My first two expeditions were neither spectacular nor particularly successful. The first overseas adventure was to New Zealand, which is a bit like going to a convent and hoping to see a strip show. It would have been completely forgettable if it weren’t for the fact that I was robbed the second night I was there, I wasn’t mugged, my room got burgled, but the result was the same; I ended up with no money (I had cash rather than travellers cheques), no clothes and no idea.
Two valuable lessons were learned from this unfortunate experience, (i) the value of security, and (ii) the wisdom of having travellers cheques and a money belt, I also got to work in a brewery for six months while I saved enough money to get the fuck out of there.
The second expedition, while being slightly more spectacular, was only marginally more successful. It started with a cross country trip in a big rig that belonged to a friend’s father (that’s not the actual rig, but it was just like it, and the terrain is the same), followed by a bunch of buses, trains and ferries through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and ended with me being fucked and far from home. I eventually limped back to Perth with about three dollars in my pocket, after having gotten as far as Ceylon (yes, I know it’s Sri Lanka, but Ceylon sounds much cooler).
I got a job in a mine to get enough money to get back to Sydney where I could recover and figure out how I screwed up so badly (I was supposed to get to England). As with the first trip, this too was a learning experience, here I learned a) an absolutely brilliant way to pack my bag, b) heroin isn’t very good for you, and c) Thai girls are great, but they don’t make such great life partners.
Now back in Sydney, I was determined that the next trip would be more successful. So after working as a builder’s labourer long enough to get a thousand dollars, I packed my bag (it’s best to travel with just one bag) with what I now knew to be a successful combination of clothing. ie, t-shirts to swap for local clothes, enough underpants to last a week, some socks, and most importantly some border clothes; these are a nice shirt with a collar, tailored pants and decent shoes (it never ceased to amaze me that there was always a line of boneheads in wife beaters and shorts waiting to have their luggage inspected and wondering how come they always seemed to be the ones getting searched!).
Another thing I learned was that backpacks are like having a sign stapled to your forehead saying "Hi, I’m a Tourist! Please rip me off", therefore I always used a leather barrel bag that allowed me to blend in on arrival. In addition, this time I also figured out a way to include a cut down version of my tool kit so that I could work along the way.
I booked a First Class ticket on the Indian Pacific and was off again…