An extract from “The Book”

I wrote this back in the mid 1990’s after an afternoon spent reminiscing with my best mate Dean who like me had worked and traveled extensively overseas. We called ourselves the “1%” He managed to settle down a little easier than I did. For me the cycle of “this is my final contract” kept repeating until late 1999 when I finally called it quits after 10 years of living out of a backpack and came home.

FOR SOME OF US, THE EXPERIENCE OF TRAVEL, OF LIVING AND WORKING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY CHANGES YOU IRREVOCABLY, NOT NECESSARILY FOR THE BETTER. YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A KIND OF CULTURAL LIMBO, RESTLESS, ROOTLESS AND OUT OF PLACE ” RETURNING HOME AFTER YEARS ABROAD CAN BE FOR SOME, MORE OF A CULTURE SHOCK THAN A POMMIE GOING TO” THE CHURCH” FOR THE FIRST TIME.

FOR MONTHS DURING A GREY LONDON WINTER, THE THOUGHTS HAVE BEEN TURNING MORE AND MORE FREQUENTLY TO GODZONE. NOSTALGIA PERMEATES EVERY PORE, WITH REMINISCENCES OF SUNSHINE, SHEEP AND SPEIGHTS.FINALLY AFTER MUCH SOUL-SEARCHING AND SCROUNGING AROUND FOR THE MONEY FOR THE TICKET A DECISION IS MADE, THE TEA CHESTS ARE SENT OFF ( ONLY TO BE SEEN AGAIN 6 MONTHS LATER WHEN THE BATTLE OVER WHO PAYS THE PORT DUTIES IS WON.) , THE LAST PINT(S) DRUNK AND YOU FIND YOURSELF AIRBORNE, WONDERING NERVOUSLY IF YOU HAVE MADE THE RIGHT DECISION.

AFTER THE COMPULSORY STOPOVERS ( USED FOR COMING TO TERMS WITH “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE” , AND USUALLY FAILING), THE FIRST VIEW OF YOUR BELOVED PARADISE IS NOT VERY REASSURING. NOTHINGS CHANGED. HOWEVER THE MOUNTAINS, THE LAKES AND MORE IMPORTANTLY THE FRESH AIR ARE VERY REASSURING AFTER THE MONTHS OF SUBTERRANEAN SQUALOR THAT IS TRAVELING THE” NORTHERN LINE”.

FOR THE NEXT FEW HOURS , YOU’RE A STAR, ALL THE RELLIES WANT TO KNOW IS: HOW WAS IT ? ( AS IF YOU’VE BEEN AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND INSTEAD OF TWO YEARS) AND; WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW THAT YOU’RE BACK? THAT GOOD OLD SELECTIVE MEMORY , HAS RAISED YOUR COUNTRY TO THE HEIGHTS OF A NIRVANA, SO NATURALLY THERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT YOU HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT. HOLDEN COMMODORE V8’S, PINKY BARS, STEINLAGER BLUE AND SHORTLAND STREET.

AS WELL AS LINGUAL AND CULTURAL READJUSTMENTS THERE IS ALSO A MENTAL ONE. IT IS HARD TO SUPPRESS THOSE FEELINGS OF SUPERIORITY( I KNOW WHAT AN M-25 IS, HOW TO ASK YOU TO SLEEP WITH ME IN 8 LANGUAGES AND I KNOW WHERE RUE DE BERNE IS). SO AFTER A MONTH(OR MAYBE LESS DEPENDING ON THE CURRENT FINANCIAL SITUATION) OF LAZING ROUND THE HOUSE RECOVERING FROM DELAYED JET-LAG, THE PROBLEM CAN NO LONGER BE IGNORED. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW YOU’RE BACK? ………………..

SOME CHOOSE THE WORK ROUTE( TO PAY OFF THE BILL REMAINING FROM THE STOPOVER TO SORT OUT YOUR LIFE). THOSE BRAVE AND FOOLHARDY SOULS, WHO THINK THAT HAVING WORKED IN LONDON AND HAVING BACKPACKED AROUND EUROPE IN VARIOUS DEGREES OF FINANCIAL RUIN WILL HAVE EMPLOYERS KNOCKING DOWN THEIR DOOR TO EMPLOY SUCH INTELLIGENT AND WELL ROUNDED INDIVIDUALS ARE WRONG!!! YOU FEEL THAT THE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAVE GAINED SHOULD BE REMUNERATED FOR WHILST THE EMPLOYER FEELS THAT HE CAN SAVE $6.00 AN HOUR ON HIS WAGE BILL BY HIRING A “SUIT” FRESH OUT OF UNI WHO HAS NO IDEA ABOUT THE REAL WORLD.

A MONTH LATER AFTER GETTING A JOB IN A NO NAME HOTEL THAT WAS ADVERTISED AS……….. sous-chef wanted must have 705/1 and 1 year experience …………..YOU FIND YOURSELF INCREASINGLY DRAWN TO THE LOCAL TRAVEL AGENT ON YOUR DAYS OFF CHECKING OUT THE PRICE OF AIRFARES TO FAR FLUNG CORNERS OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD…..PERTH, SYDNEY, BRISBANE etc. BEFORE YOU KNOW IT THE C.V IS UPDATED, THE RESIGNATION HAS BEEN SIGNED , SEALED AND DELIVERED AND YOUR THE OWNER OF A ONE WAY “QF 72” ECONOMY FARE TO FREEDOM.

AFTER YEARS OF TRAVELING AND WORKING OVERSEAS THE WANT FOR STABILITY CAN BECOME INCREASINGLY SOUGHT AFTER BUT IN THE ATTEMPTS TO SETTLE DOWN AND ENFORCE STABILITY UPON OURSELVES WE CAN MAKE OURSELVES MORE RESTLESS AND UNSTABLE.

SO AT THE MOMENT WHILE THE AVERAGE JOE BLOGGS STRESSES ABOUT FINDING THIS MONTHS MORTGAGE, WHICH SHADE OF WHITE TO PAINT THE PICKET FENCE AND WHETHER TO BUY AN HQ STATION WAGON OR AN XY STATION WAGON FOR THE 2.5 KIDSĀ  WE STRESS ABOUT ORDERING FOOD IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE, FINDING A FLAT IN A FOREIGN CITY AND BUYING A TRAIN TICKET TO GET AROUND A FOREIGN COUNTRY. I KNOW WHICH STRESSES I’D RATHER HAVE!

AN EXTRACT FROM ” THE BOOK ” THE 1%’S PERSPECTIVE ON TRAVEL , LIFE AND PINKY BARS.

2 comments

    1. Hi Misao – I’ve got plenty of stories from my work travels but haven;t expanded on them yet apart from that chapter…..I’m looking at an idea that yet may see that happen

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