The Downside of Travel

I LOVE travelling.  Finding out about a country’s history and people, the food, the art, its natural surroundings and what makes it tick.  I get so excited planning my trip and I love flipping through all my photos and notes, reliving my trip once I get home.  But when I do get home, I’ve noticed something.

A bit of a depression sets in.  And its not because the holiday is over and its back to reality.  I think its because I live in Perth.

Now don’t get me wrong – the first few times I travelled, on return to Perth I truly appreciated the clean air, the large open spaces and our natural surroundings, our beautiful beaches, our large homes and over abundance of space.  I know I live in a ‘lucky’ country.

But more and more, I notice its flaws.

In way too many places, the service is terrible.  Shop and wait-staff act like they are doing you a favour by serving you.  A lot of the time they are too busy chatting (to colleagues or their friends) and you feel you are intruding by the rude stares you get when you ‘butt in’ to ask for service.  And often your purchases are just thrown in your shopping bag, and sometimes almost at you.  In Japan you get a rain jacket for your shopping bag.  And the total lack of choice in our shops is so apparent.  There are second and third world countries with more choice.  And heaven forbid if you should want to buy a pair of thongs (flipflops) out of season!

Our city is expensive.  Very expensive.  But we don’t get a lot in return for that.  I couldn’t believe stepping into Sainsbury’s and seeing bunches of peonies for about 4 pounds (about $8 Aussie dollars).  In Perth, it’s $10 a stem (yes for one stem).  Petrol is expensive, yet our country requires us to drive – a lot.  Our groceries are imported from mostly elsewhere, even though we can produce them here – you tell me why we buy lemons from America at an exhorbitant price, yet there’s a neighbour with a lemon tree on every second block, with a  box of lemons for free out the front.  It’s all big business and we’ve lost site of small, local, family businesses because everyone wants something for less.

Our transport staff are really rude and assume that everyone who uses pubic transport understands the system and has lived in Perth their whole life.  And our taxi drivers?  Well you’re lucky if you can get one that wants to have a conversation instead of grunting at you – and not cheap either.  In a lot of other countries, cabbies are happy to talk and they are bursting with pride to tell you about their homeland.  Conversations full of history and titbits.  Malaysian taxi drivers can’t wait to have a chat with you!

We don’t build for the future.  We build something cheap and already dated for the now.  And people just get frustrated.  Our train network already couldn’t cope when it came on line.  The main train station in Perth – well let’s just say it’s a rare day when all the escalators are working.  Singapore is a tiny place, but they do it all so well!

The people aren’t that helpful – especially to tourists.  In Japan, you only have to look like you are half lost before someone will come up to help you, which often means escorting you to your place of interest – even if it is out of their way.  My first outing in Beijing went like this – I decided to head out to visit the Summer Palace.  Worked out that I’d have to catch a train and bus.  Headed out.  Got to the station where everything unravelled because I DIDN’T SPEAK OR READ CHINESE!  Standing bewildered, a young lady came up, asked where I needed to go, helped get a train ticket, got on the train with me, got on the bus with me for some of the way and instructed the driver to let me know where to get off and gave me her business card if I needed any further help.  I was gobsmacked.  That would never happen in Perth.

Accommodation and travel within our own country, and even state, is incredibly expensive.  And that’s for the cheap seats.  I could have a week in Asia for the cost of a return flight and taxi fare to visit family in Melbourne (4.5 hours away by plane).  The resort I stayed in Langkawi, and the hotel in Penang for that matter, were both reasonably priced heavens and the staff couldn’t do enough to help you.  Everything was coordinated.  Everyone says hi and smiles at you.

We don’t have a vibrant art scene.  Singapore has an amazing array of art and design museums and galleries.  Melbourne’s street art scene is of course is amazing.  A lot of bands don’t make it here to Perth – it’s too far and too expensive for them.  But I’ve seen Motley Crue in Singapore, an acoustic performance by J Mascis in Nordstroms Seatte and missed Serj Tankian in Poland.  There seems to be amazing gigs everywhere else around the world.

And my favourite pet hate – Perth Airport.  OMG I’ve never had to wait as long for my luggage to come off a plane as when I return to Perth.  And I’ve been to some pretty small and some massively large airports.  The staff are rude and grumpy.  The first time I ventured through the newly completed immigration area, the escalators weren’t working.  And for how many years are they still going be rebuilding this airport?  It seems its been under construction of some sort pretty much for the last 5 years or so!  In most Asian countries this would probably have been finished in six months.

Does anyone else feel like this?  Or is it just me?

But I guess mostly I see a country full of opportunity, and yet I get the feeling that in some of the countries I’ve visited which have less, that life is simpler, more fulfilling and happier.  The country I felt the most enlightened after visiting is Cambodia.  I’ve never met a people so lovely, so accepting, so graceful and grateful after the torture they endured during the Pol Pot regime.  Food is purchased fresh and cooked daily.  It’s shared with others easily.  Family is important.  And they are happy.

I see everything we have and I want less.  Because I know that’s more.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    That write up was amazing! People don’t hear positive only negative! You should be a journalist!
    Michelle! You have a gift! A positive one! Xxx

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