My Travel Journal
The first leg: Paris to Italy
I set out from Paris, with two girlfriends, Liz and Kay from Melbourne, in the summer of 1968. We were studying at university and working at the Air Attachée in Paris, which is where I met Liz. The trip stands out in my memory as one of the high points of my life.
The Italy leg would set the tone for the whole trip: exciting, adventurous, frustrating, exhilirating, with breakdowns and meetings with foreign mechanics (“machina caput!”) in every country.
July, 1968: Paris
It hardly seems credible now, when I think back on this time. I was young, naiive, and looking for adventure. I’d just lived through the student and workers’ strike in France, which ended in a near revolution. The fear at the time was that General de Gaulle might send in troops to break the stand-off between police and radical students in the Boulevard Saint Michel.
I’d spent the previous twelve months in Paris, working as a clerk at the Australian Embassy, the Air Attaché section; handling secret files labelled “Mirage Jets” or some such. It was boring work, but I’d earned enough money to move on to a more interesting job as a teacher’s assistant in a provincial high school. I was also enrolled in the first year of an Arts degree. During my time at the Embassy, I’d made some good friends, in particular, two girls from Melbourne. Liz was studying Linguistics at the Sorbonne, while Kay was writing a thesis on Jean-Paul Sartre; me, an ex-primary school teacher with no degree under my belt at all. At the end of the twelve-month Embassy position, instead of saving my money, I’d acted impulsively, as usual, and lashed out on a second-hand car.