Now We Can Travel Again…

Keen travellers that most Aussies are, many of us suffered agonies locked down during the pandemic. Happily, with the borders open again we’ve been making up for lost time during the past northern summer.

But there’s a paradox. We most enjoy travelling when we’re not travelling, when we’re either contemplating the prospect or boasting about it afterwards, usually with elaborate details of bargain flights and upgrades at the inconvenience only of a seventeen-hour stopover in some Middle Eastern slave port with skyscrapers. We seldom enjoy the travel itself. This is because the essential thing with Australians travelling is that something must always go wrong.

In a random quiz at an airport, some recently returning travellers told us how their trips went.  

Will Guilfoyle, merchant banker, Balmain, NSW:

“God, did I have problem with New York. Every restaurant was a rip-off and everyone in them was always getting mugged. The coloured-on-white crime is unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as anti-racist as the next guy, but in the middle of Wall Street some black kids with a knife got away with my laptop, I had this major deal coming up—we’re talking megabucks here—and I needed all my contacts to clinch it and the whole thing went pear-shaped. I blame Trump for encouraging violence with his January the sixth invasion of the White House. The last straw was the hotel trying to charge me for the presidential suite when I’d only been in a penthouse one. Talk about greed. I reckon America is finished.”

Jessica Woke, ABC reporter, Sydney, NSW:

“I’m at home wherever my assignment takes me, actually I identify as a globalist but I do find that in the Pacific despite Australia finally having a long overdue female foreign minister misogyny is so systemic that I have to fight my corner to get access to one of their leaders who are all Christian fundamentalist chauvinists. When I put in a request for an interview they ask me to bring a male journo and constantly infer in conversation that only men can understand politics. I guess it’s a matter of their culture—and I say that as a committed non-racist—but if Australia’s going to be helping them with aid they really need to do something about these toxic prejudices. They’re pretty third-world technologically too and twice running I’ve had trouble with my monthly productivity increment reaching one of the local banks. Also when I tell them I’m a proud Tomandjeri woman—my great-aunt had a first nations partner—they think I’m representing some other country, not Australia. Weird.”

Bruce Gibson, retired bank manager and wife Nance (“home duties, definitely not retired, thank you!”), Launceston, Tas:

“All we can say is ‘never again’ to a so-called cultural tour of Italy. We’re getting on a bit and we value comfort but do you think we could find just one clean sit-down toilet in all the churches and museums we were made to tramp through? The one in the so-called ‘luxury’ coach was always occupied or blocked but we were supposed to have comfort stops during the day and believe you me you need them after all that oily food. But blow me down if the driver doesn’t announce that we’re running late and he’ll have to make up time by not stopping anywhere. Nance had her bag snatched in Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice (twice) and the money belt I wear was stolen from our room in Amalfi while I was having a lay down. The hotel management were no help, seemed to think I was trying to put one over them. We won’t be rushing back there, I can tell you.”

Holly Stingle, dentist’s receptionist, Wanneroo, WA:

“I’m really glad to be home. England was awful. Of course I’m not a racist but the AirB&B my friend and me booked in advance was right over an Indian takeaway and the smell got into everything and it turned out it wasn’t even in London which we had specified but somewhere called Rotherham hours away on the train, which was so expensive, and with the people you saw around it was like being in a foreign country, and when we got to London there were just so many tourists and there were huge queues for everything and you had to pay to go everywhere, even art galleries and St Paul’s Abbey which as government properties ought to be free. I won’t be going back.”

Josh Bogan, backpacker, Nimbin, NSW:

“I was booked to go to Vancouver but I had to have a joint. I found something called a prayer room where no one much came and after a week I realised I hadn’t left the airport.”

Jamie Coulis, gourmet chef, Melbourne, Vic:

“France was shithouse. Everyone knows the French are up themselves when it comes to food and wine and think they know the lot. They don’t, and I went over and got this job in a restaurant in Paris to help them improve their standards. Frankly, for really innovative cooking you’re better off in an Aussie bistro. I tried to show the head chef how I do seared rare rabbit comfit and the retard just didn’t want to know, even when I told him I’d won an award in the Age ‘Epicure’ for it. Then I got food poisoning and the doctor pretended they couldn’t speak English. Stuff France.”

Taylah Flannery, environmental sciences student, Deakin University, Vic:

“The pollution in India is unbelievable. I travelled with a delegation from Youth For Doing Something About Climate Change and we were just, like, oh my God! There are exhaust fumes everywhere and factories pumping out smoke, it’s like Kyoto and COP26 had never happened. My dad paid for us to stay in a rajah’s palace and the marble was being literally eaten away by acid rain. It just confirmed to me how much we need climate action now to stop that happening in Australia. And the racism, all those inferior castes and things. An old lame guy who took us round in a rickshaw told us standards of living are rising because of industrial growth, but I don’t buy that. If those factories poisoning the atmosphere are the price of that, can’t the Indians see that poverty is better for the planet?” 

