On my recent trip to the Kimberley area in the northwest of Australia, I got a conversational comeuppance.  It is useful to get those every once in awhile as it helps put things in perspective.  I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel a fair amount in my life so far, but there were three Australian teachers on the eight-day Outback trip who made me feel like a nomadic neophyte.  One afternoon they sat under a tree comparing notes about their hikes along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Not only have I never been to Machu Picchu, I have never been to South America.  There are two entire continents I missed in my wandering.  It occurred to me then that Australian teachers may be the best travelers in the planet.  Lonely Planet was founded by an  Australian couple, after all.  It is still based in Melbourne.

Teachers may not have deep pockets, but they have time, curiosity, and the inclination to explore.  Australia is far from everyplace except Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and it is fairly homogeneous. Every Aussie student who has managed to accumulate any sort of nest egg will build a “gap” year into his life plan, setting aside time to see some of the world before settling down.  Getting away for a good, long time seems to be in their genetic code.  Since getting anywhere from here seems to take forever, you may as well set aside as much time as you can to enjoy it.  I asked Lynne and Bronwyn, two of the teachers on the trip, to send me a list of countries they had visited.

” I try to take any opportunity to have a new adventure or see something new. This weekend I am heading up to Sydney to visit my daughter who has just shifted up there. I am claiming the saying– ‘I’m always travelling, I love being free’. Not sure if you are aware but this is a line from the Qantas ad. Very appropriate as we stood on the rocks at the Bungles where the latest version was filmed.  Lynne.”    The following is Lynne’s country list.  She put it in alphabetical order.  She is a teacher, after all.  Lynne was the first to tell me I was misspelling the place we visited.  I had failed to place the second “e” in Kimberley.

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, England, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, San Marino, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, The Netherlands, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Vietnam, Wales, Zambia, Zimbabwe

This came from Bronwyn just the other day.  “It is the last class before holidays. I am in the computer room letting them (the students) do what they wish so I am ending as a hero. Going to Noosa for a week (a town north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast in south Queensland) and then? Jannis (daughter)  is doing a road trip up the east coast with another Gap boy. They are living in the car for 6 weeks. They are going to try surfing….

“Well, I have been to Europe including Russia but never the UK. Most of Asia- China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Fiji, New Zealand, BC Canada, Mexico, most of Australia. Have driven Florida to New York and Vancouver to San Diego. It seemed like a lot at the time but now looking at it not much.  Bronwyn.”
Listening to the three teachers talk about their travels was a treat.  I had the sense that they were always learning and challenging themselves.  I’m astonished when I meet people who have traveled a great deal and fail to appreciate differences in language and landscape, traditions and customs.   Especially those who fail to see that other people do certain things better.  Lynne and Bronwyn seem to possess boundless curiosity and a willingness to get out of the comfort zone.  Their students are lucky to have them around to infect them with the travel bug.  Let the infection spread.