Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Down Under Odyssey, Part I

When one travels for three weeks,it's easy to forget things, and coming home this past week has been a long series of remembering. I returned to some changes at work, a slightly dirty house, not being able to find where I had stashed files when I "cleaned" before I left, and consistently losing my keys. I had three huge stacks of mail, over 1200 emails, and a pile of messages on my phones. There was a large stack of magazines waiting for me to love them, and then over easter, my dad brought me about thirty more.

Reading US News and World Reports from last week, "Making America Better"-- which, by the way, was a great issue to read coming off of travels where I did nothing but compare America to other nations-- I read an article about campaign financing, and the remembered again... I had completely forgot. Gone was the American election and the early cowardice and the mud-slinging and the eight thousand candidates vying for press and acknowledgement. Poof. I did think about local STL elections, but not that. There were other things too. I read and read and was amazed at what I had completely forgotten. I felt lighter and it was great. Like that desire I get sometimes to move because it seems the only way my house will get organized or the only way I will ever finish things enough or not feel too guilty to just move on.

And yet, all I did, the whole time I was gone was think about America... and about my place within it. It's funny the conversations you have and where they take place. The most enlightening discussion I had was when I shared a taxi with an Australian in Melbourne. We discussed taxes, development of the arts, and voting. We discussed lessons in school, civics, and how we are socialized into government. There were questions flying about civic duty.

Or perhaps more telling, when someone heard me speak, and it seemed to be usually a quiet old gentleman wearing a sun hat and leaning on his walking stick, I would be asked where I was from. Funny thing, most assumed I was Canadian. Ten or twelve people, which made me laugh. When I lived in England in the late nineties and 2000, I often told people I was Canadian because it was easier than dealing with the political embarassment my country was thrusting upon me during Clinton's impeachment hearings and then later during the 2000 election. But this time, the Australians thought me to be Canadian for two overwhelming reasons: men thought so because I was undemanding, quiet, and polite. Apparently they deal with brash Americans who feel entitlement a bit too often. Women and people my age thought I was Canadian because very few Americans travel alone, especially women as it turns out.

One way or the other, there's nothing like getting lost in another country to find yourself and figure out a thing or two about where you live. There will be more postings on my great Down Under Odyssey, but for now, I have three things to say:

1.) If you ever get the chance to go to Tasmania, do so. I don't care who you are or how much you've traveled or what you like, you will feel at home there, and you will love it.

2.) The outback, specifically Coober Pedy, an opal mining town, is both crazy and wonderful. Being there was like living in a sci-fi movie, and yet the town is ingenius and provocative, and in many ways a model for better quality of life.

3.) I took over 700 pictures,so it's taking a while to post them. They're not going up chronologically, but my four days in the Outback (around 100 photos) are posted on my flickr account. More to follow within the next week or so.

And lastly, if you haven't traveled in a while, do it. Just go. Stop making excuses. Even if you just get in yolur car\for the afternoon or take the bus somewhere without a destination. In my favorite poem, there's a line I had always neglected until this year, "Your adventures are like safe houses." I got tired of being so safe. Maybe you are too.

1 comment:

Grace Fall said...

The pics are unbelievable...I found your post to be quite poignant and exactly what I needed to read at exactly the right time--how often that happens with you! I'm glad you're home safe and sound, and can't wait to hear more from you.