Ken Joyce, unisex hairdresser, South Yarra, Vic:

“Well just let me tell you Amsterdam has become so intolerant. I met this gorgeous Dutch guy online and he asked me to go over and marry him but when I arrived feeling like God knows what after a lifetime in cattle class he said we couldn’t go out clubbing or anything or we’d get bashed by these gangs of African homophobes everywhere. The gay scene has just been trashed, all we could do was stay in Hendrik’s apartment and, you know how it is, after a bit you start to get on each other’s nerves so we decided to postpone our wedding. Then Hendrik had his car set on fire by rioters, actually it wasn’t his own car it was his rich German ex-boyfriend’s Lamborghini and he was minding it while the ex-boyfriend was in Mykonos. I wasn’t staying around to see how that worked out when Klaus got back, I can tell you.”

Peter Smugley, National Trust committee person, Adelaide, SA:

“As a connoisseur of historic classical architecture I have to say Greece was terrible. The Greeks have got a lot to learn from us about the way they look after their built heritage. They’re years behind even in terms of the most basic conservation. All their historic ruins are falling down from neglect, and would you believe I saw some Japanese tourists ‘souveniring’ some bits of marble sculpture off a temple? I’d recommend a tour of ‘Georgian Tasmania’ as better value for your travel dollar.”

Phyllis Spry (Miss), retired librarian, Gympie, Qld:

“Our cruise on the Medusa was a disaster from beginning to end. Halfway through, something went wrong with the ship and we were transferred to a much inferior vessel where they managed to lose all my luggage. Several passengers left us during the trip as a result of the shocking conditions, without even exchanging addresses. As they say in the classics—never again!” 

Christopher Akehurst, a regular contributor, lives in rural Victoria

21 thoughts on “Now We Can Travel Again…

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    22 September 2022
    I am glad that we are having this national day of mourning (though it is hard to know how to properly observe it) for the Queen. However, it is important to remember that today also marks a year since the Black Shirts of Vicpol fired on and stormed Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. People peacefully gathered to plea for the freedom to live and work without an enforced “medical” treatment were driven from a war memorial by tear gas and rubber bullets. While much of the population was happily accepting the trashing of the freedoms that those the Shrine honours fought to maintain for us, people like Rukshan Fernando, Topher Field, Damien Richardson, and many others whose names may never be known by us were fighting–fighting for all of us, and for future generations. For that, such people were described as “nutters” and “absolutely wacky,” and were compared to terrorists.
    Just a year later, almost–though not all, let’s not forget–the mandates have been removed; most people have accepted that, jabbed or not, they will probably get wuflu; we are being told to live with it and accept some deaths (now, it’s okay to kill grandma); and now we’re told that it’s just about over.
    Who are the “nutters” now?
    Those freedom fighters, I’m sure, are not holding their breath about any official apology, or the thanks of a grateful nation; but they should certainly have our gratitude. Were all their actions a year ago right? Probably not. Were all the Allies” actions in the Second World War right? Definitely not. Yet we are grateful for the overall stand of the latter, and should be also for that of the former.
    In my opinion, September 22 deserves to be commemorated as Patriot Day, Freedom-Fighter Day, or something else appropriate, remembered every year by all in Australia who love liberty.
    Lest we forget.

    • nfw says:

      The 22nd September “remembrance day” had nothing to do with Lizzie and everything to do with an extra long weekend, especially in AFL Victoria. Political cynicism to the extreme, especially from Albanese and Labor which sat on its hands for two years and did not “oppose” anything Morrison did, while collectng their pay each fortnight. Labor acutally proved to be Liberal Lite.

  • rosross says:

    Having spent 30 years living as an expat in various countries around the globe and spending much of my life on planes, in airports and hotels, I have no illusions about the challenges of travel at the best of times. These are not the best of times but the worst of times so magnify those challenges a thousandfold, double the costs if not treble and the lure of travel disappears down a very smelly sink.

    I am hoping we have not seen the last of the good travelling times but expect it will take a few years before things even begin to improve.

  • Ian MacKenzie says:

    Some of us shouldn’t be allowed out.
    My wife and I are overseas at present, having a great time.

  • ianl says:

    Thanks Christoper Akehurst for the sardonically amusing pen notes. The chosen names for each sketch are droll of their own accord.

    Seems to me that some of the comments here show the authors don’t realise they’re being had a lend of, taking the pen notes seriously.

