Taking Flight

Perspectives by Greg Heath
Photography by Greg Heath & Gary Parker

The year 2014 has been a challenging year for me. Life always has ups and downs, it’s putting the low points into perspective and contrasting them against how lucky I am in this world that keeps me going to the next high. The opportunities I’ve been afforded, the education I’ve been exposed to and the good state of my health I definitely do not take for granted. The sheer miracle of life and the fact that I’m here to experience it in this moment gets me stoked on a daily basis.

Like I said though, it’s not always smooth sailing for creatures of this earth, and this year brought big changes upon my family. In March my uncle suddenly passed from a brain aneurysm, he was a huge part of our small family puzzle and an inspiration to us all. He always stayed true to his passions and made a living out of photography, film and writing. Travelling to over 50 countries throughout his 20s and 30s he produced a series of amazing books and films and became a renowned professional in his field—steam trains. He referred to his work as ‘chasing dinosaurs’ as steam trains were slowly being decommissioned around the world in the 70s and 80s, so he set out to document them all before they became extinct.

One month later my stepdad was diagnosed with cancer. He’s been part of our family for over 20 years and the news was pretty shattering, especially for my mum who just lost her brother. In the midst of all this, I (being the hopeless romantic that I am) met a girl and fell for her and my heart took a bit of a beating when it ended. Insignificant in comparison and it didn’t take me long to figure that out.

Whilst these hardships took their toll on me and my family, although not always easy I’ve managed to identify and focus on the positive aspects of each situation. I’ve learned a lot from past experiences and realise that you can’t resist what life presents. There is so much in this life that is outside our control, it’s how we react and go forth that develops and shapes us.

2014 has also been an awesome, exciting and progressive year for me and I’ve continued to learn a lot about myself and the world around me. For the last four and a half years I’ve been working as an environmental consultant undertaking environmental and social impact assessments for large infrastructure projects in Papua New Guinea, and recently received a promotion to a more senior position. I mainly execute and manage field programs which involves helicoptering around virgin rainforests, jungle camping, discovering new species to science and undertaking social studies in remote villages. Whilst at times it plays on my conscious to be involved with certain projects for various reasons, overall I really enjoy the work and collaborating with a great team. I am afforded a good work/life balance and get to travel a lot for both work and pleasure (surfing and snowboarding).

However, in the last year I became quite restless, I was craving change and searching for more. When I made the decision to take some time out people asked me why I would want to leave the lifestyle I was living. I guess the answer was that I wanted to be free. Free from routine, from structure, from deadlines and have the freedom to do whatever I want on any given day.

I was chasing something, I’m not even sure exactly what but I just wanted to be liberated from my current situation. All my friends are very motivated and inspiring people who are pursuing their dreams, expanding their minds and perceptions and have really open outlooks on life. They are not afraid to take on new challenges and step outside the standard societal mould and seeing them set out on different ventures definitely fuelled my desires. Also, everything was culminating to a point where it was the right time for me to leave. The share house I’d lived in for nearly 5 years was disbanding due to my housemates buying houses, having babies and travelling, and I’m so stoked for their new ventures. Whilst leaving my family, and in particular my mum, stepdad and sister wasn’t easy given what we’d endured, they agreed it was something I need to do and gave me their blessings.

At the same time I was going through these motions some great friends of mine were conjuring up a plan to explore Baja, I’d also mentioned to them previously that Baja is somewhere I’d really love to discover. Everyone coming from different directions and some new people down for the adventure—it was the perfect recipe for the adventure I’d been seeking out. Before long my ticket was booked, I was getting my motorcycle licence and the wheels were in motion for an epic Baja mission to manifest! From that point all I could think about was camping out on points, surfing uncrowded waves in warm water, diving and fishing our days away. Thoughts of time being redundant and letting the ocean, sun and moon dictate our schedule kept me up at night in anticipation.

Saying goodbye to my family and friends in Melbourne wasn’t easy, they all mean more than the world to me. We had one final house party at our beloved 311 Esplanade East home in Port Melbourne that has become an institution over the years. There was so much love, positivity and good vibes throughout the party and it reinforced how special the people in my life are—you all know who you are!

Whilst leaving one amazing crew, I’m reuniting with another solid crew of high school friends that I haven’t spent time with for a long time and I’m super excited to connect with them. I also get to bro down with some new crew who complete the wolf pack. I’m looking forward to some new challenges, learning some Spanish and how to ride a motorbike properly as opposed to the riding I’ve done in Indonesia on scooter-style bikes. I’m going to play it safe and I’ve asked my uncle’s spirit to look down on us, guide us and keep the pack safe throughout the mission. New culture, landscapes and waves are on the horizon and what each day is going to present is unknown.

So here I sit on a plane to the other side of the world with adventure awaiting. I haven’t felt this alive for some time. The anticipation of not knowing what’s to come is liberating my soul and my excitement levels are at an all-time high. It’s time to howl down Baja with my wolf pack and chase some dinosaurs!

Stay tuned for more stories leading up to the journey…