A brief­ing on the con­ven­tions of travel

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - DOSIA RE­ICHARDT

IN one of Mal­colm Brad­bury’s nov­els there is a mys­te­ri­ous char­ac­ter who seems to ex­ist only at aca­demic con­fer­ences. It is a spe­cialised call­ing, given the uni­ver­sally dreary choice of con­fer­ence lo­ca­tions.

Pos­si­bly to dis­cour­age the at­ten­dance of spouses, these gath­er­ings rarely take place in the vicin­ity of great gal­leries, good shop­ping or nat­u­ral at­trac­tions. They oc­cur in­stead on unin­spir­ing cam­puses miles from sub­ur­ban hubs, let alone any ur­ban temp­ta­tions. As a re­sult, I have been blown about by mas­sive gales in Nova Scotia. I have been stranded for many hours on a bro­ken-down Grey­hound bus in the un­in­ter­est­ing stretch of the east­ern US round Ithaca, with a ner­vous Scan­di­na­vian aca­demic and some very large in­di­vid­u­als wor­ried about their pa­role of­fi­cers and the lack of cig­a­rettes.

I have been stuck in stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion in a Syd­ney Jan­uary that proved so hot, many col­leagues (de­spite their re­puted stingi­ness) moved out to ho­tels at their own ex­pense. At a con­fer­ence on con­vivi­al­ity in the unlovely English city of Read­ing, a fire drill at 3am dis­gorged an­cient pro­fes­sors in night­shirts and gen­er­ally con­firmed the sar­to­rial frumpi­ness for which aca­demics are renowned.

In Ari­zona (a long, long way from the Grand Canyon) and stuck, as usual, in a re­sort with no pedes­trian es­cape, I found some an­cient French teach­ers will­ing to share the cost of an out­ing. What fun it was play­ing tru­ant to see the fab­u­lous desert. Most re­cently I at­tended a con­fer­ence in West Car­roll­ton, Ge­or­gia. I was rather hop­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing of the deep south once I landed in Alabama. An ex­pen­sive and lengthy taxi ride later, I was in a thin-walled con­fer­ence mo­tel on a high­way scat­tered with fast-food out­lets and only the Coca-Cola Mu­seum as a dis­tant dis­trac­tion.

Not to be de­terred, I at­tached my­self to a lively group of 20-some­thing grad­u­ate stu­dents cu­ri­ous about the rep­u­ta­tion con­fer­ences have . . .I dis­il­lu­sioned them and then, in a demon­stra­tion of true south­ern hos­pi­tal­ity, some­one with a ve­hi­cle turned up to whisk us off for a great meal.

It seems a long, long time since I was a stu­dent, staying in col­lege dur­ing va­ca­tions and be­wil­dered by the fran­tic scam­per­ing of adults when a fel­low prankster with a loud­speaker bel­lowed Ach­tung, Ach­tung one morn­ing at 6am.

Nev­er­the­less, I am con­sid­er­ing Perth for a con­fer­ence in June. Does the topic ‘‘medieval emo­tions’’ ap­peal to any­one? RANT OR RAVE Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to our Fol­low the Reader col­umn. Pub­lished colum­nists will re­ceive a stylish and prac­ti­cal Cather­ine Manuell fam­ily-sized water­proof toi­letries satchel (sam­ple pat­tern pic­tured); fully lined with a hang­ing loop and handy in­ter­nal pock­ets. Val­ued at $45. More: (03) 9499 9844; cather­ine­manuellde­sign.com. Send your con­tri­bu­tion to: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au.

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