Southern Crossings — Prologue

Do you come from a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover
— Men at Work, “Down Under”

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of no good fortune must be in want of some mindless activity to while away his time. It is also a constant truth that any formula that succeeds will be milked to death, as the originator tries to recreate that success to the letter.

See, back when I started writing about my travels, I’d never thought that prostituting my holiday snaps would bring me a lot more readers than I did. It was basically a way of showing off where I’d been, plus a way to pass the time in my lovely-but-not-very-exciting summer job. But ten days in Europe and the process of writing about them made me realize: I really like seeing things, and I really love telling others about them, to encourage people to go off on their own adventure. It’s a process that doesn’t just tell you more about the places you’ve visited — it’s also a sort of cultural discourse, reaching out to peoples you’d never meet in your wretched, dreary daily lives; it’s also a way of exploring yourself, figuring out what kind of person you are, and maybe finding the strength in you to jump way out of your comfort zone.

So that got me thinking. Back when I was on exchange in Australia a couple of years ago, I went and explored a bit of the continent. Admittedly, I didn’t do as much as my friends did: while my friends jetted off to Perth, Tasmania and in one spectacular case New Zealand, I mainly stayed at home base, pottering around different sights around Melbourne, half-heartedly convincing myself that I was getting to know the city in-depth instead. (To be fair, I doubt any other exchange student went to the Astor Theatre, which was truly a gem in itself.) Eventually, though, I realized that I had enough cash to go on two little trips before my return to Hong Kong. I went to Sydney for five days, and then visited Queensland a week later. Those weren’t really memorable trips — if anything, I found and continue to find Melbourne the best of all the places I stayed in. (I would now like to apply for permanent Melburnian citizenship.) But that weird Inception-like feeling, of travelling while you were travelling, has stuck out to me since I finished my last travel journal. And I love writing short stories and all, but those are much tougher to write than I thought they’d be.

Having gone through the ground rules last year, I’m not interested in setting them down again. The things I write about in this one are more fuzzy — I may have a prodigious memory, but after two years and three other trips abroad (okay, two of them were to Macao) these have taken a bit of a backseat. The photographs and the memories are mostly still there, of course, but the dialogue isn’t — so this might seem more monologue-and-description-heavy, more me-centred. (My friends, nice though they are, aren’t responding very well to memory prompts, so I’m on my own here. Hmph.)

In fact, you might say that I’m writing this more for myself, than for others. You see, I absolutely love Australia: from the food to the culture, from the museums to the pace of life, there’s so much about that place that I feel just beats Hong Kong to no end. And those five months I spent back there were, without question, the most amazing five months I have had in my life. (Those of you who know me well will know that I am bad at many things. Patriotism is one of them.) Although — as some of the following posts will reveal — I had plenty misery when I was in Australia, it still has this mythological status in my mind. Even two years on, I can’t help viewing it with the rosiest-tinted glasses. I just miss the place.

So this is probably not going to turn out to be your average travel journal. It might not provide you with the useful information that you want, or the beautiful scenery that you’re looking for. If you like, I am commemorating in these posts a period of my life where I took risks, where I managed to make a lot of friends (well, more than usual), and jumped out further than I have ever done in Hong Kong. But it’s also me, composing a love letter to a place, tears streaking down my face, begging for it to take me back again. (An ugly picture, yes, but then Australia does that to you. Bless.)

This narrative is me, thinking out loud. I want to find that spark of joy, maybe find out if it even exists. I want to be brave, I want to discover stuff again. I saw wonderful things once — and perhaps, in writing some of those experiences down, I might find something useful along the way.

Happy reading, everyone. I’ll try to make it funny, but I can’t guarantee much. See you all next week?

(For anyone interested: the header photo is Melbourne’s Webb Bridge, the singularly most breathtaking bridge in Australia and I daresay the world. It’s just one of many reasons why I continue to gush about Melbs, two years after I left the place.)

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And one final thing that pertains more to this blog than the rest of the journal: this is my 100th post on this website! If you’ve been reading since my first, thank you so much for sticking along with me for almost three years; if this is your first, welcome, and I hope that you find something of value here!

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