I was born and have lived here all my life bar 12 months. It is home and a good state to live in I think. I criticise the climate like most Melburnians but I think I am suited to a temperate zone. I enjoy living in a big metropolis with access to both hills and bays. I have everything I need and almost everything I want here. The only thing missing is some faraway friends. But then they play a key part in helping one travel so I cannot object all that much to even that lack.
I was more lucky than many children in that the family left the city for holidays. One trick of ours was to stay in cottages on farms in rural Victoria (the farmers would have made a better farm house befitting an affluent demographic and preserved the older house to hire to holidaying city-slickers). In this and other ways I had been all over the state by my adulthood. Mind you there are still things I want to see sometime like Crater Lake and Gabo Island. Still that will come with time I expect.
But back to Germany. My relatives there were fascinated by Australia which seemed like some exotic frontier to them. Naturally they quizzed me on what it was like and I told them astounding things like our huge landmass and our tiny population and so forth. And yet it struck me as odd that I had barely seen any of what I was describing. It was from that moment that I decided to get to every state and territory. I am shocking at long-term plans and so the fact this has happened is worth documenting.
Australian Capital Territory
I started my visits beyond my home state with the national capital of Canberra. I also started my habit of making use of voluntary associations to help me in my quest. In this case I was attending the Young Australian Democrats (YADs) National Conference 1996. A car-full of us drove all the way there. It was exciting to be collected from my home (at the time my first share household of Cesspool) and go all the way chatting with new friends (none of whom I am in contact with now). Some of our conversation was heavy politics I imagine but there was also silly stuff such as our decision that the 'south' of any given locality is always the more bogan part.
Anyway Canberra was something entirely new to me - it felt more like a university campus that had spilled into the surrounding suburbs. It is very planned and cultivated and back then it was particularly interesting to me as the centre of Australian Democracy. We even held some of our conference proceedings in New Parliament side rooms.
As well as the first city I visited, Canberra is also the one I visited most frequently and, eventually, even lived in. I returned there for a full party National Conference and another YADCon and even just on drives there with friends to visit other friends. Finally in 2009-10 I lived there but it had nothing to do with politics - rather it was to live with my then partner Petra. During that twelve months we also helped facilitate the Canberra Intervarsity Choral Festival 2010. In other states the Choral Intervarsity Movement has been even more useful to me than the Australian Democrats as a way of completing my quest.
New South Wales
Naturally I experienced New South Wales in visiting the ACT by car. However it was later that I made a specific road trip to Sydney. This was the first of many road trips with Sean. If memory serves we transported a friend of his to Canberra and then went onto Sydney to stay with my friend Nadine, who had gone to Monash Uni but worked at the time in the Navy and lived in Woolloomooloo close to the navel base there. Wandering round Sydney it stuck me how very different it was from Melbourne. It was more hilly and therefore provided me vistas of its close-packed skyscrapers. It was warmer and humid. It felt more busy and vibrant. It made me a bit nervy. I have been back there many times now whether for a party conference or a choral festival. Most recently I visited and stayed with choral friend Lisa during the most recent Australia Day. They seem that bit more into that event there than here. Hardly surprising since the date celebrated is the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet in the vicinity of what is now Sydney.
So far I have been to South Australia twice. Once was on an epic road trip with Sean and this time we were accompanied by my brother Lukas. We decided to drive via the coast and made minimal plans. We got into Mount Gambier, just across the border, by nightfall and managed to find a motel that would accommodate us. The next day we saw Blue Lake and what an odd thing that is. Then we drove onwards though marshland and farmland and hills to Adelaide. We had fish and chips on a beach. We got a room in a backpacker. We spend the next day driving to the Barossa Valley and back. We decided to take the short way home via an inland route. On the way we also saw Pink Lake (a salt-flat) and Green Lake. Ever since we have called that journey the Colour Lakes Tour even if it all happened by chance. The second visit was to help in a state election there and I was billeted by fellow Australian Democrats. That was a lot of fun in its own way too.
By the turn of the century I had been to Canberra, Sydney and Adelaide. It took a bit longer to get to Tasmania on account of the fact you cannot just drive there. Nonetheless in 2002 I got together with Sean and his friend Olivia and we drove a car onto the Spirit Of Tasmania. We disembarked at Devonport and drove the long way, via Penguin and Queenstown, to Hobart, getting into town just in time to find a servo that would sell us petrol, and a backpacker, the Pickled Frog, still open and with spare room for us. We had a lovely time wandering round Hobart, driving to the top of Mount Wellington, driving southward somewhat and taking a ride on a jet boat. We then drove to Launceston for me to get a flight back home, in time for a state election here (yes I had abandoned a few days of campaigning for a holiday). Since then I have been back to Tasmania another time for a choral intervarsity festival (IV).
I have only been to Queensland once and never left the confines of metropolitan Brisbane. I visited for a few days of the most recent Brisbane IV which I document in another part of this blog. It was a lot of fun to experience yet another city and a dose of winter sunshine.
Likewise my one experience of Western Australia to date was confined to metropolitan Perth (I include Fremantle in that). I blogged on the topic. It was also for the most recent Perth IV. Once more I got extra Vitamin D and a lot of fun.
Finally we come to my recent holiday which is unusual in that I travelled alone and got share accommodation (at the Darwin Youth Hostel) with complete strangers. In my one visit to the Territory I had nothing to do with a political or choral event of any kind. I was just there to see something new and to visit some friends. Those friends were Eugenie & Sahardi (along with kids and pets) who live in Katherine. So my visit was a kind of Katherine sandwich made with Darwin bread (Darwin then Katherine then Darwin).
It was particularly fun to visit Katherine and wander round the whole town and get shown the local hot springs and attend a party held by my hosts. It was also interesting to just wander round the city of Darwin and observe all the tourist industry which seems to drive that town. I attended some nice night markets by the beach but I also did some very non-touristy things like killing time in the local cinemas. I also experienced some moments of personal introspection.
At my recent birthday party I made a somewhat tipsy speech regarding whether I felt forty and it was far from coherent. Wandering round Darwin however it became very coherent: I feel nothing like I would imagine an adult of forty should feel (particularly if you factor other vital statistics of mine into the mix). Someone in his prime should be alone in a new city while still in his own nation and feel secure and self-assured. I however was always somewhat alert and tense and aware of my self and my belongings. And as much as I enjoyed seeing new things I also wanted the time to pass quickly so I could go home. I felt more child than adult but possibly that is what it is to be a stranger.
Nonetheless I am happy to have been to the Territory and gotten my mid-winter dose of tropical sunshine. I have enjoyed noting all the tiny differences from one city to another. I value having friends who live far away as well as ones who live round the corner or even down the hall. I smile as I think how I have ruthlessly utilized my time as a political hack and (more recently) as a chorister to travel on a budget. However I also am happy that I can stay close to home and notionally visit the world in the form of information and imagination.