JoshuasTravels — The Last Stand

The Last Stand

Written by . Posted at 8:52 pm on July 11th, 2005

There’s a large part of me that didn’t want to leave Australia. As natural as I think this is, it’s still a pretty big bummer. But, even if I had two years and a million dollars, I know I’d still have left Australia with places to see and things to do.

I wish I could’ve gotten some more surfing in. Aside from a few day-rentals at various beaches, my 7-day surf tour was it. It’s a big pervasive myth that you can buy a beat-up used board for around $100. Believe me, you really can’t find one for under $400 the Saturday markets, the classifieds, hostel bulletin boards, craigslist, or anywhere. And as much as I love surfing (which is a lot) – $400, that’s travel fare to Darwin and Adelaide. I guess I loved traveling more than I loved surfing.

It’s a well-documented fact of life that money always seems to go a little faster than you think it should. I’ve lived a privileged life, never having to worry about food or shelter or anything else my sister and I have literally wanted for nothing. So ever since I was a tot, I’ve been in the pseudo-habit of generally taking in more money (from allowance and lawn-mowing and the odd job) than I was handing out (for bubblegum and comic books). Oz has suspended my trustafarian status. I don’t regret many of the dollars I’ve spent here in the GDU, but I won’t deny that I’m a creature of habit (or, if you’re overly pessimistic, ‘incredibly predictable’) and that I was a little uneasy with my cash-flow at times.

Another habit I’ve also taken pains to avoid falling into is consuming more calories than I’m expending. I’ve gained just under 10 merry kilograms of potential energy. While this is not a good thing, I’ve no serious worries about this: the Ranger Challenge has a funny way of upping my metabolism to ferocious rates.

Still, I left the GDU with a whole lot of fond memories. I’m sad, but I’m happy. I’ve learned a lot about Australia

, but (more importantly, I think) I’ve learned a lot about America. It wasn’t all fun and games (there was a bit of schoolwork and I got a super-stressed once or twice, not to mention the emotional fatigue of trans-Pacific travel).

But I just can’t explain how much I’ll just miss that feeling of just being on a train or plain or bus somewhere between Here and There. Not that I won’t be glad to get out of this constitutional monarchy/dictatorship. There’s no two ways about it I’m American and I’m proud of it (I loathe seeing the Queen on every form of currency in my wallet.) There’ve been times during my journeys that I’ve never been more than mortified of America, but more often than not I’ve never been more proud to be from the greenest (politically speaking) State in the freest country on earth. I do so love my Oregon, full of rugged and mannish Lumberjacks.

In my last few days I’d start to remember weird things at bizarre times. I’d step out of the shower and remember the first time I saw a ‘Roo. It was on my first train up the Hunter (to Newcastle). I’d just stepped off the plane and I was talking with a middle-aged bloke the whole trip when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a few bounding along. I childishly leapt out of seat and giddily asked if those “were Kangaroos.” My companion assured me that yes, they “were Kangaroos” in the same nonchalant manner that I might use to assure that yes, my hair “is brown.” It thus occurs to me how very strange ethnocentricity is. I could watch Wallabies leaping for the rest of my life and it would still look strange to me, as if these animals should be galloping or running, like they do in the Euro-Afro-American tales from my childhood. Honestly what kind of animal hops somewhere?

It’ll always be bizarre to me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve left Oz with a few new vices, a few regrets, a few new scars, a few new mates, and over two gigabytes of photographically-reinforced memories. I’ve “braved” the Aussie winters (which get so cold that you have to put on a t-shirt). I’ve made some fantastic effort at finding that thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

I’ve had some awesome (learning and not learning) experiences, I’ve met some flat-out remarkable people and I’ve killed a few brain cells. I’ve had my first bouts and I realize they’re only bouts – with the Real Life of dockside workers and fruit pickers here in Australia. At the same time I’ve spent a lot of the almighty D and I’ve used bathrooms and showers that would’ve made Bob Marley cringe. I’ve been to an Aussie Barbie or two; I’ve seen the Great Victorian Desert, hiked through the rainforest and swam in Billabongs. I’ve been to all the urban jungles and packed a whole lot of living into six months.