  • Lonsdale says:

    Seriously, Christopher Akehurst is brillig – always

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    Hilarious stuff.
    I’ve done a bit myself over the years, fortunately without too much unpleasantness. I think my two worst experiences occurred some 50-odd years apart. I arrived in Rabaul in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea in 1963 after a long, noisy and dreadfully uncomfortable trip in one of Sir Reginald’s obsolescent Douglas DC6Bs followed by a few hours in a bare bones DC3 freighter. I was ecstatic to find that Reg’s need to load Australian newspapers trumped my need for my luggage. It did turn up a couple of days later, but not before I was forced to buy new clothes.
    My return flight from my last trip to the UK was made miserable by a brat in the seat behind me who kicked the back of my seat at regular intervals for hours notwithstanding his being asked politely to desist. His parents’ response was to defend his behaviour on the grounds that he was just a kid and he was bored. They made no attempts to stop him when he started again. Another ugly Australian in the making.
    One amusing incident occurred on another return trip from the UK. When we were an hour or so out of Sydney and people started to organised and tidied up, a quite respectable-looking young man in his early 20s, carrying a change of clothes, passed our seats on his way to the toilets at the rear of the plane. 10 minutes or so later, a vaguely similar, but spectacularly redecorated and barely recognisable hippie returned. The transformation from respectability to the polar opposite was startling.
    So, it just happened that as we were being waved through Customs without slowing our pace, we came upon our friend with all his luggage being opened and gone through microscopically. It obviously never occurred to this clown that an appearance of respectability in these situations can be its own reward.

  • padraic says:

    Agree with Doubting Thomas. The article was a good laugh. I had read it in the hard copy as well. Like DT, I had a similar experience on a flight to London when a brat behind me began pushing his knee into the back of the seat and hence my back. Appeals to parents were to no avail, so the next time he did it I slammed my elbow into the seat and thus his knee took the force. He tried it once again, with the same response and this time he got the message and quiet flowed the Don for the remainder of the journey.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    That was fun. Let’s go again.

  • Steve Spencer says:

    Another much-traveled soul here, for business and pleasure. There is little I hate more than long-haul flights in pleb class but, because Oztralia is mostly surrounded by a vast expanse of bugger, it’s a torture that must be endured if you don’t want to fork out four times the price for a modicum of ‘comfort’, which we have done when business class deals are available, i.e, rarely.

    Our last overseas jaunt was in May 2019, when Mrs Wife and I swear we contracted Kung Flu from our Chinese AirBnB hostess, who was sick after returning from a visit to relos back home. Besides the lurgy, our bad luck was extraordinary. If it could go wrong, it did, starting with a 3nt stopover in Barcelona where we were shown to our “roomy apartment with views of Sagrada Familia”. Nope. It was a smelly cupboard with a one-person balcony from which one had to lean out precariously in order to glimpse the top of one spire.

    Things went downhill from there, via the UK and Italy. After decades of mostly fantastic travel, it was like we’d saved up all our bad luck for that one big trip. The week in bed just outside Sorrento was the low point, consumed by the snots while listening to builders jackhammer the apartment below us to bits.

    Still, I hope to do more travel before age and increasing arthritis renders long-haul flying too painful, and assuming New Zealand isn’t torn apart by Lake Taupo volcano or Ardern’s stazi. I estimate the raianing travel window to be about five years, so fingers crossed prices will fall to less eye-watering levels in time to cram a last couple of trips in. Then maybe we’ll do a lap of Oz.

  • Tom Lewis says:

    Very amusing.

    Just got back from a month in the USA and something must be wrong. Every air flight we did – United – took off on time, and the flight was uneventful with good service. What’s going on?

  • Brian Boru says:

    I enjoyed this article, thanks Christopher, it kindled memories for me.
    Unlike other commenters, I have no really bad experience to relate.
    But I remember some of the best, they were when I was hitch hiking. Like jagging a ride in a plane from Kalgoorlie to Griffith (hello to my mate Bill who organized that) and then getting a lift from there to St.Kilda junction in a Mercedes.
    On the way back to W.A. I got a ride in a big van that was being delivered empty to Adelaide. I was able to lay out my swag in the back and had a sleep only to be woken when the van was descending through the Adelaide hills.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Thanks, Christopher. Splendiferous satire.
    I have lived a life of very enjoyable albeit sometimes hair-raising travel in furrin climes.
    One can always repel any boredom or misadventure by marvelling at the strange ways of foreigners.
    Today though I am reeling at a new travel cost: a quote of circa $4500 for travel insurance for a ten day Panama cruise and circa four weeks after that touring by car around the southern US delta country. I’ve just turned eighty and my husband has just turned seventy, we’re both fit and healthy, but I find we can no longer get travel insurance just for medical emergencies, which is the only sort we’ve taken previously, to avoid serious costs in the hundred of thousands of dollar range there. Other than that, we’ve self insured. Now, in our new age brackets, we are forced to take full comprehensive cover andd that at much higher rates than before. My husband simply advises a deep breath and a reach deeper into the travel pockets. Regard it as having to get our self-insurance in first. We’ve had a good run with it so far, so we’re ahead there. 🙂
    Glad to see you and your good lady got back in one piece sans misadventure, Tom Lewis.
    You are very much needed here on the submarine front.

