The lyrics are sung by an older sister describing her coming-of-age brother, but they could have described me. I grew up in Wisconsin. I love the state. Nevertheless, within a month or two of graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1974, I had in hand a plane ticket for a flight across the Pacific Ocean to Melbourne, Australia, about as far away from home as it's possible to go without leaving the planet. It's a big world out there and I wanted to experience some of it. My stay in Australia lasted two years.I always knew that you would
take yourself far from home
as soon as, as far as, you could go.
Source: Natalie Merchant, "Gun Shy".
After the jump, my slow way home.
This article is the first chapter of a memoir, not about my time in Australia, but about my journey home. When I finally, reluctantly, decided to leave Australia, I decided to take the slow way home. I flew to Singapore and began a long journey to London. My travel was almost entirely by land, mostly by bus, country after country, border crossing after border crossing, one new and strange sight after another. It's over 9,000 miles as the crow flies from Singapore to London. Subtracting a flight to leapfrog Burma (whose land borders were closed), that's more than 7,500 miles on the ground across southern Asia and Europe. Whew! By the time I flew across the Atlantic Ocean from London back home to Wisconsin, four months later, I had completed a circumnavigation of the globe. Counting the two year layover in Australia, the entire trip took about 800 days. Around the world in 800 days. Double whew!
My guidebooks were two: "Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and "Across Asia on the Cheap," both Lonely Planet books from another era, and it showed. In one, hippie backpackers are advised to wear a short-hair wig when going through Singapore customs. A modern reviewer of one of the books says "there's one place they write about that I'd really like to see. And that's 1973." I can't take you all the way back to 1973, but I can get you close. I can show you what Asia looked like in 1977. My emphasis in this memoir will be on the photographs I took, not narrative.
Next: Leaving Australia Behind