In one year’s time we are circling the globe. In this short period we will visit many of the world’s countries, meet many of her people, learn many of her lessons, and taste her bounty, both literally and figuratively. At least those were my thoughts before we left. After two countries the picture is coming more into focus. Even from our English-speaking, antipodean cocoon we are seeing that things are different than we expected. 6 “ahas” from our first 5 weeks: 1. If you travel with 1/3 of your party in the 6 and under age group you need to take it slow (ok, so we already knew that one) 2. The world is not built for parties of 6, minivans excluded. 3. It is hard to really get to know people when your kids are begging you to get them a drink, imitating a WWF match, or trying to shake free candy out of a vending machine. 4. Convenience and cost trump culinary pleasure. 5. Recess can go all day if you let it. 6. Even if your trip extended your whole lifetime, you could only be in one place at one time. In other words, no matter how far or how often we travel, we follow a thin line, leaving much of the world unseen, most people unmet, and many foods untasted.
When the final thought came to me, I was initially a little depressed about it. I thought about the struggles of getting us on this trip, the cost of it, the sacrifices we have made and will have to make because of it. “All those obstacles and the family isn’t going to see everything,” I fumed to myself. Just in Australia, we are 600 miles from the Great Barrier Reef, a short 3 day drive to Uluru (Ayers Rock), 2 days to Cairns, and 2 days to Kangaroo Island. However, we will not be seeing any of them. It would be impossible to see them all, but we could chose to push and see a few. It would mean the kids would have much less school time, we would remain in tourist mode and meet only other tourists, and we would wear ourselves out before we even get to the hard part–China is 15 days away, India 90. After feeling like I was letting the family down, I kicked myself as I realized how great it is that we each travel along a small line. It isn’t even that important where your line goes, just what you make of it. When the kids are older they can bring their lines back to see any tourist sites we might miss. On this trip we will trade in many of Australia’s great sites to soak in its vacation culture. We are staying in the quiet surfside town of Caloundra, a holiday favorite for folks from Brisbane, which lies just 1 hour to the south. The people here are friendly. We meet mostly Australians, mixed with the occasional Brit or Kiwi. For the most part they are working class Australians, some of whom are lucky enough to live here and others who are just on vacation here. We meet Steve Irwin’s mates, his surfing buddies, and even his barber. We smile at people and when they smile back we find out a little bit about them. I am a little saddened that the combined energy level of the 6 of us keeps people a little wary of us and at arms length. On our worst days, we are like a crazed under 5 foot basketball team enjoying their first road trip after their coaches have all gone to sleep. There isn’t much I can do about that, I am sure people at home think twice or thrice before allowing us in their homes or near their valuables. But the people we do meet have been very friendly with great life stories. I love learning what is important to them and trying to figure out how Aussies on the whole are similar or different than Americans. I know that only happens when you are traveling at a slower pace; if our thin lines were moving too fast between all the tourist sites we would never become friends with a pirate named Captain Rob, get to know a small beach town, or understand how the surf culture could be Australia’s greatest asset.