CANBERRA, Jan. 28 – I wrote a letter to my grandparents a few days ago with this passage:
I think every Australian has fantasies about Europe. Perhaps they are borne out of the receding shadow of the War, or perhaps it comes from the constant striving towards our origins. Europe has culture (or Kultur in the case of Germany if the World War I posters are anything to go by), whereas Australia is still packing up the paraphernalia associated with being an outpost of an empire on its last legs.
Europe seems to be an obvious sort of place: it obviously has culture and tradition; the place obviously has history because it is rammed down our throats at school; and it has differences.
We'll probably never totally untangle ourselves from our European ancestry, and it will always be known we came from somewhere else.
As far as I know I have no direct connection to Germany. I don't even know yet if there are any similarities between Australia - so far I've only been able to discern differences from my vantage point across the world. Perhaps that is the sole reason people travel: they are looking for similarities and differences. Business travel would be so that it can be decided whether they are similar enough across the sea to do business with each other, or whether their differences hamper or enlighten future transactions. Perhaps tourists - those who have travelled purely for themselves - are just looking for a mirrored form of themselves overseas in a place they weren't expecting it.
It will probably be obvious at this point that I'm as worldly as a spider in a Vegemite jar at this point in time. I haven't seen the world; I haven't been on the Grand Tour; I am not yet able to bore people to death at dinner tables telling them of my travels. This will all change of course. Very soon - in three months and a few days or so - I will be able to talk with flowery sentences and long winded purple prose of my travels - always using the plural of the word, despite having only been on one.
I think Mum is concerned I haven't been excited enough. I think she has been telling herself that I'm excited on the inside. She's right. Although excitement can't come to a mind that hasn't truly worked out something exciting is going to happen. When my mind works out I'm going away for three months - that moment at airport security; at check-in; at the newspaper stall - then I will be excited. Sadly, though, my folks mightn't get to see this. My travelling companions will, though. Poor buggers.
Tomorrow I'm going to a farewell for those of us who are going. It will be combined with a bit of birthday celebration for one of our friends who will be there. I'm not yet sure if one of the intrepid lot of travellers will come. Not that it's compulsory. It won't be some visually poetic send off with white hankies fluttering from the pier as the ship heaves off the harbour and disappears across the horizon. No, we'll be travelling in sterile aeroplane convenience and speed.
On Friday (Jan. 31) I will have a hair cut. I will have picked my coat up from the dry cleaners the day before (I am going to Germany in February, remember), and I will be sitting in a chair having my hair lopped off. Not too much hair lopped off, mind you, just enough to look good in some travel snaps. Then, we will drive to Sydney, have a farewell dinner with some relations, sleep for a few hours, get to the airport at what will feel like the middle of the night, and then I will be ejected into the air.
By dinner time I will be farther away from home than I have ever been before. I can't wait.