Japan 1: Recreation

Written by

Andrew Millar


December 29, 2007

Sydney Airport. Runway One East…

This is the bit I like.

The bit where you turn slowly off the approach apron and begin to roll down the runway. I love to hear the fans wind up twisting kerosene and air into thrust and noise. I wonder whether the pilots ever ‘yee haw’ as the nose lifts and the unnatural weight of a Jumbo settles on the wings to climb steadily away from any earthbound restrictions.

They look so ungainly on the ground – like a house on rollerskates. And when they take to the sky they resemble a block of flats with wings.

We were almost on time getting to Sydney but had to sprint between terminals to make the Narita (Tokyo) flight. For some reason Adelaide could not provide a stage two boarding pass so we were almost the last to check in. Subsequently we were at the back of the plane waddling our way across the sky somewhere northwest of Brisbane, happily passing through 11,000 metres at 1000 kilometres an hour.

It’s noon, Pink Floyd in the earbuds and I’m on my second Kirin. Bliss in a cigarship.

Normally I love to fly, but today I’m really ready.

I’ve never been one for holidays in which you go somewhere and sit. I much prefer to wander and explore. I’ve always wanted to know what lies around the next corner and that has got me into trouble on more than one occasion. But in doing so, I’ve discovered heaps. For me, the journey is as important as the destination. I’m after an altered perspective, not just relaxation.

It is a process I call ‘swinging the compass’.

Swinging the compass originally refers to setting the mechanical compass of an ocean-going vessel in pre-GPS days. The stuff boats are made of effect the way the compass operates and the procedure of swinging was to work out how much deviation was evident. It was always done when the vessel was new and after significant repairs or refitting. It involved towing the vessel to a midstream position and physically turning it through each point of the compass.

In this way, an inbuilt mechanical direction-finding device was held in comparison with the true direction of life. Reality was compared to perception and the drift from truth was measured.

For me, this trip is ‘swinging’ my compass.

My impression of life is only a product of my interaction with the world I know. By dropping myself head first into an alien culture, I’ll see my impression of my world appear in sharp relief. Counterpoint. Juxtaposition. Compare and contrast.

I’ll return with new ideas, new perspectives and new appreciations. A new life force.

And as we are climbing to clear a tropical cyclone, I just hope the pilots know which way we are heading….