Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Why Australia?

I’ve been asked this question as much or more than any other here. Why did I choose this place over the myriad other countries and cities I could have visited? Depending on my mood, I switch up the answer. That isn’t to lie, it is because I genuinely don’t know the actual reason, or what percentage each answer is responsible for. So here is my best estimation of what reasons I had to come here in no particular order.

1 – I had heard good things about Australia. Granted, the reviews that were coming in weren’t quite as glowing as they were for New Zealand (does anyone not love that country?) but they were pretty fantastic. The odd thing is that most of them weren’t for any particular reason. Thinking back, I can’t actually remember too many reviews of, “The beaches are gorgeous,” or “The culture of Sydney is friendly and inviting.” The reviews were simply, “Australia is gorgeous / fun / awesome.” It is much harder to find something wrong in a vague complement. How can you argue with fun? Who hates gorgeous places? If the reviews had pointed to something in particular I might have decided that the aspect in question wasn’t my cup of tea (unless it was good cups of tea, which they do here and is in fact my cup of tea). But there was no option for that.

2 – Right as I was starting to go heavily into my I-want-to-travel phase, I had a couple people really push for Australia. I’ve known people who have travelled extensively, but mostly to places that didn’t interest me long term. Germany, Costa Rica, Vietnam. Meh. I wanted to go somewhere but if not these places then where? Thailand to teach English was my best guess, but I somehow knew that wasn’t the right answer. The first person to start the seed was someone I have ties to but nothing in common with. When mentioning my travel plans to other people at the gathering, I heard a good range of experiences that were intriguing and unorthodox (e.g. setting up legal systems in South American countries) but not quite me. Neither was what this guy suggested, but it is the first suggestion I remember getting for Australia from a non-native. He envied my position – to be young and free again. And he said Australia was the place to be – heaps of women, gorgeous ones at that, who loved to party and had few guys to choose from. This isn’t the type of review to get me to travel to a place being that I’m not the heavy-drinking, clubbing pickup artist. But I will admit that it wasn’t a review against the country.

And then I met Alexis, a woman who had done the working holiday program in Australia and had nothing but positive reviews of it. She rambled on (at my encouragement) for nearly an hour about traveling around the continent, about the people she had met, about how easy it was to get by here, about how foreign but not it was. And since she was a friend of a friend (we met at a mutual friend’s party) her opinion came with some weight.

3 – I really was toying with the notion of long-term solo international travel. My previous experience was all in short term trips with friends. I thought I was pretty badass. Everyone does. Everyone wants to believe that if their spouse was killed, they could go train at some Tibetan monastery for a couple years, learning a deadly martial art, and come back to exact revenge. Few people actually have that fortitude. And so was my plan to go itinerant for a while a reasonable one or just the fantasy of someone who had been stuck at a desk in a company he hated for one to many years? If I was going to try it, probably better to wade in rather than go head-first. Australia is a white, English-speaking country where I would blend in and be able to navigate the bureaucracy, the public transit, and the grocery stores.

4 – It was different, but not too different. This is relevant not just in terms of my survival and acclimation, but in talking to people I know back home. They would have context for what I was seeing and saying. And yet it would still be exciting and interesting enough to want to hear about (hopefully). (This latter point is something that certainly didn’t factor in consciously, but probably helped direct my search.)

5 – I had a friend here already who would be a touchstone of my past life, a connection to help me not feel so alone.

6 – The music. This is the reason that seems like it should be the icing and not the cake, but as I’ve said before, forget “should.” By the time I picked Australia, more than half the music I was listening to was coming from over here. My guide for new music was the Australian radio station triple J’s end of the year Hottest 100 list. They were introducing me to music that was amazing and new, from all over the world. Even with the delay of waiting for their end of the year list, I was still getting a jump on music that hadn’t broke into the DC markets yet. (“Little Lion Man” was their song of the year for 2009, back when no one in DC had heard of Mumford and Son.) And since they were biased, I was getting an earful of Aussie music. And I loved it. Sia. Hungry Kids of Hungary. Pendulum. Children Collide. Josh Pyke. The Jezabels. Bliss N Eso. Illy. Drapht. Little Red. Living in the musical desert that is Washington DC I had been starved for good music and live music for years. And so if I could travel to the hotbed of modern music, why wouldn’t I?

And so I did.

One comment on “Why Australia?

  1. Dino
    January 6, 2012

    I’d been wondering about this. Good post.

    Re #6: I almost feel bad that I’ve only heard of one of the bands you mention (besides Mumford & Sons). Thanks for giving me my next batch of new stuff to check out 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 4, 2012 by in Australia.

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