SEVEN YEARS Bikes, Babes, Booze and Boats
My story begins back in 1964. I was a mixed-up kid in a small town where I attended a primary school of perhaps 200 brats. The buildings were of British architecture, brick, painted white and were typical of the local, colonial buildings. To the left stood tall pine trees we loved to climb. To the rear of the classrooms were large wooden verandas that lead onto a vast playground where we all yelled and screamed and ran amok among the giant roots and in the shade of the one hundred-year-old fig trees. Each morning, we would gather for milk at a large open-fronted shed at the back of the playground. We each received a quarter-pint bottle and giggled like crazy as each kid would end up with a creamy moustache. Once a summer, as a group we would line up in front of the Kindergarten to Third Grade building with its tall, narrow windows frowning down upon us, like devils eyes, as we clustered, for the class photos. Mr. Martin, the lower primary teacher would stand at attention to one side. He was a fastidiously tidy man; his hair slicked back with tonic and he was slightly bald at the temples. He had a stocky build and was a little scary, but I am sure he loved us all in his own way. There I stood, the curly haired, blue-eyed, daydreaming boy. To either side of me stood the other large kids like the Hanson twins and further off to the left and to the right, the size of the boys grew less, as was the way it seems with 60s group photos. In front of the boys were the girls. The back row was standing, the front row sitting, primly, with skirts delicately arrayed, shiny black shoes, white socks, smiling, some demurely and some, just grinning.
I often wonder what became of Barbara J who I was madly in love with at the time and I have thought as much about the very English Mary M. Perhaps Mary and I were soul mates from those early years.
It was on one of those marvelous Christmas days long ago, when Great Grandma, Grandma and my mother spent all morning preparing an enormous baked Christmas dinner, complete with bread pudding and other assortments, when I received my Christmas present; a world atlas. It was to be my constant companion and I carried the dog-eared book with me to school and showed it off in Social Studies classes. The pages that displayed the continents and island nations sported a grid of lines, drawn like those on a sea navigation chart. These lines were of course the result of my own hand whilst daydreaming of imaginary voyages along uncharted coastlines. I regaled my travel intentions to classmates about the countries I would visit; these dreams, stories and plans, were the beginnings, I am afraid, of that curse, that is most aptly described by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and Thesaurus as a: strong longing for or impulse towards wandering- WANDERLUST
Travel, I am sure is the best medicine. Travel wets the appetite for an endless amount of different things to see and do. Travel opens up a continuous variety of opportunities to the point where one tends to get quite blasť about it all. Travel, along with the passing of time, opens up your mind to other opinions and allows the reactionary ways of ones past to be swept away without too much pain and humiliation. In my travels, I was opportune to meet some rich folks, Australian, Thai, Arab, Chinese, Japanese, America, English and more, but it seemed that the life of the rich is far too restricted by their social obligations. There are some, who take full advantage of their prosperity and do some good in the world, and I take my hat off to them. Most of the folks I met are poor, struggling from day to day just to survive.
The majorities were Asian, from Kupang to Kuala Lumpur, Gili Air to Gujarat, and Singapore to Shanghai. Among appalling poverty, I experienced generosity. In desperate hopelessness, I experienced strong family values and in a world that is full of hate and bitterness, I found people with generous hearts. Unfortunately, there are just as many, if not more shameless fiends with no love or empathy for their fellow man and if there is a hell, I do hope not to be burning alongside them. Living and working alongside the poorer folks has taught me some valuable lessons in this journey of life- respect, family values, and selflessness. I am not a rich man, nor do I think I shall ever be, but I have been exceedingly fortunate. I still lead an eventful life, and I am happy to have gained the respect and admiration of the poor but honest folks with whom I have lived and worked in my travels. I am more than pleased with that. Perish in the thought of what type of person I would be had I not sailed away from Australian shores. I am happy in the knowledge that I have the wanderlust, which to this day remains a driving force within me and provides me with the tenacity to take on any situation with no fear. Along the way, I have managed to make a few enemies, and a handful of true friends, and I have a few stories to tell.
We sailed away from Australia on the first day of August, 1998, and it would prove to be another one of the best choices I made in my life. Our little ship was totally prepared for what was the start of an around the world voyage but the finances were not entirely up to scratch. We had the equivalent of US$1,200, a credit card, my tools, and the confidence that we could make our way.
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