I have always had romantic ideas about walking into the wild—born of an ever-present longing for vast and unspoilt wilderness and fed in later years by my admiration for Robyn Davidson and Cheryl Strayed. Where the longing came from, I can’t really tell. I was brought up and always have lived in tamed lands, where a village can be found at the end of every tree-lined road and across every stone bridge.
As a kid I would often imagine deserted islands or lonely forest huts, where I would live off the land with a few choice companions. The idea fuelled many a daydream for my young, fiercely independent mind. I remember drawing the same picture over and over again with great focus: four kids using hammers, wood and nails to build a small cabin by the edge of a great body of water.
For about 20 years, my fascination with the wilderness remained limited to the books I read and the movies I saw. Before moving to Australia, I had never even seen the Milky Way. I had never really been camping either, at least not outside of the well-organised, over-populated French camping grounds where large families drink the apéro while playing pétanque across the gravel footpath. A lovely picture, you might say, but far from the pristine landscapes I so often pictured myself wandering through as a child.
In the last few years though, as the call of the wild has grown stronger, I’ve slowly started to seek, shyly at first but with more conviction recently, the deserted islands and wooden huts of my childhood. I’ve found myself booking flights to Iceland in the dead of winter and to Patagonia as the Autumn slowly chilled the great, empty steppes. And of course there is Australia, and the months spent working in the outback, taking long walks with the cattle dogs and sitting in dried creeks to sketch the rust-red landscape.