Hi Kit and Greg
In this morning's Saturday Extra, Geraldine read out some letters following up last week's programme about the hippy trail. You can listen to it by going to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/saturdayextra/ and clicking on "India: a Walk through Old Delhi".
The first letter read was from Liz Watson-Kumar (spelling?). She had gone to London 1972-1975, and had returned to Oz via a Swagman Eastbound. There were 36 on the coach, and none of them were hippies. She remarked "what an adventure", "the experience of a lifetime", and "certainly no holiday"! She also wrote that it still factors into her way of thinking and being after all these years.
Kit, we road crew were so lucky to be able to do it so many times. In many ways it was better than sinking into a place as you do with a long term stay (I have done that too, in London, Africa, the Pacific and elsewhere). We were able to keep our eyes and insights open and fresh that way - gaining a new layer of understanding every time, like peeling an onion.
The next letter read was from an ex hippy, who emphasised the darker side of European interactions with Indians etc. Some were intentional, but we also can't ignore the fact that there will always be collateral damage, unintended consequences, confounding variables etc etc in intercultural exchanges - even with the best of goodwill on both sides. There were certainly some in our cases, Kit: remember Tommy?
In his case and others, alcohol played a major role. I hadn't known that you were a teetotaler; with the wisdom of hindsight, there were times that I would have been happier now if I had been teetotal then as well. But then again, there are others when, if I had not been drinking, major positive and life changing events would not have happened.
I like your comment, "everybody grabs something to boost themselves sometimes". That's true, but as I am certain you will agree there was more to the overland than that, a lot more. By taking us often way beyond our comfort zones, it gave us a lot more opportunity to be travellers than tourists, but how much we availed ourselves of that opportunity varied greatly between us. But a different breed is not necessarily better by being different. We have to ask, "better for what?", and if anyone arrogantly thought themselves superior to others by dint of that experience, then clearly they were not, and had done the overland with eyes wide shut and had entirely missed some of the major lessons that the overland could provide. I am sure that there were many major lessons out there that I missed out on but, like Liz Watson-Komar, there were some that I did not, and they still factor into my way of thinking and being after all these years, just as they do hers.
All the Best,