I landed in Australia for the first time in February of 2009 – coming up on three years ago now. In the three years since, I’ve crossed the Pacific Ocean between the US and Australia another 28 times; that’s a month of days lost to travel (don’t worry I got half of them back on the return trip). On the best of those trips Wendy and the boys were with me as we were on our way to adventure in Australia, or we were returning home to our treasured friends and family in the states. The worst of those trips were the times I was leaving the family in one place or the other for weeks at a time. All those miles in a plane definitely illustrate exactly how many miles (1 mile = 1.61 kilometers) separate Sydney and Boston.
On the frequent flyer front there’s good news and bad news. The bad news, we’re about to lose status with Qantas, and now that they kids have been spoiled with status, it’ll be hard to go back. The good news, we’re going to lose our status because we’re coming home to the states permanently!
It may (or may not) go without saying that leaving Australia is bittersweet for us. We’ve enjoyed our time here, seen much of this incredibly beautiful country, made tremendous friends, enjoyed the temperate climate and access to beautiful beaches. It’s been an incredible professional opportunity and even in my middle-age I’ve learned more in the past three years than I did in the first ten years of my professional career. The boys have thrived in school and have a good group of friends that we hope they maintain for years to come.
And we’ve learned other important lessons too. For me the most important lesson I can take away from our experience in Australia is that the world is becoming flatter and flatter every day. Kids here in Australia may chose to play different sports and wear uniforms to school, but they are not that different from kids in the US; or the kids in China, Japan, Brazil, Uzbekistan or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Today’s kids will live in a world where borders will eventually mean very little, today distance can be bridged as fast as you can log-on to facebook. In the future, education, jobs, commerce and perhaps even romance will be completely global. Imagine that world. Regardless of the language they speak, kids born after the PC became ubiquitous all want the same access to blisteringly fast technology and open dialogue. They expect choice and want to make a difference. For us older-folks it’s hard to visualize that future through the filter developed during a youth spent listening to cold war rhetoric – but it’s true. It’s happening. Get onboard or get run-over.
The economy is also flatter and more interconnected than ever. Twenty years ago can you imagine even knowing what was going on in Greece, let alone worrying about what impact a Greek referendum might have on your retirement portfolio? It’s amazing the speed at which change is occurring and I for one am excited about it (and terrified at the same time). The lesson here, don’t buy Greek debt, but boy do the Greeks know coffee.
So how does all this relate to my many, many frequent flier miles? And what’s this about light beer? Let me tell you a story… In my many trips back and forth across the pacific, I’ve developed a bit of a routine. Get comfortable on the plane, have a little dinner when it’s served, maybe drink a light beer and then try to get some sleep because it’s an ugly long flight. So early in my exposure to Australia I developed the habit of drinking light beer, smart, right… I don’t need all the calories. It wasn’t until last week, that one of my Australian friends pointed out that light beer “doesn’t mean what you think it means.”
“What?” I said. “Other than lower calorie, what could it possibly mean?”
“Light beer is where they remove most of the alcohol. If you want low calorie beer, you want a Blond beer.”
Really, no one could have told me that three years ago? I’ve seen blond beers in the store and in plenty of restaurants, but I always thought a “blond” beer was for, well, blonds… I guess I’m no worse for wear, but I would like, before I leave Australia to be truly confident that I can speak the language – unfortunately the likelihood of that happening is going a bit pear-shaped… like a frog in a sock.
No worries, before too long we’ll be back in Boston where Peabody is pronounced pee-b’dy, some words mysteriously lose “r’s” and other words gain them. Even in this flat world, something things are best explained as, well, unexplainable.