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by Pat Beurteaux

I travel with the view that, as long as I have my passport and money, I can deal with whatever happens. 

This philosophy holds up in most instances, but, in our super-security world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to travel light.  Questions will be asked.

" You’re staying how long with those few clothes?"  "You need that many tablets?" 

I question myself as I pack.  Swiss Army knife (a constant companion for obvious reasons — I don’t have a Swiss Army Person) — will someone ask why I think I need it and will they be satisfied with the answer?  And what will that answer be after 20-plus hours traveling not counting the trip to the airport, the 3-hour post-check-in waits and the connecting flight lotteries?  The fact that I need it and use it a lot while away from a house full of gadgets seems obvious to my innocent mind. 

But what about the trained, suspicious mind?  I’m a small person — female — who was implanted with guilt from birth.  Typical, really.  People in uniforms make me suspect myself.  Have I done anything, unknowingly, that is now illegal or a little questionable? While driving home from work one day, I was stopped by a police officer and, hands shaking, I handed over my driver’s licence, sure that I was guilty of something.  He handed it back with the spare keys that had been left in the lock of the trunk.

I’m a good citizen — vote, recycle, conserve, volunteer.  Who cares?  Once you’re in the airport Security Section, you’re as likely to be a candidate for inquisition as the next.  I understand the need.  I’m just not sure I want to undergo the stress of traveling outside my own country too often anymore, which is too bad, because my life has been enriched by the discoveries travel brings and by the people I have met.  I know, absolutely, that, for the most part, it doesn’t matter what your culture is.  You and I are more alike than different.  Women from anywhere can talk about the same things and learn a lot about each other.  We share so much.  I hate to think we might lose that chance to share. 

Those of us who remember the `60s traveling experience and the belief that the more we all visited each others’ home countries, the better the world would be, are probably the most disheartened by recent events.  (Remember Esperanto?)

I was a `working holidayer’ and knew people who spent their lives in VW Kombis traveling from Britain via Europe via India to Australia and New Zealand and back — working when they needed a bit of money and then taking off to the next place.  I wonder what happened to them.  Did they become neo-cons and millionaires or are they at rest in an ashram or did they finally get tired and joined the rest of us in mundanity?  Many were already old, being in their 40s, so they’re probably really retired.  Absolutely at peace.

One could work on cargo or cruise ships.  In fact, ships were a common means of travel from A to B right up to the 70s.  A trip by ship from Western Australia to New York with a lot of stops in between took five weeks and was a fabulous experience.  A friend worked on a German ship from Canada to Australia and became an absolutely different person.  I think it was the Steak Tartare with raw egg breakfasts that changed him from a university student to a complete intellectual vacancy.  Still, he was inordinately happy - for some reason.

Ah, the Good Ol’ Days! 

Who would have thought that packing procrastination/indecision could lead to this?
I’ve turned the corner and now I’m just another boring old bag —  in a mere few minutes.

Back to packing.  Do you think they’ll ask why all my clothes are the same colour?

Born and raised in a small Ontario town that became a large bedroom community post-war, Pat Beurteaux began her career as a primary school teacher, a career that permitted her to travel to Australia as a `working holidayer' in the mid-60s.  At that time any British Commonwealth citizen could travel and work in any other Commonwealth country under certain conditions; a good deal of fun was had by all.  

You may reach Pat by emailing


©2006 Pat Beurteaux for SeniorWomenWeb
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