Guest travl article
Enter Ross Radich author of Not All Wanderer's Are Lost:
Everyone wants to travel the world, or at least I did, but I could never afford it. The occasional trip abroad is all most of us can afford, and then it’s normally just for a week or two.
Imagine the joy of seeing an advertisement in the newspaper for a job which required international travel, or more precisely, an ad which said “must enjoy international travel”. Doesn’t everyone? Apparently not, because this employer had trouble getting people to stay; they think they’ll like it, but once the first few weeks are over and they’ve run out of clean clothes, and they miss their friends and family, the job is tossed in for a more domestic one.
And so my journey began. So far, I have had eight and a half years of travelling all over the globe with someone else paying. I’d previously had normal and responsible jobs; climbing the corporate ladder jobs, attending meetings jobs, filling in forms jobs, Government jobs, bottom of the ladder jobs, and then this one came along.
You could be wondering what job it is, so I’ll spare you the agony of wondering. I inspect used machinery mainly being imported into Australia, because Australia only accepts machinery which is perfectly clean. If it is not, it can be re-exported. So that’s where I come in; I look at it before it’s loaded on the vessel to ensure that it complies. No-one would think such a job exists, but it does, and I’ve got it.
Many people when first hearing what I do say “I’d love to come and carry your bags/be your secretary/be a general helper”, but I need none of these. However, they soon change their minds when I tell him the ferocious pace at which some of this travel is undertaken. Once I was in New Zealand, went to bed that night expecting to fly across the Pacific to Chile the next day, but when I woke up and checked my emails, it had all changed and I was sent to Europe, the USA, and then down to Chile. Another time I had just arrived back home in Australia for a three week break after being away for three months when I was asked to do a quick trip to South Africa. I was told that I would leave that afternoon, arriving in Johannesburg the following day, work one day, and that night fly back. And so I left. Once I got there it all changed, and I returned to Australia five weeks later.
I always make a point of seeing as much of the country as I can while I’m there, because I hold the view that I might never come back. In my work I also have the opportunity to work with local people, gaining a deeper appreciation of the place than as a mere tourist. Because of this, I’ve realised that many of the perceptions we have about other cultures are wrong. For example, many hold the view that countries in the Middle East are full of fanatical Muslims. I’ve found the Muslim people very easy to deal with; they’re very honest, polite, and want to get the job done just as much as I do. Americans are also very polite. Any request I have is answered by “Yes Sir, we can do that”.
Being able to travel to many different countries has also allowed me to choose the places I’d like to return to for a longer vacation. I now have no desire to vacation anywhere in Asia. It’s only because I’ve found most Asian countries to be heavily populated, and polluted, whereas European countries are generally the opposite. I can remember one hot day in Japan thinking I’d like to go to the beach. I had heard of Kamakura Beach near Yokohama, so I looked on Google Earth and saw what a wonderful crescent-shaped beach it is. After taking two trains and one bus ride I got there, took one look and left. It is a wonderful looking beach from a satellite, but at ground level there was trash everywhere; old car tires, pieces of lumber, and even a car door adorned the place. From the public lavatories there was a dribble of some liquid making its way to the ocean.
Talking of beaches, I visited Zandvoort Beach near Amsterdam one hot July day, and discovered that there were probably ten thousand people there, and all naked!! Some were exceedingly attractive, while others fell into the other category. The next day my eyes were very sore. Despite all the remedies I tried, I could get no relief from the grittiness I felt. I put it down to too much looking the day before.
Toilets are another measure of a country’s attractiveness. Many in Asia are the hole in the floor type, with a hose to clean your bottom. I’m too old to squat, so careful planning is needed to avoid them. I make sure I use the one in the hotel before embarking on my daily activities. However, if I’ve eaten something unsavoury and I need to go urgently, then I don’t care. Anywhere is better than in my trousers. At the hotel I stayed in at Antofagasta in Chile, the toilet presented a different problem, or maybe it hadn’t come across someone like me before. The hole down which the stuff was meant to go after flushing was too small to handle my production. Despite several flushes it would still be there looking up at me. In the end I developed a simple solution. I grabbed a supermarket shopping bag, placed it over my hand and extended it up my arm, using that newly created device as a toilet plunger. It worked every time. Once finished, I’d pull the bag off my arm turning it inside out as I did it, and leave it in the bin for the room attendant. Don’t worry it was clean on the outside.
On one of my trips to India I was instructed to go to a particular shed where I was told the manager would be waiting for me. He was, but not brimming with the same enthusiasm as I was.
My overall impression of the people of this planet is that we’re all about the same. We all want to do a good job, we all are generally polite, and we all want to earn sufficient money to support ourselves. Most of us achieve the last bit, but unfortunately, there are many who do not. I’ve been to places where the workers I deal with get paid so little that I’m surprised that they come to work at all. I was at a job site in Durban where the workers get just $12 a day, yet the cost of living in South Africa is similar to most developed countries. How they survived I have no clue.
At this site in Johannesburg, the proprietor walked around with this 9mm pistol on his hip, for what reason I have no clue, except to intimidate the workers. I asked to borrow it for this photo.
My book “Not All Wanderers Are Lost” is a collection of short stories from my travels. Periodically, I would email my stories to my daughters so they’d know I was still alive, and those emails comprise this book.
- If you want to read a review of Ross' book you can follow the link here. - Scott