I first left Australia at the age of twenty, flying from Sydney to Delhi on a shambling old Air India 747 that seemed lucky to get airborne. It was my first ever time in a plane. It was also the first leg of a nine month trip backpacking around the world with my best mate, on what would now be termed a ‘gap year’. Two green middle-class medical students landing in Delhi, we collected our bags off the tarmac before walking up the rickety stairs to the terminal. Catching the bus into town, through the throngs of people everywhere you looked, I caught my first glimpse of third world poverty. Dozens of people were living in the middle of a roundabout on the busy road, squashed together in tents and humpies, ragged and underfed.
By the last months of our travels, we had crammed so much living into our time away, in rich countries and poor, we were a changed pair. We’d had to deal with so much and cope with so many challenges outside of our comfort zone. At times we had been caught out by transport not turning up, accommodation not being available, eating food we didn’t feel comfortable with and dealing with situations or people that were strange, unpredictable or downright unnerving. It was an education in life. In the Greek Isles, when a bit tight for funds, we took to scamming money off unsuspecting fellow backpackers by challenging them to games of 500 for money on the ferries, our well practiced hand signals ensuring we never lost. We were a little tougher, a little harder, and a lot more resilient.
Parachuting ahead nearly thirty years, with a marriage, three teen / pre-teen sons and successful career as a GP, the world beckons again. This time, it’s to teach another green youngster, but in very different circumstances.