Luksea Travel Diaries: Life As Bushcare Volunteer & Marine Life Explorer
Rob is passionate about protecting our environment and sea life. In this blog he shares his story about what his life is like in retirement, as a volunteer for Bushcare and Marine Life Explorer here in Australia. It's an inspiring article and we appreciate you sharing your story with us, thanks Rob!
Having retired mid 2012, it made sense for me to focus on what I've done, or am doing post retirement. It's not that I didn't enjoy the challenges of work, and I certainly was fortunate to have worked with many wonderful people, but it was only as I getting on a bit that I finally realised the answer to that question which had bugged me all my life, ie "What are you going to do when you grow up?" - the answer of course was "retirement"!
Now for me retirement wasn't just getting off the work treadmill and doing nothing, there had to be a bit of structure, a bit of a plan, a new routine that allowed me to do a few things that made me feel useful, but that was also flexible enough to accommodate the big ticket items like travelling with my wife Deb and catching up with friends, not only to reminisce about the 'good old days' but to make plans for a few more special occasions to celebrate life and our friendship.
The first part of the post retirement plan was easy, maintain the early morning fitness regime of exercise at home followed by a few laps of the pool, but instead of then heading off to work at the office, I would make myself useful by doing some local volunteering work that I thought I'd enjoy, and that would still leave me with plenty of opportunities to indulge my passion for snorkelling in Sydney's many beautiful harbour bays and coastal beaches.
In late 2012 I started working as volunteer at the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomoloo, doing the dining room breakfast shift every Friday. Due to staff shortages, exacerbated by the covid 19 pandemic this year, I agreed to take on a few extra shifts and now do the breakfast shift Monday to Friday. You usually finish about 8am, so there is still plenty of time to make the most of the rest of the day.
In 2013, on the recommendation of a good friend and neighbour, I began working each Wednesday as a Bushcare volunteer for Woollahra Council at Gap Park, Watsons Bay. This brought back many good memories as my 3 brothers and I attended the nearby Our Lady Star of the Sea kindergarten and used to explore the old tram line which ran along the back of Gap Park - and when the Council decided to start up a Bushcare group on Thursdays at Parsley Bay I was thrilled, because my brothers and I used to spend so much time in the beautiful waters and bush of Parsley Bay. We would go exploring in the bush and streams, searching, inter alia, for cicadas, water dragons, eels and green tree frogs, before going for a swim in the bay. We had names for nearly all the big trees and caves - it was our very own magical backyard. It is very satisfying now to be working as a Bushcare volunteer clearing weeds and removing rubbish from these old haunts. To top it off, these days, after Bushcare and a refreshing tea or coffee break, some of us go for a quick swim and/or snorkel.
With the Bushcare work and my regular swims at Parsley Bay and other local beaches it seemed a logical step to also take on being a Harbourcare volunteer with the Council, which simply involves picking up rubbish (and reporting back to Council what you pick up) whenever you go to your nominated local beach - in my case Parsley Bay, Watsons Bay and Camp Cove.
For me, a further logical extension of the Harbour Care work is to make it a habit that whenever I take our dog Penny for a walk, or go to the shops or a park, I pick up any rubbish on the way - this is contingent on there being an easily accessible Council rubbish bin on the route being taken, I call this my "Grey Emu" exercise - 'grey' because I'm a grey senior and 'emu' because you have to bob up and down to pick up the rubbish.
I rationalise this rubbish collection on the basis that it really disappoints and upsets me that so much rubbish is left in our beautiful parks, bush, beaches and local shopping centres - in my view to shrug your shoulders and do nothing at all is not an acceptable option, as a former Chief of Army once said, something along the lines, ' the standard you walk past, is the standard you accept'. Another very old saying (Jewish I believe) that I am very fond of and fall back on a lot is, 'rather than curse the darkness, it is better to light a candle', ie while you can't solve all the world's problems, doing a little something positive is better than doing nothing, complaining and getting upset.
If you haven't nodded off by now, some might be wondering besides lunching and snorkelling, what else I do in my spare time? Well on Tuesdays Deb and I used to do Meals on Wheels from the Holsworth community centre, delivering meals in the Bondi Junction, North Bondi and Bronte area. Unfortunately, due the corona virus pandemic we were told earlier this year that our services were no longer required - Deb and I 'being in a high risk group (over 65) delivering to an even higher risk group.
We also used to work 2 or 3 Mondays a month at the St Canices soup kitchen just down from Kings Cross, making sandwiches, serving meals and washing up - but our volunteering role here also ended due to the pandemic as St Canices moved from sit down meals to pre-prepared take aways.
While the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the temporary suspension of the Bushcare and some of the other community volunteering roles, such as Meals on Wheels and St Canices kitchen, there are always plenty of other candles to light and useful volunteering opportunities to take on. As usual, plenty of good things to look forward to.