Passports

Dispatches from Abroad

Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 2:50 p.m.

Updates from David, studying in Surfers Paradise

Photo courtesy of David Besnainou.

This post was written by David Besnainou, who is studying abroad in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Australia is characterized by its endless Outback, beach culture and sweltering heat. Going very down under, however, provides an entirely different experience—not to mention climate.

Tasmania (Tazzie) – the land of devils, tigers and wombats – is a damp and vivacious forest of snow. Most of this island is home to the mighty Cradle Mountain Park, which is listed as a World Heritage Wilderness Area. This site is distinctive not only because it remained unchanged for millions of years but also because its vegetation respires the world’s most unpolluted air.

After hiking this snow-covered highland, I felt unsettled as I realized I had never before been so far away from home and so isolated from modern civilization. Unfortunately for a pampered scholar like myself, Tazzie lacks cellular reception and Internet access. But the first inhabitants of Tasmania surely did not enjoy such amenities.

More than 10,000 years ago, Australian Aboriginals ventured to the peninsula-turned-island. Though no one knows for sure what compelled these people to explore Australia’s frosty undergrowth, some stipulate that the Aboringals discovered Tazzie on “walkabout.”

According to the tradition of “walkabout,” Aboriginals left their homes as adolescents for up to six months to learn to live off the harsh Australian wilderness. Walking for months on end, they learned to fish, hunt and provide shelter for themselves. On this lonesome journey, their goal was to spiritually connect with the earth.

Whether they felt distressed, renewed or newly independent after they arrived to Tazzie is a mystery, but am I grateful that they left this land untarnished for future generations to discover anew. Thanks to their preservation efforts, explorers like myself can go on their own “walkabouts.”

Swallowing my pride and covering my sleeveless shirt with a rain jacket, I filled my lungs with fresh air and filled my heart with the zeal of Tasmania.