“So I decided I could do the walk from Perth to Sydney between semesters.
“Today (Thursday) is actually the first day, but it’s all fitted in nicely into the most amount of time and space that I could have possibly given myself.”
Now only two days from the end of his epic journey — which began on a pier in Fremantle on October 20 — Watson is so close to the finish line, he can feel the water lapping at his feet as he nears Bondi Beach.
But what in the world could inspire such a feat?
“On the one hand, I was pretty depressed and had been on and off for most of my life,” Watson said.
“On the other side there was my mum, and she was suffering from lung cancer, which kind of put my problems into perspective and just made me realise I wasn’t truly suffering — someone I truly care about is suffering.”
So instead of holding a bedpan — “I can’t do that” — Watson decided to do something big. He quit his job, took out his savings along with two credit cards, and, armed with a trolley full of essentials, set off on the 5,000 kilometre track from Perth to Sydney.
And what does a four and a half month journey during an unrelenting Aussie summer look like?
“Tough,” Watson said.
“My goal at the start of each day is to wake up, boil coffee on my camping stove, have my muesli and try to be on the road when the sun starts getting up — I’ll pull out before 9am and finish around 6.30 to 7pm.”
On the whole, Watson’s journey has been safe. But somewhere towards the end of his walk in Western Australia, he was forced to defend himself when he heard four men debating about whether to rob him.
“I was pretty well off the road, but then there were these four guys in their car, and I thought I was going to get rolled.
“I could hear them discussing whether they would. But a mate of mine [had given me] a machete, and I got up with the blade in hand and they went on their way pretty quick.”
But by the time he got to Nullarbor Plain — a huge, arid and barren stretch of road in southern Australia — he had ditched the machete, along with his fear.
“By then I figured I probably looked enough of a fruitcake to be left alone,” Watson laughed.
During his 10-hour days, Watson was often alone. He said that now, he is able to distinguish between “isolation” and “loneliness”, and has learnt that despite his depression, he was a social person.
“Isolation is a gift, and the two best things for dealing with any problems are time and space.
“That said, I got lonely, I got really lonely, and it was confronting but it made me grateful for what I did have — like friends who I didn’t expect stepped up, and it made me realise the important of having people in my life”.
And a 5,000 kilometre journey wouldn’t be an adventure without meeting a few people along the way.
“Most of the people I met are on the side of the road.
“Anyone I meet needs to choose to meet me, choose to stop, say hi. You have [people] putting their own safety at risk — in itself is special, that they want to share something with me.”
Coincidences — or is it fate? — were also more commonplace than Watson thought.
After meeting the same truck driver three times — first on the Nullarbor, then twice on the south coast of NSW — Watson spent a night with the man, “having a yarn”.
Others were people like him — suffering from depression, dealing with loss, an illness or struggling with loneliness — who would donate money to his cause.
One girl — not far out of WA — came up to him in a wheelchair and gave him a handful of coins, and a man who had just lost his wife to cancer shared his pain.
“It’s pretty humbling, people’s ability to give even when they are also suffering
“Lots of people have stopped and it doesn’t take long to figure out what it is — it’s touching — it restores your faith in the human race.”
Although he hasn’t raised as much as he hoped - “$20,000 was my goal” — he’s come close with $16,000 collected so far, 70 per cent of which will go to Cancer Council, and 30 per cent to SANE.
This article was originally published on www.news.com