In the third act of Christopher Nolan’s film Inception, the ragtag team of brain molesters or dream-weavers (or whatever the hell they are) stages their greatest mind-heist. This operation is so fucking mammoth they need a way to enter the villain’s mind, uninterrupted, for longest period of time possible. So you know how they do this? They incept the poor sucker while he snoozes through a non-stop flight from Sydney to Los Angeles- also known as the longest flight in the world.
I live in New York and grew up in Melbourne – a terrifically artsy and multicultural little city teetering near the southernmost tip of Victoria. I love Melbourne, but going back to visit requires three flights and over thirty hours of travel time. It’s far.
In fact it’s so far south that by Sarah Palin’s logic, I can see Antarctica from my house.
Australia’s geography (like its native platypus) is essentially a lovable, beguiling freak-show. In Queensland you’ll find dense, humid rainforests, Tasmania boasts snow-capped mountains, South Australia’s Mediterranean climate has made it one of the world’s best wine regions and smack bang in the middle of the country is the Northern Territory with its deserts of red dust and baby-napping dingos.
But regardless of its isolation, Australians love to travel. We’re the scabies of tourists – widespread and annoying, but relatively harmless.
Our predilection for travel is illustrated by a game I like to play with my friends back home. It’s similar to ‘punch-buggy’, only in this game; instead of punching your friend’s arm any time you see a VW Beetle, you do it when you spot a guy wearing a Bin Tang tank top. Bin Tang is a cheap Indonesian beer and the tank tops are sold everywhere in Southeast Asia. I can only presume there’s some fine-print clause stamped on tickets to Bali or Thailand that states that all white Australian men must buy one of these shirts, because if you play this game at an Australian music festival or beach, your arms will be black and blue by noon.
It makes sense for Australians to travel, when you live somewhere that feels so disconnected from the rest of the world, you want nothing more than prove that you exist. You want show everyone that you can go wherever they can (it’ll just take you longer to get there.)
Unfortunately the rest of the world is slightly less fixated on travelling to us, as we are to them, and this breeds a peculiar type of underdog syndrome.
We’ve become that lovable but infuriating girl in drama class or at a party- the “fun” girl plagued with crippling self-esteem issues who hopes being loud will trick people into thinking she’s confident.
In contrast to flag-waving American patriotism, we’re more of a proud people – we’re the parents who just want their child to be recognized for his or her unique talents. This is most obvious any time an Australian makes international headlines. When Naomi Watts or Cate Blanchett wins an award, the headlines will read “Our Cate Wins in Hollywood!” Without fail, these people are “our” actors (as if Nicole Kidman is every Australian’s beloved redhead niece).
And listen, I do understand why more people don’t travel to Australia. Americans who can swing a return flight to Paris for seven hundred bucks aren’t going to spend almost two grand and thirty hours in transit to see some kangaroos in the wild or have a glass of Shiraz in the Barossa Valley.
I get it. I don’t blame you.
But consider this, readers. While we shiver our way through these freezing mid-January nights (during a fucking polar vortex no less!) The people of Australia are frolicking through cities, beaches, rainforests and bushland, soaking up the summer heat- giddy from vitamin E & frosty beers.
So if you feel like another month of skidding along trash-covered snow is going to result in you placing your cold, wet head in the oven, consider taking a trip across the equator. And should you do so, here are some helpful flashcards, to aid you in decoding the summertime Australian vernacular.
Oh, and you’re welcome.
by ANTON DE IONNO