‘Are you on your year long adventure?’
Apparently my gungy attire, dirty and heavy backpack and my Australian accent gave me away. I nodded at the guy from Salt Lake City beside me in the dining car of the California Zephyr, the train that was drawing us slowly across California and said, ‘Yep, five days in!’
He seemed to understand. He explained to the surprised woman and her son sharing the table across from us that it’s not uncommon for young Australians to take a year out to travel. I sat beside him and nodded furiously at everything he said while the woman looked dubious.
‘Well,’ she said finally. ‘Good for you!’ And she changed the subject.
Getting Long-Term Travel
In my (pretty limited) experience, most Americans just don’t get long-term travel. It started before I’d even arrived in the country while I stood at the mercy of a US Customs officer at San Francisco airport. He wasn’t convinced that I was traveling alone, and was suspicious of my one-way ticket (despite a series of onwards tickets that proved I would indeed be leaving the USA in fifteen days). The fact that I was what he called “in-between jobs” worried him. I myself prefer to say I am “currently at liberty” (with kudos to Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Finally it twigged or he grew fed up with questioning me. ‘So, you’re on like a round the world trip or something?’ he asked, as he stamped my passport and slid it back to me across the counter.
My cordial welcome continued when I picked up my pack from the luggage carousel. The lock on the smaller compartment (which I usually don’t bother with) had been smashed off somewhere during the nineteen hour journey between Sydney, Auckland and San Francisco. This has happened to me many times, but I’ve never had anyone look in my pencil case. Seriously. They’d gone through my highlighters, my pens and some pacer leads. Alrighty then.
Thankfully, for every few people who look at me confused when I tell them how long I’m traveling for, or that I left my job to travel, there are those who just get it. Like the guy on the train who knew what I was doing without even asking. My friends Jamie and Nik, who were nice enough to take me out for coffee during my time in San Francisco. And ironically, most of the travel blogs that inspired my own trip are written by Americans.
So for all those of you who want to do it but think it’s an unrealistic dream, get a passport. Take a career break. I might not be American, and there might be a long tradition of young Australians just like me getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as they can for as long as they can, but I’m living proof that it’s possible. That you don’t need to be wealthy. Just driven. And maybe a little bit gutsy.