Culture Shock

377km Manjimup to Waikiki

Gloucester TreeTime passes so quickly. When we were sitting on the beaches of Yallingup, just staring at the waves crashing on the rocks, we felt we could have stayed forever. A few short days later and we’re nearly back in Perth – back in civilization with its grand homes and green lawns, a supermarket and a frothy cappuccino shop on every corner.

Cycling around the country towns and quiet woodlands of rural Western Australia, we felt we were readjusting to life in the developed world just fine. Gorgeous national parks and isolated camping combined with a barbecue and toilets in every little village was the perfect mix of nature and nurture for two wandering cyclists.

But returning to the city after two weeks of camping, it’s hard not to feel a bit adrift. One of the things a long bike trip does to you is that it greatly simplifies your life. What you can’t carry in four bags on your bicycle, you just don’t need. Food, warmth and a safe place to sleep are your only requirements. It’s like being a baby again.

Just go straightAnd if then, on top of that, you spend the better part of the last year, as we have, cycling through less developed countries, you feel your needs shrinking even more. You see people every day who make do and raise families on only the barest of resources and you start to look like the rich one – you with what you thought was a humble bicycle and a few meager bags.

The developed world we came from two years ago, now feels like a different universe. It’s one we are struggling to identify with. Who are all these people with their big cars and boats in the garage? What does the baker mean when he tells us he throws his bread out every day? “Don’t you know there are kids in Cambodia who need that bread?” we feel like telling him, in the same tone our mothers used when they threatened to send our uneaten food to Ethiopia.

Want to come along?And what is this Christmas madness? People rolling huge shopping carts out of every supermarket, loaded from top to bottom. On the radio they talk constantly about shopping days to Christmas and how many presents so-and-so has left to buy and did you know the average Australian spends about $600 U.S. on Christmas gifts?

“That’s enough for two frugal people to ride bikes in Australia for a month!” we cry simultaneously.

And then we stop ourselves. Wait. The world was doing this before we left and it was doing it while we met Wafa in Syria and the nomads of Central Asia and the people in the mountain villages in Laos. Is it really so surprising to find everything still turning just as it was when we took that first pedalstroke?

Coming back to the city, we feel as if the world has taken leave of its senses but maybe we are the crazy ones. This is just the way things are.

The whole concept of ‘fitting back in’ to society is a constant discussion for us now. It’s been an ongoing topic for some months, but it wasn’t until very recently – after the initial euphoria of landing in Australia died down – that we realized what that return might mean.

Fitting back in…. to be honest, we aren’t sure how or if we want to do it.


  1. Debbie Mill
    20th December 2008 at 8:20 am #

    They say the culture shock is always on your return to your own country not in the going to other less developed countries. It will be hard for you. Maybe Australia is a good place for you to readjust. But your memories will see you through as well as draw you back to where you have been. It’s hard hey and must be much harder for you when you have been travelling for so long. Makes you wonder what development really is. Take good care in Australia and remember there’s a bed for you in Brisbane if you get up this way.

    Debbie and John Mill

  2. Frank
    21st December 2008 at 1:48 am #

    Good to see your are back in Perth lucky it is not a very busy city compared to others , i hope that you are going to relax and have a good xmas with plenty of seafood and pav see ya soon.Frank

  3. meng
    22nd December 2008 at 11:33 am #

    Hi ,
    Still following your journal . wishing you best of everything in your remaining journey.


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