In June 2008 ABC Radio host Jon Faine and his son, Jack, left their jobs, studies, family and friends, took six months and fulfilled a long-held dream to drive overland from Melbourne to London. From Here to There is their intelligent and funny account of a father and son odyssey: 39,321 kilometres in their 4x4 across twenty countries, including some of the least-visited places on Earth. From their front gate in inner-city Melbourne to Piccadilly Circus, they drove as much of the overland route as can be driven - only Darwin to Dili was by ship.
Together they island-hopped through Indonesia into Southeast Asia, across China and into the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in a snowstorm. They negotiated the Silk Road through Kashgar, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, wove around the shores of the Caspian Sea and headed into Europe through Turkey. They learned to say thank you in thirty languages, ate bark and ox blood and dog and worms and pig's ears and eel and curries so hot they nearly fell off their chairs. They bribed police in five countries, ignored parking tickets in another six and got lost pretty much everywhere.
Jon says, 'So many of us wish we could take time out, but not often do we take the plunge. And could you survive six months travelling with your offspring? Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, eating, sleeping, arguing and laughing?'
Walking away from a daily radio show breaks all the rules of working in the media, but Jon did just that and survived not only the dangers on the road but the career risk as well. 'Somehow, I convinced myself it was a good idea. Somehow, I convinced myself it was do-able. It was total folly and it was the best thing you can ever do. I wouldn't do it again but I would recommend it to anyone. Travel with your kids is the best thing you can do together. The return on that risky investment is incalculable.'
After seven years as a lawyer, Jon Faine joined the ABC in 1989 and has been the Morning host on 774 ABC Melbourne since 1997. Known for his provocative and probing debate, quick wit and willingness to ask the stickiest of questions, he consistently delivers thought-provoking commentary on important social issues.
Jack Faine is an Arts student at the University of Melbourne. Known for his capacity to put his father in his place, he has written several chapters of the book and took most of the photos.
From Here to There
Authors: Jon and Jack Faine
Question: What originally inspired you to take the journey from Melbourne to London?
Jon Faine: The original inspiration was when I was a backpacker, pretty much at the same age as Jack was when we went on our trip and I was in London sleeping on the floor of someone's place and doing all the things you do, including taking a year off University; and I really clearly remember walking down one of those windy streets with all of the three storey walkup apartments and there was a Land Rover parked on the side of the road, amongst all of the gritty English cars. The Land Rover had Australian number plates on it. I remember starring at it, looking at this battered thing with jerry cans on the roof and thinking 'wow somebody drove here; I'm going to do that one day'.
Question: What did you and your son squabble over most, whilst on this journey?
Jon Faine: (Laughing) hygiene, putting his feet on the dashboard. We didn't argue that much about music, I in fact found all of his music quite manageable and he even started listening to some of mine. He had developed an uncanny capacity for leaving behind a sock, or a hanky or a t-shirt were we stayed; you'd pack everything up and just before you'd leave the room you'd do a last minute sweep and there was always, always something that Jack had left. It drove me nuts, I would always ask "why can't you check, why does it always have to be me?"
Question: What do you think he would say that annoyed him about you, whilst on the journey?
Jon Faine: Probably that I was pretty stressed and he would always say "chill!"
Question: You travelled through twenty countries, what was your favourite place?
Jon Faine: Lots of them, it is really unfair to single anyone out, but I loved Turkey. First of all Turkey was the next country after Iran and Iran was pretty harsh and Turkey was like oh wow! People were having fun and laughing and the food was better. Turkey was much more relaxed but I also really loved the little islands in Indonesia where hardly any tourists go; they were eye openers because you fly over them from Australia, all the time but hardly anyone goes there.
Question: What advice do you have for other families who want to travel together?
Jon Faine: Don't for a minute think that it's going to go the way you plan it. Go with the flow and for someone like me who is a bit of a control freak that was a really hard thing to learn, but you are utterly powerless.
The next thing is never argue with the man with the machine gun.
Question: Can you share with us your fondest memory from the trip?
Jon Faine: Wow! One thing? I think the best thing was seeing my wife at the end, after six months. It makes the hair on my neck stand up, to talk about it; I know it's really corny but I wonder what I was thinking when I thought six months apart would be okay, that was really dumb. I loved doing the trip, I really got a buzz out of doing it with Jack but seeing my wife after that long apart and being together again was just magic.