Right before before Christmas I threw my dog, my guitar, and a change of clothes into the back of my car and headed off on a solo road trip. Having made a solemn promise to myself to switch off my phone and avoid all contact with my real life during my ten days away, I thought it would probably be a good idea to set up an out-of-office auto reply for my email, because that is the kind of professional woman I am. I patiently explained to anyone who had bothered to get in touch with me that I had taken myself off on a vision quest, and I would be unable to attend to their correspondence until I had returned from this important journey—preferably after having discovered my spirit animal.
When I returned from my Luddatical—that’s a word I just made up to describe a sabbatical where you embrace being a Luddite—my inbox was positively heaving with electronic missives. Some of them were even from real humans with real things to discuss with me, not just generic press releases and Google Alerts set for the world’s ‘Girls Aloud 2012 Tour Australia’. (I don’t have to explain myself to you.) Many of these real humans appear to have enjoyed my out-of-office reply, but for some reason they seemed to think it was a joke. I mean, really. Do I seem like the kind of woman who would make up a quasi-amusing tale about vision quests and spirit animals in order to entertain anyone who bothered to email me from mid December onwards? I only wish I had added even more truthful revelations regarding my trip away. Examples might have included:
I am unable to attend to your email because I took a wrong turn while exploring the countryside and somehow ended up travelling down a track intended solely for use by four-wheel-drives. As we speak, I am trying to wedge assorted sticks and leaves under my back wheels to stop them from spinning helplessly every time I try to reverse my vehicle. If this doesn’t work, and you still need to get in touch with me, please direct all future correspondence to Jess McGuire, Middle of Fucking Nowhere, Mosquitoville Vic.
It’s going to take me a while to reply to your undoubtedly important correspondence because I am currently stark naked and lying on a beach soaking up the sunshine while enjoying a novel I began eighteen months ago but didn’t have time to finish. No, it’s not one of the four legal nude beaches in Victoria. Do you really think I’d take myself on a holiday to Werribee? It is a magical and totally deserted beach I discovered in south-east Gippsland. Only me and a couple of local fisherman know about it. Wait, hang on a minute, that doesn’t sound nearly as private as I’d like. Oh God, where did I put my shirt? Where did I put my pants? How long has that guy been standing there?
Hey there! I’m away at the moment ‘getting my rural on’, so I won’t be replying to you until after the festive season. That’s if I ever come back. There’s a general store near where I am camping and the owners are adorable. I am kinda hoping that if I hang around long enough, they’ll adopt me. Although I have only known them a short time, I can already tell that they have hearts of gold. You know what else they have? A poster of Madeleine McCann, the British girl who went missing back in 2007 while holidaying in Portugal with her family, stuck on the wall. It says ‘Have you seen her?’ and features a computer-generated image of how police believe Madeleine might look now. Seeing this poster made me feel sad and slightly confused. Why do my potential adoptive parents believe Madeleine McCann might be in regional Victoria? I really don’t know.
Sorry I’m not available to banter with you on email at the moment. After realising that I hadn’t had a proper shower in nearly a week, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Sydney where I plan to break into my absent mother’s house and use her bathroom. I’ll probably stay for a few days as the idea of hitting the Hume isn’t nearly as appealing as wearing pyjamas all day and raiding Mum’s pantry. Later, when people ask about my trip, I’ll deliberately leave out the part where I spent three days on the couch at my childhood home eating Tim Tams and watching Friends, Law & Order and other cable television staples, and instead pretend I spent my whole holiday reading books while lying naked on a beach in south-east Gippsland.
FYI: My spirit animal turned out to be a white-bellied sea eagle.