I’ve tasted all types of brews, surfed some great waves, gazed at the Southern Cross, held wombats, eaten crocs and Tasmanian kangaroos. I’ve been happy and sad, somber, sober and not sober, giddy and everything in-between. I’ve done my best to improve the American image (although not always successfully).

I never did make it to Cairns, go downhill skiing in the Snowy Mountains or see Uluru (that big rock in the Red Center) with my own eyes, but that’s okay it just gives me a reason to come back someday.

I don’t fancy myself too much of a braggart but honestly, it’s kind of nice to be able to say “yeah, Tasmania was nice.” and “I’ve seen Darwin, Australia” or “hey, I’ve had a beer in Adelaide and I’ve spent some time in Perth.”

I calculated it out during one boring night: I’ve rack up more than 16,800 miles roaming between major cities (that doesn’t count the side-trips to surrounding cities and other attractions). For illustrative purposes, I’ve traveled about 60% of the equator’s length

(24,898 miles) or gone the distance between LA and NYC just over six times. But it’s who’s counting?

My backpack, my Top Guns and me have been in every capitol and state and territory in the Nation of the Commonwealth of Australia (and a few little places that aren’t on the map). I checked the Australian census and wouldn’t you know it but I’ve been to the richest suburb (Jutland Parade) and the poorest (Callaghan, NSW) in the Lucky Country and the suburb with the most “o”s in its name (Woolloomooloo) in the entire world.

But what I’ve done isn’t half as important to me as what I’ll miss. I’ll miss the “house meetings” after class every Wed. night, meeting up at the campus bar for kicks and karaoke. I’ll miss Weet-Bix. I’ll miss the wanderlust (I had it and had it bad – I’d get pissy if I hadn’t gone someplace new in the least three weeks). I’ll miss that marvelous Southern Cross. I’ll miss picking fruit from our backyard tree. I’ll miss waking up with the sun high in the sky, eating a leisurely brekky, lacing up and going for a nice run up to the beach, along it and back and showering in room-heat that is hotter than the shower-water and just wondering if life could get any better. I’ll miss the subtle everyday things that make me grin: looking at a packet of sausages and seeing Kangaroo as the “primary meat product.”

Walking to class through a beautiful campus and suddenly realizing I’m Australia, where stress might as well be illegal and a hundred other things I won’t know until they’re gone. I’ll miss the Tomato Sauce. Tomato Sauce isn’t ketchup. It’s really very close but it’s not the same thing. It’s much better – less sugar or formaldehyde or something. Australia groceries, in general, have far less preservatives than I’m used to. It’s a little inconvenient, buying milk that goes bad about twice as quick as I’m used to, but it’s been a pleasant change and one that I’ll miss. Man, is Oz is an excellent country and man; this has been one phenomenal trip.

Oh, I’ve had a good time down here. But, I just don’t know if I’m ever coming back. I’d like to say that I am there’s so much left to do but I just don’t know. It’s a big, big world and I’d love to see more of it. Europe and Asia are next on my list, hopefully in a few years but who knows? Maybe I’ll come back to Oz in 40 years and ski Perisher Blue. Or maybe on of my new mates will come out to Oregon so I can show him Multnomah Falls or maybe I’ll meet somebody in Chicago.

And with that, the “travels” in transitions toward the metaphysical sense of the word and I’d like to thank you. Thank all of you for reading all of these. As someone wiser than me once said: “what good is a story if you can’t share it? What’s the point of a picture if you can’t share it?” Gracias and danke to you, dearest readers (dare I call you my adoring public? Nay, I shan’t dare). Your ongoing encouragement and lack of flak has been most encouraging, even as these sendouts got longer and longer.

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