Growing Up in The Most Remote City on Earth

Growing up in the outer suburbs of Perth, I was always very aware of my isolation.  The closest capital city was 2,000 kilometers away, and that wasn’t even half way across the country.  The suburbs were big and sweeping, and even going 30 km to Perth City itself was often an adventure.  We drove a lot; our family holidays were brilliant and fun, but never outside of Western Australia.  I have memories of driving 800 km North to Shark Bay as a child, or 1200 km to Coral Bay.  For working class Perth kids, this was what travelling was.  Lots and lots of driving to see an idyllic small town or a white and blue beach; escaping the havoc of suburban life to find a humble, quiet space.

The day after my eighteenth birthday, I flew to Brisbane with my dad.  It was my first time on a plane.  From checking in to picking up my luggage, I was rapt.  I’d said goodbye to relatives and friends at Perth domestic before, but I’d never been there as the one who was boarding. To me, airports existed only in movies, or in moments of envy when somebody else was going on holiday. “Just wait for take off, you’ve never experienced acceleration like it,” my dad told me.  I stared out the window the entire five hour flight, watching lights occasionally appear and disappear on sparse fields and long coastlines.   I just wanted to see everything.  Arriving in Brisbane felt so unreal.  I tried to hone in on small differences, like slang, or where people went for coffee, or the colours of road signs – all the small details that were unique to another city.

When I finally left the country for the first time, a couple of years later, I touched down in Amsterdam.  For the first week, I couldn’t help but take photos and tell my family about everything I saw.  I contrasted it all with the way of life that I knew. I’d travelled 50 hours, with two (which became three) stopovers.  The tiniest cultural differences seemed huge:  there were cars driving on the right side of the road, people were speaking Dutch, there were buildings that were more than a hundred years old, trams, the Euro, and most excitingly, being only a few hundred kilometers away from a neighbouring country.

If I wanted to, I could just get on a train and go to Belgium or Germany, or Switzerland, or Denmark, anywhere in Europe.  I could go anywhere in the world…  And I knew that I would – I knew that once I started travelling, I would never want to stop. Growing up in a place widely considered the most geographically remote city on Earth, I had really learned to appreciate discovering new places.  Nothing was ever ‘just a train ride away’, and I’m thankful for that.  Whenever people ask me why Australians seem to travel for so long, this is what I tell them.

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