Every day, without fail, I get asked where I am from. Not because I look particularly exotic, but because, when one is abroad, ‘where are you from’ is the inevitable follow up to ‘hello, how are you?’
And everyday, without fail, when I respond with ‘Australia’, I hear a variation of the following; ‘you guys are everywhere. Why do you all travel so much?’ Or my conversation partner’s face drops ever so slightly and I catch a flicker of ‘shit, not again’ in their eyes. Or perhaps I am just being over-sensitive.
Anyway, it’s true. We are everywhere (as I have oft complained about). We are of a particularly high concentration on the Greek Islands (and any other stop that finds itself in the unfortunate position of being on the Contiki route – Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Rome) and we do travel a lot. Considering there are only 22 million of us, which is 0.33% of the global population – compared to, say, I don’t know, China’s 1.3 billion, or the USA’s 311 million or Russia’s 143 million … or even France‘s 65 million – we are statistically over-represented little globetrotters. One hears the Australian accent far more than they hear, for example, the South African accent, and there are 52 million of them. Despite there being almost 82 million Germans in the world, the Haviana/board short combination is far more frequently spotted than the sturdy sandals and socks combo, so beloved by those wurst-grazing beer drinkers.
So, it begs the question – and I am asking you to help me out here – why? Sure, we’re curious beasts, and largely easy going ones too, two key ingredients in sustained and exploratory travel. But we don’t have the strongest currency in the world – it’s not like our mighty little dollar (despite its current stellar performance) buys a lot of pounds and euros. And even though general affluence allows many Australians the luxury of travel, what about those backpackers who drink 83 cent cans of beer and eat 2 euro gyros every night, so their funds stretch to the next Greek island
Geographically, we’re not in the most convenient position to pop across to any country outside of the Asia Pacific region – and even then, nine hours to Tokyo exceeds most people‘s definition of ‘popping across‘. And it’s not exactly cheap for us to catch a plane to the other side of the world and yet, we seem to do it in droves. We turn up in every corner of the world with a grin, a touch of curiosity and a bastardisation of local pronunciation.
So, what drives us Antipodeans to travel? Are we particularly – and more so than other nations – adventurous? Does exploration course through our very veins? Our forebears civilised one of the most tempestuous lands on the planet, a land we happily inhabit, despite its vast pockets of unfriendliness and marvellous list of creepy killers – what’s a hostel with free wifi when we’re raised on tales of desert starvation and an outlaw with a home-made metal helmet?
Perhaps our isolation breeds a natural curiosity for what’s out there. Our geographical location, when paired with our youth and population size, means we naturally tend to look outwards for education and entertainment. We’re the energetic, bolshy little kid who wants to know what our big siblings are doing. Sure we can amuse ourselves to an extent, but then we get bored and when you’re bored on a big island in the middle of nowhere, a coastal getaway just doesn’t cut it.
Or is it simply a part of our culture? We are so massively multicultural (despite what naysayers and op-ed columnists who have never lived in another, truly non-multicultural country, will have you believe,) travelling to other countries and cultures is a natural progression of the way our society has been formed. Our history of immigration has afforded us an inherent, and still developing, understanding of difference and of what exists beyond our shores.
We are also raised on a steady diet of other countries’ histories. I say this knowing full well that America knows nothing beyond its own independence and we know more about World War II than the Germans, French, Italians or English have ever considered about our Aborigines who were around 30,000 years before Hitler invaded Poland. Our high school syllabus means we are aware of, and (theoretically) educated in, the finer points of ancient Roman and Greek civilisations, modern European wars, American presidencies and key eras of England’s history from adolescence. It makes sense that, come the moment we have the time and money to go and see what it’s all about for ourselves, we do. Why not?
It’s something that, as much as I complain about the less savoury representatives of our fine country, I am quite proud of. We might be a small nation, in the middle of nowhere, living in a land of plenty that takes five hours to fly across … but that doesn’t stop us from seeing what the rest of the world has to offer and as people, I do believe, we’re all the richer for it.
Also see Liv Hambrett’s blog Abiglife.wordpress.com and follow her at Twitter.com/livwrites
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