News

Walking trek brings Mick to Toc.

by
May 09, 2018

Michael 'Walking Stick Mick' O'Connor at the Tocumwal Foreshore on Thursday.

Colac’s Michael O’Connor is at it again, walking from town to town on his journey of self discovery.

A long-term battle with depression inspired the modern day ‘swagman’ to walk from Colac to Deniliquin last year, earning him the nickname Walking Stick Mick.

During that trip he was warned by fellow on-foot traveller John Caderot, known as the Highway Man, he would catch the ‘‘walking bug’’.

And sure enough, on April 1, Walking Stick Mick left Colac for another trek across the country.

After traipsing across Victoria for the first few weeks, Mick arrived in Tocumwal on Thursday. He then continued on to Finley and Jerilderie, this time headed for his final destination at Coffs Harbour.

‘‘I’ve never been here before. Tocumwal is beautiful,’’ he told the Southern Riverina News.

‘‘Although I’m not a huge fan of the bends. They were a little bit too narrow for me and my trolley, particularly those bridges.

‘‘I’m doing about 20 kilometres per day, preferring to go town-to-town if possible.’’

Mick’s trolley is a three-wheel buggy, equipped with a swag, mini gas cooker and other essential items.

Now 55, the traveller is not shy about sharing his bouts with depression and anxiety, spurred on following two divorces.

He’s also very open about his battles with drug and alcohol addiction.

‘‘I was doing the night shift as a cleaner at the sawmill in Colac. It’s bloody hard to get eight hours of sleep during the day, so I turned to drugs,’’ he said.

‘‘I became dependent on the stuff; it was the only way I could get to sleep.

‘‘Every time I tried to give the dope away I would have horrifying nightmares so it was easier to keep on smoking it.

‘‘I knew full well it wasn’t the solution to my problem. It was the easy way out.’’

Mick said he’s still struggling with his addictions, but is gaining more control every day.

‘‘There are still some days I feel pretty down. But the walking has allowed me to try new things such a poetry. Occasionally I post on Facebook how I’m feeling.’’

Mick updates his ‘Walking Stick Mick’ Facebook page regularly as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends.

He said it’s also an important tool to alert the community of his travels, particularly as he relies heavily on the kindness of strangers for food and drinks during his walking treks.

Mick plans to return home to Colac from this trip in November, but says it all depends ‘‘how I feel’’.

■ Anyone requiring support is encouraged to call beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline Australia on 131 114.

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