It all started in 1979 with a movie. My dad was not a father who was generous with compliments, advice, or even gifts. So when he did say something, it felt like a drop of gold. I remember over dinner when I was 17 (in 1979), he said, “I saw a movie that reminded me of you.” THAT piqued my interest. The movie was My Brilliant Career. It was the story of a “headstrong girl” in Australia who falls in love, but instead of marrying her wealthy beau, she decides to work and follow her dream of being a writer. It was a great movie! But it also imprinted on me the landscape of Australia and a sort of hissing bright wildness that called to me.
In my early 20s I met my first real Australian. I could see that hissing bright wildness in his face and grew quite fond of the determination (stubbornness), straightforwardness, and sense of “humour” he represented. It felt familiar—in some ways more familiar than my own country. People always say I’m “down to earth.” And Australia feels like a whole country that’s down to earth—and that earth is dusty, fragile, fragrant, and dangerous, but exciting, too.
Then came more movies: Strictly Ballroom (BAZ!); Picnic at Hanging Rock; Muriel’s Wedding; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Paperback Romance! Oscar and Lucinda! Deck Chair Danny! Kenny! And that’s not even mentioning the stereotypical fun of Crocodile Dundee. I also feel that because I’d seen so many Australian movies, I was one of the few people in the universe who actually understood, appreciated, and truly enjoyed Baz Luhrman’s movie Australia, which was a satire within a satire of epic romantic proportions. This world was gritty, tough, mysterious, funny, uninhibited, wild, and not afraid to laugh at itself. I wanted to see it for myself. But it was so far away and, you know, I’ve had kids on school schedules for the past 30 years, so time was limited (and to go there in our summer means being there in their winter).
Now let’s talk about music: INXS. Midnight Oil. Crowded House. The Greencards. Casey Chambers. Keith Urban! These are not artists that often got played on the radio, but, for me, they became soundtracks to my life. Midnight Oil at the gym and walking down the burning-hot summer streets of my hometown. Crowded House EVERYWHERE, all the time. Keith Urban was my introduction to Country music, and I was thrilled for him when he finally hooked up with fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman, who I always knew was way more talented than Tom Cruise. I’ve seen Keith in concert four times, and it’s always so much fun. He’s even got me watching American Idol again.
And then, of course, the books and learning about the dreamtime: The first book I read was Songlines by Bruce Chatwin—so dreamy and mysterious, revealing an aboriginal culture that was so different from any other on Earth and yet similar in all the important ways, in its love of the land and respect for nature. Then, after studying Permaculture with Bill Mollison (a Tasmanian), I read his autobiography, Traveling in Dreams. Fascinating! I also truly enjoyed The Brother Gardeners, which deliciously documents the plant-hunting adventures of Joseph Banks and Captain James Cook, who were the first to sail into “Botany Bay.” And most recently, I read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburnt Country, which was HYSTERICAL.
Almost every time I tell people I want to go to Australia, someone says, “Oh, you should go to New Zealand—it’s even better.” But I feel about Australia the way a POME (Prisoner of Mother England, i.e. Brit) feels about his football (soccer) team. You are born into it and you can’t change it, no matter what the winning or losing record is. It’s just who you are. Australia is my team.
So that settled it. My youngest is finally old enough to survive without me for three weeks. I can afford three weeks away, thanks to all my hard work of the past few years. And I’m going. By myself!
I’m most looking forward to the things that can’t be found in books or movies or music…the smell of the air and the earth and the ocean, the tastes, the sounds at night. I’m finally going to see the night sky from the Southern Hemisphere—the Southern Cross! The plants! The animals! The food!
Of course, I’ll keep ya’ll posted on how it goes….
Maria, enjoy each and every one of what BKS Iyengar calls “…the moments, and the movement of moments.” Big HUGS and a KISS, Holly
Lucky you! Happy to hear you are taking time for yourself- Cannot wait to hear about your adventures!
So excited for you, Maria! I hope you have a wonderful time; take lots of pictures and let us know how it is. I’ve never been, but I have friends in Byron Bay, and more in Perth. And other friends who have lived in New Zealand, and are moving to Byron because there are more friends there…Bon Voyage!
Wow. Have a wonderful time! I look forward to reading all about it. My Ex spent a couple of semesters of college there and spoke fondly and often of his time there. Hope your trip fulfills your deep seated desires, what ever they may be, with a few harmless surprises too!
Good on you Maria!
You will love Australia I’m sure. It’s everything you described and more.
If you come to Brisbane I’d love to host you and show you around! I have a room on airbnb – email me if you’d like details.
Brisbane is a beautiful city that has the laid back Aussie culture as well as beautiful beaches nearby. We also have a strong permaculture community! Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.
Julia in Australia.
Sing a line of Waltzing Matilda for me! Have a bang-up time mate!
My in-laws returned from Australia two weeks ago and they commented that New Zealand and Tasmania were absolutely beautiful. They brought back a framed bone-art picture hand made by Aborigines (awesome). One day, my husband and I will make the trip ourselves.
Oh Maria…..you and my daughter are peas in a pod! For all her years she longed for Australia. Watched everything, read everything, even turned down a Who’s-Who in America’s High Schools trip to Australia because she needed a little used Ford Escort instead. But then came the time…she quit her job and just went and had a pre-arranged job to be a nanny.
Needless to say, if we hadn’t been checking in on her she would have found a way to not get shipped out at the end of her work visa. The ONE thing she said was, “You HAVE to get OUT of the cities. They look just like any other US city. Head to the national parks and beyond, great walking and hiking…if you really want to SEE Australia.
Have a wonderful time…and remember, you have to come back. Which is not easy.
Sandy (P.S. — did you forget “The Thornbirds”?)
Have fun!!! Looking forward to any photos you might care to share with us. 🙂
check out my photos on facebook!
am a 32yr old Aussie guy originally from Qld though now living in Melbourne and have received so much enjoyment from reading your blog. I truly hope Aus is everything you hope for as often things you’ve been excited about for ages can pan out not as great as you hope. As you know it’s a diverse country where every state is different and I hope you have the greatest time ever, thanks for your blogging…brilliant!
Fantastic post – loved it! Maria, if you love Aussie movies, you have to check out one of my favorites — “The Castle”. It’s hysterical.