Welcome to the 1974 travel chronicles of Max Williams, and you might be wondering what all this is about. Well, let me explain.
Tricky Dicky is in to his second term as president of the USA; Wrest Point casino has opened in Hobart; the federal voting age has been lowered from 21 to 18, and the mobile phone has just been invented. This is early 1973, and we are all chilling in Fitzroy, Melbourne, in a cloud of wacky tobaky smoke, lying on bean bags in our kaftan tops and bell-bottomed jeans, talking about the Vietnam War and contemplating life, whilst listening to Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.
Out of the blue, someone has an epiphany – “Hey, let’s get out of here and travel the world.” There is a collective WTF! Sometime later though, when the fog lifts and our brains reconnect, a plan is hatched. We will see out the year planning and researching, then travel Europe and beyond throughout the whole of 1974 for what we hope will be an experience of a lifetime.
Who are we?
There are four of us – my then wife Ursula and me, plus her twin sister Dana and husband Michael. All of us are in our mid-20s. This is the first time any of us will travel out of Australia. We plan to be away for 12 months and not work during that time. With daily living costs set at $5 per person, I will be a real pain in the arse with the budget, because I am anal when it comes to diarising, accounting and balancing the books. Michael also has an analytical mind and is tarred with the same brush. Should be fun for the ladies dealing with two likeminded pains. Not!
We have negotiated to take ownership of a VW Kombi wagon from Michael’s parents in Holland. They are currently travelling around Europe and the end of their travels will coincide with our arrival.
We spend an inordinate amount of time during the remainder of 1973 getting everything sorted. Countless hours are spent researching routes, travel conditions, visa requirements, currencies and so on. We must get mandatory inoculations for smallpox, tetanus, typhoid and cholera. Plus, there are applications for passports, visas, travellers’ cheques and international currency. As well, we look for a cheap international flight, organise final readings of all utilities, clear out our respective houses to prepare them for rental and sell our cars.
The plan has changed
We have roughed out a plan. After picking up the van and spending some time in Holland, we will head south through France to Spain to catch some warmer weather. After that, it will be a plan on the run. Portugal, Morocco, then Algeria, Tunisia and beyond. However, the long-term plan together will be thwarted a few months into our journey when the two couples split up.
Ursula and I will buy our own VW Kombi wagon in Rome, Italy, and continue via Yugoslavia to Greece and Turkey, then the communist countries, western Europe and back to the UK. From there we will cross to the USA and explore the western states and Mexico before heading home via Hawaii and Tahiti some 375 days after departure. We will have bought and sold three cars, visited 32 countries and driven a total of 47,000km. Our total spend will be $7886 or $21/day (two persons all inclusive) and we will arrive home with just $8 cash in our pockets.
Michael and Dana continue their travels through eastern and western Europe, sell their car in Holland, and take a second-rate budget bus tour through Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The bus company goes bust mid-tour, so they hitch hike from Beirut through Syria, to Kuwait in Saudi Arabia and get caught up in the start of the civil war in Lebanon. They hop on a dhow and sail across the Persian Gulf into Iran. Local buses then take them to Afghanistan, India and Thailand. Then it’s back home to Melbourne. I reckon this is a great story and I have encouraged Dana to write about their fascinating experiences. Watch this space folks.
I’m an industrial chemist, and I have just finished my studies part-time. Michael is a systems engineer with IBM. We both resign from work and the girls take 12 months’ leave of absence from their primary teaching roles. With lots of excitement and trepidation, we depart for London on 2 January 1974.
Coming up is an account of those travels. I hope you will hop onboard with us throughout this fascinating and ad hoc journey with all its ups and downs. I will try to relate our experiences as best I can to make you feel like you are travelling with us. Over many weeks, you will be able to track this intrepid tale of four very inexperienced travellers on a path to the unknown. Buckle up folks, we’re off.
Have you ever done a trip like this? What’s the longest time you’ve spent away from home? Let us know in the comments section below.
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