Lessons from Down Under: Failure is not an option in the outback
By David Rosell
There is an old saying: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” As you’ll soon see, this was certainly relevant during my sojourn through Australia’s outback, because when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, failure is not an option.
I arrived in Sydney, Australia with the mindset that a drive across the outback might just be the best road trip available on this planet. I visited the Saturday Car Market and hours later, was the proud owner of a 1972 Holden Kingswood station wagon, which would provide the means for my exploration of this vast and inauspicious region. I would certainly learn that driving in Australia, especially in the outback, gives distances an altered meaning.
I had the good fortune to meet Ross Armstrong, an Englishman about my age with the same goal of experiencing the Australian outback. It did not take long for me to realize that with his English humor and sense of adventure, we would make good travel companions. He agreed, and we decided we would set off for this adventure of a lifetime together.
We were warned that if you are driving in the outback, you must be prepared for anything. But what exactly did “anything” mean? It turns out that motorists may travel for hundreds of miles between towns without opportunities to refuel, get water, or obtain supplies. We clearly needed to be self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies. There would be limited traffic should we break down, so a substantial amount of time might elapse before anyone passed. In addition, the interior of Australia is a true desert, with daytime temperatures commonly ranging from 113°F to 122°F and nighttime temperatures potentially dropping to freezing. This can be a serious problem for the unprepared.
As Ross and I prepared for our journey, we took a number of important recommendations to heart:
- A good rule of thumb is to carry sufficient fuel to be able to turn around and return to the place you were last able to secure adequate provisions. We brought three five-gallon containers of additional fuel.
- Take at least 10 liters of drinking water per person per day of travel. We brought a five-gallon water container for each of us.
- Have two to three spare tires.
- Bring extra engine oil (we brought two gallons), fan belts, spare keys, clear plastic (in case something happens to the windshield) and a tool box.
- Watch out for animals. Enormous red kangaroos will leap across the roadways directly in front of vehicles. Most animal collisions occur at dawn, when animals are both more active and less visible.
- Road trains are a special hazard on Australian roads. These monsters can reach lengths of up to 150 feet, with up to four trailers hitched behind one truck. Oncoming road trains should be given all the space they need. After a few days of preparation, the wagon was fully stocked, serviced and ready for our unforgettable escapade.
The next day was a scorcher, with temperatures approaching 120°F. I had never experienced such heat. Just two hours into our drive, a tire blew. The extreme temperatures exacerbated by the asphalt’s absorption of the heat and the friction of the tread on the road actually caused the rubber to melt. We emptied much of the wagon’s contents to dig out one of the three spares. Thirty minutes later, we were off once again. We got a whole hour down the road before another tire blew! Ross and I soon learned to work like a NASCAR squad when it came to changing tires in a jiffy.
When we encountered a 50-meter road train, there was absolutely no doubt who was boss. The driver thundered by our stopped car at about 80 miles an hour, showering our windscreen with rocks from the shoulder of the road. Older Australian cars do not have laminated windshields, so glass shattered all over us in tiny fragments. As startled as we were, we felt fortunate to be unhurt.
We had brought along a clear plastic sheet in case of just such an incident, but that lasted only a few miles before tearing. Every time another vehicle approached, we pulled completely over in fear of rocks being flung into the car. As the sun began to set, our eyes straining to see lurking cattle and kangaroos, we felt unquestionably deflated.
Suddenly, biblical quantities of locusts appeared. Swarms assaulted us from every angle. Hundreds entered our car due to the lack of a windshield, many dying on impact as they painfully bashed into our bodies. The fortunate ones began jumping all over the car. If this was not enough, the locusts wound up clogging the radiator, causing the car to overheat. We scraped off the locusts glued to the front of the car and dejectedly drove at a snail’s pace in the dark to the town of Mount Isa, 110 miles away.
Can you imagine what our outcome would have been had we not planned appropriately for this journey? Preparation is every bit as vital when it comes to helping our clients prepare their financial journey. One does not become independent of a paycheck by accident. Unfortunately when it comes to Americans retiring, we know that only a small percentage of people are able to maintain the same standard of living they experienced during their working years. When the last financial crisis hit, we witnessed the many investors who were devastated by crushing blows to their retirement accounts. Exhausted and emotionally frustrated, many became immobilized and did nothing.
You may have some clients who are still doing nothing, but burying their head in the sand will not help them avoid the dust storm. Instead, it all but guarantees they’ll get blown away or buried.
Many prospects are extremely unsettled by the ups and downs of the market. What’s a person to do? I have a four-word answer: Get the right help. And that right help is you! A secure retirement is not an accident — it is the result of planning with professional guidance.
I find that many of our successful clients have been very focused on their careers, but lacked a clear vision of what they wanted their retirement years to look like. Planning and preparation made all the difference in the quality of their retirement years. It’s not luck that enables our clients to retire, travel and enjoy themselves. It is planning.
Throughout their journey into retirement, they’ll run a gauntlet of risks even more daunting than those I faced in Australia. As I discovered on my journey through the outback, knowing what those risks and challenges are allows you to help your clients prepare for them. And that will help determine whether their journey is a successful one or not.