For­get the selfie, seize the mo­ment

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - GRA­HAM ER­BACHER

Let’s mash up a few ti­tles and call it the Un­bear­able Light­ness of Be­ing There.

It’s the name we’ll give to a feel­ing you get on your trav­els at a very spe­cial point in space and time: a sense of “wow, here I am”. You may not be at the most beau­ti­ful spot on your jour­ney and it cer­tainly won’t be the most sur­pris­ing, se­cluded or serene: in fact, it’s likely to be one you, and thus most other cit­i­zens of the world, have known about all your life.

Th­ese days you’d whip out your selfie-stick and be off. But I’m talk­ing about savour­ing the mo­ment. It is about re­flec­tion and may not even re­quire pic­to­rial proof.

A few ex­am­ples? I am in a cham­ber in the mid­dle of the Great Pyra­mid of Giza, fend­ing off claus­tro­pho­bia af­ter a dark, nar­row climb, and think of the pur­pose of this mon­u­ment, the per­son whose fi­nal rest­ing place it was mil­len­nia ago, its builders, its plun­der­ers and the in­trud­ers since (in­clud­ing me). But here I am, stand­ing in­side one of the orig­i­nal seven won­ders of the world.

New York City: what great op­por­tu­ni­ties to be struck by a sense of Be­ing There. Atop the Em­pire State Build­ing at dusk; noth­ing more ex­cit­ing. On Page 10, An­thony Roberts gives you the lowdown on where to re-cre­ate a piv­otal mo­ment from Woody Allen’s Man­hat­tan. My own spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence is peer­ing out from the crown of the Statue of Lib­erty. At its base, those stir­ring en­graved words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free ...” cause me to tear up and then I re­mem­ber, I’m not even Amer­i­can. In­deed, my love of all this is born of a child­hood de­vo­tion to Hol­ly­wood and TV shows such as 77 Sun­set Strip, Bo­nanza and The Donna Reed Show. I climb the stair­case and here I am in the skull of the statue, with the sweep of the city and the Hud­son be­fore me (through tiny win­dows). What an odd place to be in the world: in­side look­ing out.

Th­ese mo­ments are not all about be­ing stuck in­side some­thing. We are bus­tled off a bus, en­gage with a sea of hawk­ers and beg­gars, deal with sus­pect se­cu­rity and then, the vi­sion splen­did: the master­piece of Mughal art and ar­chi­tec­ture, the Taj Ma­hal in Agra, In­dia. Hun­dreds of oth­ers are here to marvel, of course, but it’s ma­jes­tic and now it’s part of my life, be­yond pic­tures in books.

My last mo­ment may have read­ers out­side Syd­ney groan­ing. It is a spe­cial feel­ing I get ev­ery time I visit the Opera House, es­pe­cially at night, look­ing away from the house, over the city, across the bridge to crazy old Luna Park. Look at that dark, pow­er­ful body of wa­ter all around. I un­der­stand Ken­neth Slessor’s poem Five Bells about a man drown­ing in the har­bour, and John Olsen’s trib­ute mu­ral in the Con­cert Hall’s up­per foyer.

Here I am, not need­ing to selfie-away with the vis­i­tors. Dorothy and Toto, you know the next line: There’s no place …

Su­san Kuro­sawa is on as­sign­ment.

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