Wednesday, 2 November 2011


My recent denouncement and departure from Darwin was preceded 48 hours earlier by the travel book publisher Lonely Planet recommending the city in the top ten cities in the world to see for 2011.

It spoke of a bustling nightlife; access to an ancient culture and pristine wilderness; and of a city with energy and oomph. Maybe not those exact words but that was the gist of it.

I don't want to sound like my hipster friend Cathie but I liked Darwin before it was cool.

It isn't though. With all feedback, you must take it as input in to your system and weight it with what drove the source to say it, or in this case rank it.

Lonely Planet was the travel book of choice when I was a crumpled, life-in-a-backpack traveling twenty something. It was for those moments when I took a break in my life and on a budget travelled the world in search of people to drink with and adventures to have.

There is no shame in that. Lonely Planet was my $50 travel guide as I saw places I had read of in books or googled while cheating at pub quizzes. It took me beyond the Eiffel Tower and to a lovely wine and cheese stall that allowed me to buy a bottle and some milk products and gaze upon that industrial marvel from a nearby park, while others sweated and stood in a line to be sheared at the top of the lift of the tower, all the while being unable to see the forest for the tourists.

Lonely Planet led me down thousand year old streets to restaurants in dark dodgy parts of town where I was welcomed joyfully and replied in broken language, only to discover the waiter was from Melbourne.

Lonely Planet took me to vending machines that sold beer, ice cream and used school girls knickers and on to restaurants that displayed lacquered food while serving fresh minky on dried seaweed.

Lonely Planet took me everywhere, made me feel safe, slept in bed bug ridden sheets, sat next to me while I was kissed in Paris, was a pillow on trains across the worlds greatest mountain ranges and even silenced a very annoying Irish backpacker when I needed to sleep.

So when my home town is named as a top ten city to see, I may still agree with Paul Keating and say "The best view of Darwin is from 40,000 feet in the air on your way to Paris" but that is my 35 year old self speaking.

There is a reason for the youthful traveller with their unkempt hair and non-Veuve budget to come here. It will give them stories, experiences, tales, memories and heartache for places that are so different to what we grew up with that we take a breath as we survey them and hope that our mum will wire us some money when we blow our last money on a cold local beer.

No comments: