You leave, you are on your own


There are a few things that get up my nose (it’s a fairly big proboscis!). One of them is travellers. No, not those who enjoy wandering the world and seeing the sights, enlarging their minds as they go. They’re fine.

The ones who really tee me off are those who get into trouble and then expect the government to come running to their rescue.

For instance, a 26 year old Sydney man who rocks into a backpacker place in central Laos (Vang Vieng) and decides to do a bungee jump. Except it’s the dry season, the river is low and he smashes himself to death. Okay, that’s fine. Live hard, die young. It’s a choice.

But then the Australian government is supposed to step in and fix things up. You can imagine the difficulties, especially repatriating the body home etc etc.

Yes, it’s the cost of this that I’m bitching about. Hate me if you will.

You see, Australians made nearly 9 million trips overseas in 2012. And lots of them are younger free souls who think they are bulletproof and immortal. They aren’t. The proof is in the 904 Aussies who died while overseas last year alone. Yes, it’s a sobering statistic.

More to the point, it’s a nightmare for the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who are often left to clean up the mess.

It’s the places that sometimes seem like paradise that often turn out to be quite the opposite. For example, Aussies made 1.2 million trips to New Zealand but only eight of us died there. (And okay, Kiwis, your land of the long white cloud really is quite like paradise, and not the opposite!)

But Thailand had 672,000 visits by Aussies and yet a staggering 111 of us died there.  It was similar in The Philippines (68 deaths) and Greece (60 deaths) but it is suggested this disparity is substantially due to older Australians moving to these countries to seek a cheaper lifestyle for the long term. Many die from natural causes and not drugs or alcohol abuse.

The frustrating aspect of all this is a change in attitude by Aussie travellers. The authorities say that in the 60s and 70s when we first started to head off overseas in large numbers, we were self-reliant. We got into trouble; we got ourselves out of it (for the most part).

Now, DFAT reports a sense of entitlement with parents often calling to demand: My son/daughter is in difficulties. What are you going to do about it?

Well, if it was left up to me, I’d give them a very succinct answer. And certainly not one they’d like.

The cost of this veritable rescue service is horrendous but it is the expectation that government should be the rescuer of last resort that is most unpalatable. If you wish to leave the comparative safety of home then accept the responsibility that you are master of your own destiny thereafter and the buck stops with you. The rest of us are staying home because we can’t afford to indulge ourselves. Our unwillingness to pick up the tab for offshore misfortune should hardly come as a surprise.