After I announced to my parents I was leaving the fair isle of Manhattan for a far vaster, less crowded one, the first thing they told me to do was read Bill Bryson’s travel satire, In A Sunburned Country. Well, ok, the first thing they told me to do was check if I had a fever, but after many assurances I wasn’t delirious with fever, they gave up and told me to read the book.
Why? Maybe Bill would change my mind.
The description reads:
Australia is a country that exists on a vast scale. It is the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a country. Despite being the most desiccated, infertile, and climatically aggressive of all inhabited continents, it teems with life. In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else: sharks, crocodiles, the ten most deadly poisonous snakes on the planet, fluffy yet toxic caterpillars, seashells that actually attack you, and the unbelievable box jellyfish (don’t ask). The dangerous riptides of the sea and the sun-baked wastes of the outback both lie in wait for the unwary. It’s one tough country.
Basically, Bryson goes on to write about his brush with a killer jelly-fish, his friends’ brush with a killer crocodile, and just about everyone else’s various brushes with killer bugs, snakes or whatever else may be lurking behind that bush. Did you know you can’t even go in the water near Cairns from September to April because of the jellyfish? And did you know most victims of crocodile attacks don’t even see the croc before they’re dinner? Yeah. I could see why they wanted me to read it.
But the best part about Bryson, and Australia and its people, I noticed, is that despite all the hardships — the unrelenting desert, the untamed wild — was that he still loved it there. Every time he stepped foot on its land, he knew he was about to have an adventure. And he did.
I hope I follow in his footsteps and have a few of my own. I also hope, like him, I do not get eaten by a crocodile.