The true map of the world is immense. So big that we find ways of cutting it down to size; making the gargantuan manageable. For me that means parsing the globe into places I’ve been and places I want to go. The former: a few western European countries, some of the Caribbean, Japan and Thailand, Ecuador and other nearby banana republics and a few broad strokes in the USA. The latter includes Iceland, Myanmar, Laos, and a chunk more of Europe. I have never, ever, ever had Australia on my map. But that was before I met Amanda and Co.
Amanda, her mum and dad Julie and Danny, and beau John came for a visit. The Amandas, as I came to think of them, came from a flung spot in Western Australia; John from the more developed east. As a group, they really got to me.
I showed up and they were already kickin’ it on the deck, noshing wildly on a deli chicken and other assorted foodstuffs from Safeway, with beer chasers. It was an unseasonably warm day and the river sparkled in a setting sun.
They stomped through the house as if they owned it. They reached into shelves for plates, jostled in pursuit of cups or glasses and poured themselves in and out of chairs and sofas. They read, they surfed the web, they did the dishes, they sat around and shot the breeze, they brewed tea using bags brought from home. That very first night actress Amanda ran through a script with her mom and much to my surprise completed an audition via the web. Entrepreneur John checked on sales at his T-shirt shop back in Oz. Dad observed the frenzy from a safe distance in the kitchen.
Me. I observed too. At first with concern. Then curiosity. I mean, they moved fast.
But then … it was like I wanted to join them. Their joking, their questions, their stories and conversation, their endless energy. It all boiled down to a huge smile. Amanda, like her dad, was a card, with a wicked sense of humor and a taser-like glance when she wanted. The Amandas were a production!
And suddenly it happened (we are back to the map…). A continent that held zero allure for me crystallized and came into focus. Julie showed off pictures of recent travels (from back home in Australia) and I was hooked. The vast Australian desert, distant oases, enormous plateaus and buttes that rose from out of the blue, beaches, cityscapes, endless highway, and wildlife. Suddenly Australia became real to me. And I had to know: were there others like Amanda, like Danny, Julie and John? If so, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Their incomparable energy. Hearts as big as the trees. And a craziness that I learned I could flow with.
They were wild at heart and I have them now in my sights. It’s official — Australia, thanks to Amanda and Co., makes the list of must-see places in the world.