    • lbloveday says:

      I have travelled hundreds of times without travel insurance, spending years overseas in countries with no reciprocal agreements, and am tens of $1,000s in front. Insurance companies’ costs and profits come out of the premiums so that maybe 60% goes to insurance claimants, the same as go to X-Lotto winners – having a major insurance claim is like winning X-Lotto first or second prize.
      Wife and executor have strict instructions not to bring my body home if I die – feed it to the crows for all I’d care or know. If I have a catastrophe, I’d likely take Einstein’s choice “It is distasteful to extend life artificially, I have done my share, it is time to go, I will do it elegantly” (not sure about the elegantly bit).
      The more I see friends and relatives suffer and deteriorate as they age and die, I get more firmly set about what I wrote about 20 years ago – “If I can’t be reasonably clever, reasonably strong, reasonably fit and reasonably fast, I would not want to be”.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Did all that for many years sitting up in the sharp end and they paid us all reasonably well to enjoy the delights of staying in places frequented by the society of door slammer convention attendees, neer do wells, thieves, scoundrels and even a pickpocket in Rome who used the disguise of a false missing arm to distract one. Never mind “breakfast at Tiffany’s” for the Hamburg Hilton bungs on a ripper and a “State” run one in Magadan the worst by far. Mind you, when deadheading from Lae to Brissie the girls brought around bowls of icy water containing small paper towels for us to cool our steaming brows and the local sitting next to me ate his thus making the girl and I almost burst at the seams, and as she came back up the aisle she was asked for another, and that made us both crack up! Travel is best enjoyed from home on the back patio watching the lawn grow. Mind you, I can order a beer in any language spoken in the Galaxy.

  • Macspee says:

    I think the tomandjeri people should rise up and support Jesica Woke in an invasion of the vile Pacific fundamentalists and give them a good taste of First Nation colonialism. To the Stocks!

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    I might just add that our usual supplier of travel insurance say they will offer mandatory fully comprehensive insurance to decrepit old folk like us (not!) for land-based travel but will not insure our age group at all for any cruise travel; whereas at least the other lot (Qantas Travel) for their eyewatering quote will throw in cruise cover and add some flyer points as minor sweetener.
    Any Darby and Joan where both are over eighty will find the going even tougher re travel insurance.
    A friend senior in the insurance bizzo has offered us a code to use which may improve things marginally.
    So I am still shopping around whereas husband has given up, credit card at the ready.

    • Steve Spencer says:

      But of course it isn’t just the insurance companies lifting your leg over the moon; they’re all at it, from airlines to accommodation providers, hire car companies, taxis and telcos. According to my holiday planning spreadsheet, this all adds up to NOPE. Then there is, in our case, our unvaccinated status, which leaves us a little tremulous at the prospect of some untimely variant of WuFlu emerging and giving folks the sniffles, prompting sudden border closures. While I quite fancy a few weeks in the Rockies, a year or two – in rented accommodation – would empty our remaining lifetime’s travel budget. You’re very brave!

    • Lewis P Buckingham says:

      There is good coverage in NZ, though reciprocal insurance with other countries including GB are here

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Thanks for that useful information Lewis PB. We never take travel insurance for the UK as we are dual citizens and I had also heard that all Australians there and in NZ were reciprocally covered for basic catastrophies, which is all we care about with insurance; mostly we’d try to fly home to Australia as a preferred option as soon as made stable. However, that list of European countries with reciprocal care was useful to know about, even though medical care in most counties other than the US is relatively OK for self-insurance, except Canada and other places where distances are great and medical evacuation costs are thus high – for example, from remote Alaska we heard of someone being on med evac to Seattle for a cost of $189K just for the flight! Bringing a body home is also costly, but in that case I think it may be the least of our worries.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    We tend not to take expensive equipment or jewellery with us when travelling, unless we have a special reason to do so. This helps with the self-insurance. For the rest of the luggage, loss of clothing and shoes is just a good reason to go shopping in new cities! I’ve found that ‘lost’ luggage usually turns up after a few days anyway so you only need tor buy a few new things until the extent of the disaster is apparent.

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