The Brighter Side of the Road: Upbeat and Offbeat Yarn from Home and Abroad, edited by Helen Coughlan and Janet Lawrence (Boolarong Press, 2005) is a “Compendium of stories … a gathering of recollections and reflections of Australians who have ventured out to make a difference – both at home and abroad.” As more and more young people are setting their sights on taking a gap year when they leave school, they (and their parents!) may be looking for reading material to help them make their choices.
There is something here for everyone. A fair share of travel disasters and both uplifting and amusing anecdotes of experiencing different cultures: food in China, for example, or attending a ploughing ceremony in Cambodia. Two sections really stand out – “Making a Difference – Helping Hands”, which contains some inspirational experiences of people working for humanitarian organisations; and “Young Trailbalzers”, experiences of Young people who have stepped outside their normal lives to experience a different culture, whether on their own or as part of an organised group, including Round Square. What comes across very clearly is how all their lives – and the lives of many others – have been changed by their experiences.
As well as being good reading for anyone setting off on their travels, some of these “Upbeat and offbeat yarns” would make great school assembly material… And another good reason for getting hold of the book is that all Profits are shared between War Child Australia, Rotary Polio Plus programme, Save the Children Fund, the Hill Tribe Children’s Village at Mai Suai in Thailand, and “Friends” restaurant in Phnom Penh, which trains street children for hospitality work. Read here for how to order the book…
One young contributor, Justin, who introduces himself as a 17-year-old “indigenous Australian… of the Kamilaroi nation” describes how and why he helped to set up the Croc Festival in Moree, New South Wales for 8-18 year olds. His Trailblazer article ends with these words:
“I challenge you as the reader of this book, regardless of your age, race or gender to get out there, find something you would like to see changed and DO IT!”