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First step to Oz (not the musical): Australia with a red center cut – I like my country on the rare side

June 3, 2014

I’ve been pounding through Lonely Planet and Frommer’s books on Australia, watching Aussie flicks, The Last Wave, and also going through books written by guys traveling through Australia.

I believe any true American has Australia in their heart. WHen I first had testicular cancer at 27, I had vowed to go to California, surf, do stand-up, learn about wine, and travel to Australia. I never hamde it to Oz, but I was content with all my other choices. Then I had testicular cancer again, and I was happy with my life, there wasn’t anything I would change, but I did want to help others. And it was difficult to even want to travel because I was so happy just to be alive. I often said, “Every time I open and close my eyes I travel around the world.”

Then I read this poem by CP Cavafy, widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the twentieth century.

 

The City

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

The poem haunted me. I thought I need to be tested beyond myself. There’s a journey I must take with this life. ANd I must bring my American heart to Uluru, the Barrier Reef. There was part of me that was beyond myself, I had to finally achieve and fill. The aboriginals call it dreamtime, where they draw myths from the land’s origins–snakes shaping mountains or whatever. But look how we walk through life, shaping our ambitions, taking jobs, doing our own dreamtimes. This is my  walkabout, but I wasn’t ready to take it until now. I was healthy, partially hampered by never damage from chemo in my feet and hands, but I could still go! And, another driving force? I’m 59 but fortunately don’t look it (unless I’m evaluated by a twenty-year olds unfeeling assessments), but I really didn’t want to be a sixty-year old guy walking around Australia–I guess that’s mortality. WHo knows? But do it while I look like someone who has fun, and go draw a change from the trip to put life on another level.

When I took my first step to my upcoming trip to Oz, I tried a travel agent in Los Gatos. I thought it might give me a handle on the trip to have someone else structure it based on my neds. This was a mistake because LG is SIlicon Valley friendly, which means rich women layered in jewelry and wearing yoga pants and taking their five-year olds to get pedicures before their first day of school. But I figured I’d try it. I set up an appointment with a woman who has been to Australia many times and has family there. I came early for the appointment, and when I walked into the travel agency, four people sitting at their desks looked at me like I was the entre they’ve been waiting for (“Hey someone actually walked into our office without us sending out an email. We can make money.”) When I told them I had an appointment, they deflated and directed me to a room where the woman’s desk was.

SHe took out some booklets and a map, and starting charting out all these three-day tours, talking about flights, and four-star hotels. And throughout her patter all I could think was she is looking at a commission as well as kickbacks from all these places so she could fly to Australia in business class, and stay in these places, and go on these tours for free. “You have to go to Kangaroo Island to see the parade of the little penguins.” I had read about it, and that was the last thing I wanted to do, take a ferry with a horde of tourists to take pictures of penguins. But this was something she liked to do. Then she said, “For you to see all these things it will cost at least $20,000.” I replied, “I figured,  maybe a little over ten thousand.” SHe rolled her eyes, as if she was trying to guilt me–you know after all if I was really serious about doing this trip, you don’t want me to waste my time. This play didn’t play for me. Guilting me into spending money to support someone else’s perks wasn’t in me. I thanked her, then emailed her and said I decided to plan the trip myself. She took exception to this and became indignant, claiming I had taken advantage of her knowledge. Again, pressuring me into using her. I replied, “You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already about Australia, and the only thing you did tell me I didn’t know was how much you wanted to charge me, but you never told me how much I’d save by using you.” Her response, as well as the standard reply of these agents, you’re paying for their expertise, using them doesn’t save you money.

So began my journey through online sights, airline discounts, credit cards that give mileage points, and looking for books on traveling in Australia, movies, Youtube videos, and more.

I needed the red center to fill an area within me,

 

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