Return from the vast expanses

My recent silence has gone unexplained. I have been on holiday, and my the size of my readership (clearly a cluster of titanically prescient early adopters. And friends and relatives) made me feel that it would be unconscionably pompous of me to announce any suspension in posting. So instead, the void went unshouted into for three weeks.

Nevertheless, upon my return, it probably behooves me to write something about something.

In my travels, which involved driving from Perth to the majestic Karijini National Park and all points between, I had many flashes of insight that led to the thought ‘this would make a neat blog post’. Naturally, upon touching down back in The People’s Republic of Melbourne, these promptly vanished into the ether, as my brain waves attempted to realign themselves with those of a regular routine.

But there is one thought that has been dancing about my still-craving-beer-and-cheese-at-4pm brain for some time, that this trip resurrected. In recent years, the wife and I have travelled to WA, the Northern Territory, driven through the top half of NSW, and visited Europe. On each journey, we have naturally encountered fellow travellers, voyagers and explorers from all corners. But what is intriguing is that we met, by far, more Australian tourists while in Poland, Austria or Italy than we came close to while in Kakadu, Karijini or the Hunter Valley.

Australians (well, those under the age wherein one is authorised to purchase various colours of hair rinse), seem to have gravitated to more distant shores than our own. In the past, overseas holidays were for the well-heeled only. Families may have cobbled together several years’ worth of shrapnel to visit London, or form the vanguard of what is now the ‘bogan bus’ – the Jetstar flight from Brisbane to Bali. But by and large, holidays consisted of travelling within our own country, often within our own state.

Fast-forward to today, and modestly-heeled young adults and teens seem far more concerned with criss-crossing the globe, capitalising on the high dollar and competitive airlines and/or drinking vodka/red bull out of buckets than seeing their own country.

This is no criticism, simply an observation. But is it a good or a bad thing? Do we have a patriotic duty to see our nation, financially crippling as it may be in contrast with, say Italy?

Is it nationalistic to even suggest this?

The challenges to travelling Australia are notable – the distances are unimaginably vast, the prices are uncompetitive, accessibility is limited without forking out extra money for tours/4WDs/airplanes. Once a visitor lands in Thailand, the holiday becomes almost free. In Europe, while it ain’t cheap, a tourist can wander aimlessly about, faced with random antiquity encounters at every turn.

That said, it seems that much of our overseas travel is simply exporting our most drunken, exhibitionist behaviour offshore, to the detriment of our national reputation. Recently, it has best been evidenced by the charges against an Australian whose jet ski antics killed a woman in Hawaii.

I guess, on this issue, I fall somewhat on the side of nationalism. People should see their own country. Not all of it, of course – this place is massive – but some effort should be made to at least understand the opportunity cost of going to Bali or Belize instead of Broome.

Either way, do yourself a favour. Go to Karijini National Park and spend a week. You won’t regret it.

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