those rocks. Look at the bushes and the red soil. Look at the dingoes, the lizards, the wild horses, the kangaroos. Look at the blazing sun. Can’t you see? You come from the Land. I am alive and I keep you alive. Without me, you would cease to exsist. Why do you not understand that? Why do you not understand that I am enough?”

Image by author — Taken in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia, 2014

Travelling in the Outback made me hate humans for the way they’ve been disrespecting the Land.

But it made me love them, too.

Loving Our Species

There was no trace of human activity in the Outback, so I often thought I was in a distant, hostile place no one could reach.

That wasn’t true though.

When I looked closely, I could always see a road sign, a fence, or a post someone had put there— an indication that there are no limits to where our adventurous minds can take us. The very road I was driving on was the product of our innate human desire for exploration and connection.

“It looks as if I were on Mars. Yet I can still see traces of human activity and what they did to make this place work for them,” I would think.

Every few hundred miles, I would get to a small village and think, “Who lives here? And how? There are no shops, no supermarkets, no cinemas, no restaurants. What’s life like in the middle of nowhere?”

Image by author — Taken in the UFO capital of Australia, Australia, 2014

I got reminded of how adaptable and flexible we are. We’re brilliant and creative beings. We’re brave explorers who can adapt and build a new world into another. 

There’s no place we can’t conquer.

Driving through the Outback made me admire our species and evoked a warm, deep feeling of fascination.

Then I learned about the Australian Aborigines, or First Nations people I should say, and was even more amazed by who we are.

Learning from First Nations People

“When we talk about the Egyptians, we talk about 4,000 years ago. When we talk about the Australian Aborigines, we talk about over 60,000 years ago.”

This is what the guide told us when we were standing at the feet of Uluru, a sacred place for one of the oldest (if not the oldest) living populations on earth — humans who’ve been looking after the Land for thousands of years.

Image by author — Taken in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia, 2014

By visiting Uluru I discovered that First Nations people are deeply connected to the Land. They respect it. They don’t own it. Instead, they believe it’s the Land who owns them, while they see themselves as devoted caretakers.

First Nations people used to live in peace with the Land and with each other.

While ancient civilisations around the world were busy killing one another and conquering territories, the Australian Aborigines were down here living the best life, telling stories, dancing, playing music, and taking care of the Land — what they consider to be the Mother of everything and everyone.

I got to see their art and listen to their music. Watching them perform showed me how easy it is to entertain yourself and others.

Life is simple. 

Another great reminder.

Image by author — Taken in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia, 2014

When walking around Uluru, I reflected that humans need to believe in something or someone bigger and more powerful than themselves. 

Regardless of our ethnicity or cultural background, we struggle to accept the idea that we’ve been put here for no reason. Time has passed, but our spirituality remains unchanged.

Our essential nature hasn’t changed either.

We connect through stories, we love to create, we live in communities, we need food and water, we want to feel seen and heard. Progress and modern life haven’t changed any of that.

We are no different from First Nations people. We are no different from our ancestors. Much as we say we’ve evolved, we’re still hungry social chimps who crave belonging and acceptance.

The Outback sparked all these thoughts and reflections and made me fall in love with the Land and her creatures.

It made me fall in love with you and with myself, too.

So Lucky I Have Been There

I’ve travelled quite a bit in my life.

Between 2011 and 2023, I spent 6 months backpacking around Asia, I travelled 5 weeks in Morocco and 5 weeks in the Balkans. I lived 1.5 years in London and 2 years in New Zealand. Italy, where I was born and raised and where I live, is a country considered by many as one of the most beautiful in the world.

None of these places can still beat the indisputable beauty and spirituality of the Australian Outback.

I hope you’ll be lucky enough to contemplate its majesty one day.

Image by author — Taken in the Outback, Australia, 2014.

 

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