To the Australian Aborigine, ‘walkabout" refers to a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.
“In this practice they would trace the paths, or "songlines" [or “dreaming tracks”], that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds. Merriam-Webster, however, identifies the noun as a 1908 coinage referring to "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian Aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work", with the only mention of "spiritual journey" coming in a usage example from a latter-day travel writer.
“To white employers, this urge to depart without notice (and reappear just as suddenly) was seen as something inherent in the Aboriginal nature, but the reasons may be more mundane: workers who wanted or needed to attend a ceremony or visit relatives did not accept employers' control over such matters (especially since permission was generally hard to get).” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkabout]
A Masonic Walkabout is similar in the sense that it is also a sort of rite of passage – of learning the various meaning of Masonic symbolisms and usages in a somewhat less formal manner compared to Masonic ritual.
In the preface to “The Walkabouts”, it states:
“The purpose of these walkabouts is not to unduly repeat the lessons of the ritual or the Tracing Boards. Rather, it is to further enlighten the Brethren, to answer questions, and to inspire them to inquire more into the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science in the Craft.”
In the Grand Lodge of California, The Walkabout is part of “California Masonic Candidate Mentorship Program” and the Brother’s lady [wife or partner] is included in the journey of the Walkabout. It emphasizes further that “this is not ritual, and should be presented informally, in a light and friendly manner.”
An important aspect of a Masonic Walkabout is that the new Brother is guided by expert members of his Lodge in contrast to the ‘sink or swim’ nature of Aboriginal walkabouts. The Aboriginal male of 12 or 13 years old are tested to survive by themselves in the wild for six months or more. The goal is to demonstrate what was learned from their Elders and put them into real world practice.
In the Masonic Walkabout, the new Brother gain further knowledge in a more relaxed manner without the ‘burdensome’ formal restrictions of our Ritual.
Again, the new member gains more knowledge and understanding after his initiation. It is apt to conclude with the following:
“If the Masonic Philosophy is not at the centre of Freemasonry then we end up with a ceremony that is simply entertainment for those watching. Our ceremonies cannot compete with lavish theatrical productions or rock concerts. Every Mason needs to teach another Mason about the philosophy of Freemasonry.
“For over two hundred years it has been an appealing way of life. We may not be able to change the attitudes of members who are fearful of change and new ideas but we will provide every opportunity for those who seek assistance to progress their Masonic formation.”