Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Sunburnt Country

Often, when I write or speak of Australia, I will include a phrase about loving the “sunburnt country.” While most Australians would immediately understand the allusion, most folks outside Australia would not — though some might think I’m alluding to Bill Bryson’s book The Sunburned Country (which was released in Australia with the title Down Under). In fact, both Bryson’s book title and my comments are allusions to a famous Australian poem by Dorothea Mackellar.

Mackellar was born in Sydney in 1885 and went on to become one of Australia’s most notable poets. The poem for which she is best known was written when she was only 19. Actually, the poem itself, titled “My Country,” is rarely quoted in its entirety. It is the second stanza of the poem that almost everyone in Australia learns by heart growing up.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror–
The wide brown land for me!

This stanza has been set to music, and the “sunburnt country” phrase appears regularly in tales of the land Down Under. A hundred years after its writing, it remains an iconic tribute to Australia.

Should you wish to read the rest of the poem, you can find it here: “My Country.”

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Filed under Australia, Geography, History, Literature, Poetry, Travel

Staying on Track

When I get interviewed about my six-month sojourn in the land Down Under, at some point, I’m usually asked how I managed to prepare for the trip, both psychologically and financially, and, more importantly, how did I stay on track for the two years it took me to get to where I was prepared to leave. Without going into all the details, I’ll share one important trick, and that is to always keep your goal in front of you. In my case, that often helped with practical preparation, as I was constantly reading about Australia before going. But I also, literally, kept the goal in front of me, with photographs and travel brochures in strategic places around my apartment.

I also made something I called my “escape tape,” a cassette tape with a number of songs that would remind me I was on my way. These were mostly golden oldies, but they all included at least a phrase or two that would keep my goal in front of me. I played the tape at home. I played it in the car. With these tunes always running through my head, it became almost impossible to forget where I was headed. Here are links to videos of just a few of those songs, just in case you want to get these tunes inside your head.

Particularly good for howling along with while driving home from work was the Eagles’ classic, “Already Gone.” This was especially good if it had been a rough day.

A fun, silly song that simply had Australia as its theme was Men At Work’s “Living in the Land Down Under.”

Another Australian band–the Little River Band– gave me “Cool Change.” Perfect lyrics for getting out: “Now that my life is so pre-arranged, I know that it’s time for a cool change.” (I learned when I was in Australia that a cool change is a shift in weather systems.) It’s a great song.

Finally, I included Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Southern Cross,” which remains a favorite to this day. I actually quote one line from this song in my book: “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way.” None of the rest of the song applied to me, but that line definitely resonated.

Hope you enjoy the songs. And hope this idea helps you pursue some cherished goal of your own.

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Filed under Australia, Book