Leaving England as a convict on the First Fleet for ‘lands beyond the seas’ (as the travel brochures of the day seemed to have called them) on 13 May, 1787, James Squire passed some of the most enviable modern-day backpacker locations on his way to arrive in Botany Bay in January 1788.
From the sparkling waters of Tenerife to the epic 24-hour celebration that is Rio de Janeiro, through picturesque Cape Town for a surf and maybe even a safari, Squire knew how to pioneer the party route.
‘But James Squire was a convict!’ we hear you cry. ‘Not some restless young Australian with a BA and a strong desire to get down in as many countries as possible!’
You’re right, of course. But bear with us as we walk you through the similarities…
Anarchy in the UK
Armed with a few British pounds, a tube map and the number of a mate living in Shepherd’s Bush, London is where the average Aussie traveller starts his journey. Their dreams of a working for a start-up and living in a quaint flat in Notting Hill disappear as quickly as their dollars do when converted to sterling, and they inevitably settle for working in a pub and living in a big house with 14 fellow countrymen competing for hot water.
And the ‘olde worlde’ similarity? Well, not only was Squire raised by Romany (gypsy) parents (meaning he would have spent his fair share of time sharing living space), but he also worked in a pub outside of London after doing time for burglary.
The budget-busting itinerary
Between England and Australia, the fleet stopped at Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town for supplies along the way – an itinerary the average Aussie backpacker would trade their Lonely Planet and last packet of two-minute noodles for a shot at.
Crowded, unwashed and surrounded by strangers who’d steal your clothes as soon as look at you, James Squire’s journey shared much in common with the modern youth hostel experience – although spontaneous outbursts of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, oi, oi!’ were most likely (blessedly) less frequent below the decks of the First Fleet than they are in modern-day backpacker bars.
In the end, it’s all about the beer
For James Squire, the journey to Australia was one that came to be defined by beer – in fact if you’re wont to be philosophical about things (which we are), you could argue that beer was the entire God-given reason for the arduous journey having taken place in the first place.
Which really makes this last and most important similarity blindingly obvious. Because as anyone who’s ever undertaken a backpacking Gap Year would have to agree: in the end, it really is all about the beer.