The Australian

March 19 2016

Flight Reading: The Philosophy of Travel by Carlisle Rogers

by Graham Erbacher

Doreen. Ah, a name to set the heart of a Sentimental Bloke sailing. Bill the larrikin found his true love in Doreen, of the pickle factory, 101 years ago in CJ Dennis’s The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, which was an early snapshot of the “quintessential” Australia.

With the photo of Miss Doreen, at anchor in a sublime bush setting, and 100 others like it, Carlisle Rogers explores the heart and soul of Australia today in his new book The Philosophy of Travel. This is going to look handsome on any self-respecting coffee table and comes in a hard slipcase to ward off rings left by carelessly placed mugs.

Rogers, host of the television series 4WD Touring Australia, is both photographer and writer, interspersing his pictures with mini-essays on (you guessed it) the philosophy of travel.

“The urge to move, to migrate, or even to wander aimlessly from drinking hole to drinking hole, is one that haunts modern man,” he writes. “It is the call of the wild that we feel when our mates tell us they are going up the beach for a drive, and we are stuck at home working on the house. It is the deep, incessant tidal tug that the deserts of Australia have for the more susceptible of us.”

The photos and ideas are the product “of well over 100,000km of dusty, muddy roads, late-night highway miles and the roadhouses, sunsets, waves, strangers and friends that have pushed me, challenged me and kept me looking for beauty in every direction”, Rogers says.

Get ready for 170 glossy pages of sunrises, sunsets, night skies, beach vistas, desert panoramas, 4WDs and road trains, and faces, fresh and gnarled, inquisitive and wise.

My small quibble is with the lack of geographic specifics in the captions. Too much “Opposite: Where virginity meets infinity”. And too little: “Esoterica on the edge of the Oscar Range, the Kimberley”. Maybe I should just follow Rogers’s advice and allow myself to go with the poetic flow a little more.

He says: “Let yourself be drawn to the places that once filled you with wonder — you might be surprised how much of that childhood wondering is directly tied to wandering. After all of our wandering, though, the truest test of our deep vision is to come home, and to see it as a new place again ... echoes of the past colouring it without defining it, echoes of a part of us we’ve forgotten, bouncing around the canyon walls of possibility.”

Home, he says, is never really home until you have left and returned.

“The true gypsy in us, the part of us that calls for the wild, that pushes us to pack up our little necessities one more time and head into the great beyond, is simply returning to the wilderness from civilisation, where it has been lost.”

Take another look at Miss Doreen. If that doesn’t float your boat as a home away from home, what will? Let’s leave the last words to CJ Dennis (and the “hitching” of Bill and Doreen):

’E sez Doreen an’ me is in a boat,

An’ sailin’ on the matrimonial sea.

’E sez as ’ow ’e hopes we’ll all us float

In peace an’ joy, from storm an’ danger free

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