Boorish bogans? No, Australians are actually polite, friendly travellers

Boorish bogans? No, Australians are actually polite, friendly travellers

April 18, 2023

Globetrotting columnist Ben Groundwater explores the things that make travel great (and sometimes not great), offering a mix of opinion, anecdotes and advice.

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Let me tell you about Dave. I met Dave in India, in Mumbai, getting on to 20 years ago now. We both happened to be staying in the same hostel, both in town because the Australian cricket team was there to play a Test against the home nation.

Dave was one of those people you meet on your travels that you just don’t forget. He’d ditched his home life in Melbourne and come to India for six months. He’d bought an old Enfield motorbike, a classic, and was riding it across the country.

Far from being people to avoid, most Australian travellers are great to be around. Credit: iStock

He was only at the start of his adventure when our paths crossed, and yet already he had many amazing stories. And he would go on to have so many more.

He was at a Vipassana retreat in the hills of Kerala when the Boxing Day tsunami hit; for days his friends and family had no idea where he was, and he, meditating hard in a silent retreat, had no idea everyone was panicking. Later, he almost ran over a small dog on his motorbike and ended up adopting it, riding around the country with this little pup in a pouch on his chest.

And it went on. Amazing guy. Amazing journey.

When I think about Australian travellers, I think about people like Dave. I don’t think about the cringy version of our wandering brethren, the groups of drunken bogans in Kuta (who are apparently getting worse), the singlet-and-boardies wearers on European streets, the tatted-up snowboard bros in Japan.

None of us is perfect. But we are united by a genuine love of travel.

I think about the people I love meeting when I travel, the characters, the wanderers, the adventurers. The friendly people, the kind people, the decent people.

Because that, to me, is what Australian travellers really are. It’s easy to see the highly visual exceptions and decide that that’s what our whole country is like, but I don’t think it’s true.

I enjoy meeting Australians when I travel. I don’t want to only meet Australians, and I don’t go out looking for them. But if I meet compatriots out there on the road, it’s almost always a good experience.

Australians are great travellers, I’m convinced of it. Not every Australian, but most. Australians see the world in ways that are open and curious and generous. We sport a healthy sense of adventure. We can roll with the punches. We get our hands dirty. We seek experiences with an open heart and a friendly smile.

Most of us leave Australia with the intention of meeting people from other places. That’s the whole point of travel, surely. And yet I find it only takes a few weeks before you’re more than happy to hear an Australian accent, to chat to someone who immediately understands you, who shares your sense of humour, who knows the footy scores (even though, I’ve got to tell you, I really don’t care about the footy scores) and who, more often than, not shares your general attitude to this business of seeing the world.

I’ve made amazing friends across the globe, with Swedes and Scots, Argentinians and Austrians. But I’m also still in touch with so many Australians, great people with amazing stories, fun travellers, the sort of people you really want to have around you.

You may notice a different look to the Traveller website this week. We’ve had a little spruce up, a little refresh.

It seemed to me the perfect time to sit back and think about who we, the Traveller community, are as people, as travellers. What do we represent? What makes us who we are?

None of us is perfect. But we are united by a genuine love of travel. Not just a desire to go on holidays but to see the world, to go places we’ve never been before, to connect with communities and cultures and learn, experience, enjoy.

And we’re friendly. That’s not something to take lightly, not something you can say of everyone. Australians tend to want to meet people when they’re travelling. They’re polite and they’re kind. They’ll offer advice. They’ll share stories.

That’s mostly why I have no problem at all hearing an Australian accent on a tour bus or in a shared hostel space or anywhere else, really. If you feel like meeting someone and having a casual chat, swapping a few tips and stories, maybe even going somewhere for a beer, then you’re in luck my friend, because there’s an Australian here, and you know they’ll be up for it.

We don’t give ourselves enough credit for this affable nature. It’s not shared by every traveller, not something you find in every part of the world.

I don’t think we’re unique in our spirit or we’re anything like the “world’s greatest travellers”. This isn’t a competition – and even if it was, I’m sure we wouldn’t win. We’re just a decent bunch who you can rely on for a friendly welcome and a good time. People who have good stories, people who make friends, people who dive in and take a few risks.

We’re the Daves of the world, essentially. And that’s a really good thing.

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