Leaving on a Jet Plane
My dad caught the travel bug early in life. He first left home to work on a dairy farm in Gippsland when he was thirteen years old, which probably opened his eyes to the fact that there was a whole world beyond his own backyard.
When he turned eighteen, the war had just ended, so he enlisted in the Army. After completing his training, he was sent to Japan with the Occupation Forces, where he spent much of his time with tradesmen working in devastated Hiroshima.
In 1950, not long after exiting the Army, Dad decided to travel to Britain and booked a passage on the SS Otrana, a former troop ship. I don’t know for sure, but I am sure that he would have bought the cheapest fare and probably shared a cabin with other adventurous young men. It was here that he met his lifelong buddy, Jim McCance. Jim migrated to Australia as a toddler with his Scottish parents and he was returning to revisit his family ties. The SS Otrana took paying passengers to Britain and brought £10 migrants from the British Isles to our wonderful and empty country.
Dad had bought a 35mm camera in Japan, a much-loved and very much-used camera over the years. He took that camera everywhere he went. When he died, I found his photo albums from the early 1950s and some of his letters, written on aerograms, to his mother during the time he spent overseas. Tiny, now sepia-coloured, his photos from the voyage from Melbourne to Southhampton are treasured memories.
As we embark on our voyage from Singapore to Athens via the Suez Canal, I can draw parallels between his voyage in 1950 to mine in 2023, seventy-three years later. I can be reasonably assured that my visits to countries along the way will be far more organised and our voyage, far more comfortable. But something in me, below the surface, hankers for the experience of joining those young adventurous souls as they embarked on a voyage to the ‘unknown’, visiting places that had been ravaged by war and making their way without the advantage of social media and online services. I am lucky, though. I have travelled through Europe without the benefits of today’s conveniences, so I can imagine how daunting it was to leave a safe country to embark on a journey where everything was new and unfamiliar.
Today, as I sit in Melbourne Airport just before flying to Singapore, I reflect upon Dad’s journey in 1950 and thank my lucky stars that my Dad encouraged me to challenge myself and to be adventurous. My journey, this time, is not being taken alone. Tom is taking his first overseas trip since early 2020, just before the beginning of COVID, so he too is looking forward to visiting new (and some not so new) places and immersing himself in this post-COVID travel boom.