In A Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson


“Each time you fly from North America to Australia, and without anyone asking how you feel about it, a day is taken away fro you when you cross the international date line.  I left Los Angeles on January 3 and arrived in Sydney fourteen hours later on January 5.  For me there was no January 4.  None at all.  Where it went exactly I couldn’t tell you.  All I know is that for one twenty-fourhour period in the history of earth, it appears I had no being.  I find that a little uncanny, to say the least.  I mean to say, if you were browsing through your ticket folder and you saw a notice that said, “Passengers are advised that on some crossings twenty-four-hour loss of existence may occur” (which is, of course, how they would phrase it, as if it happened from time to time), you would probably get up and make inquiries, grab a sleeve and say, “Excuse me.”  There is, it must be said, a certain metaphysical comfort in knowing that you can cease to have material form and it doesn’t hurt at all, and, to be fair, they do give you the day back on the return journey when you cross the date line in the opposite direction and thereby manage somehow to arrive in Los Angeles before  you left Sydney, which in its way, of course, is an even neater trick.”

I adore Bill Bryson and his travel memoirs.  I had two in my stack for Bookstravaganza this year but it’s looking unlikely, with only a few days left, that I will be able to tackle it on top of the two other books I vowed to finish before midnight on the 31st.  The other I had was about Britain, and this one was about Australia.  I want to see everywhere in the world at some point, but I’ve always felt a bit of trepidation about Australia.  I thought, even though I have read several travel memoirs on Australia, including Robyn Davidson’s Tracks and Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines, that this book would finally be the one to convince me.  Bryson’s self-deprecating style is easy to relate to – he’s not a superhero traveller and certainly loses his patience as any human being is wont to do, but the difference is he actually documents all of these little bits where it just became too much, whereas other travel memoirists tend to hide their more human parts.  I thought that his experience of Australia would be one I could better relate to.

I know many Australians, and I love them all.  I know Canadians who have been to Australia who love it.  But the thing is, everything else in Australia, people aside, wants to kill you.  Bryson talks about deadly jellyfish, deadly snakes, deadly crocodile attacks (what even), rip tides, among many others.  It’s quite a contrast from my current favourite country, Iceland, wherein the most dangerous thing in the country IS its people, and even then there’s only like one murder every few years or so (in the whole country!).

I do still want to see Uluru and parts of the outback, but it’s a long way away for just that.  I still don’t feel like I’m ready for Australia, even after this wildly entertaining book.  Usually, a travel memoir makes me want to visit a place even more once I’ve finished reading it, but this book, though I loved it, didn’t do that for me.

Australia’s just going to have to wait a little longer for me to make an appearance there, I guess.

Books read: 18


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