What not to do when you travel to another country

10435070_10152346014383143_5684411763653682514_nA couple of weeks ago I was in Mataranka, a tiny town south of Darwin famous for its hot springs. Tourist spots like this draw people from all around the world and it’s not wonder with the clear, warm water and natural foliage draped overhead.

As we swam, I overheard a Swiss couple, probably in their mid sixties, speaking in German. Knowing that one of the greatest things about travelling is the opportunity to speak to people from all around the world, I struck up a conversation with them in German. My Aussie/German friend Nelly soon joined in, and we heard all about their trip around Australia.

Perhaps they felt comfortable with us, speaking their own language, but it wasn’t long before they were expressing some strong opinions about what they’d seen. Our country quickly came under attack as they expressed their disgust at the living conditions, treatment and segregation of our Indigenous people. They capped it off with a stinging assessment: They’d travelled all over the world, and never seen anything as bad as what they’d seen here.

Having just driven across the country feeling these same concerns myself, I felt chastised and ashamed but also annoyed at their condescension.

Despite all they may have seen, they had not walked a mile in our shoes. I was challenged to recognise the privilege it is to be welcomed in to a country that is not my own, and to accept what it offers, without handing out my judgements and criticisms.

Advertisements

Flying North for the Winter: Half Full

20130710_145039I think Jess and I will look back at this trip and laugh at the irony of escaping the cold to find ourselves in the rain. We’ll laugh about that, but mostly we’ll remember the good things, because experience has taught me that even the most horrible trips can get glorified over time.

And this one certainly wasn’t horrible. For three blessed days and four nights, I didn’t have to worry about being cold. Sure I always had a jacket, but for most of the time I could wander the streets in a t-shirt.

Cairns truly is a city in a garden. It’s a beautiful, vibrant melting-pot of cultures –  even in the rain. Wherever we went, restaurants, information centers or tourist sites, we were assisted by people from all over the world; English, German, French, Welsh, American and Asian.20130710_112504

We were tourists in our own country and the ‘locals’ were foreigners.

We rode in a gondola, high above a rainforest that inspired some of the scenes in Avatar, and shopped in hippie markets. We ate in a restaurant overlooking a rainforest and meandered in a heritage train past mountains and waterfalls and through tunnels carved out of stone.

20130710_144948We ate Turkish food and wandered the esplanade at night, following it up with some amazing gelati. We went horse riding through cane fields, chatted to people from all around Australia and the world, had a massage and shopped ‘til we dropped.

So really, it’s all about perspective.

You can read the ‘glass half empty’ version of our trip here: Flying North for the Winter: Half Empty