My Aunt Betty was born at approximately 6:17am on July 21st, 1969 in Woomera, South Australia. According to our family the moon landing was only the second most remarkable thing to happen that day.
They say growing up in a small town creates a yearning to see the world, and my Aunt Betty got it bad. Even from a young age, Grandpa says you’d more likely see her with her nose in an atlas than a picture book, so my family always knew she was destined for adventure. More at home with a backpack and a bus ticket, it wasn’t long after Aunty had finished school that she set off on her first big journey, university.
Studying archaeology and ancient history, Aunt Betty was soon topping her classes, but always stayed grounded and eager to help anyone who needed it. After graduating she turned down job offers from several universities and museums. Instead she chose to head off into the great unknown and see the world she’d always read about.
The first stop on her travels was to China, and while we’ve always asked Aunty what she was doing there, she cannot confirm or deny her being in Beijing as of April 1989. Although remains tight lipped to this day, she has hinted many times to have been hanging around a particular square during that month. For some reason Aunt says she had to ‘skedaddle’ out of China pretty quick. She mentioned a man carrying shopping bags buying her a train ticket as thanks for helping him out of a sticky situation. Aunt hopped on the Trans-Siberian Railway the next morning, and after trading lunches and a few language lessons with a stocky Mongolian woman, they soon became fast friends. Aunt Betty still sends us little hand-carved wooden horses every time she goes to visit her old friend in Ulaanbaatar.
Pulling into a snow covered Moscow station, it wasn't long before Aunt Betty found herself on another adventure. After helping a family push their car out of the snow, she was soon invited to join them for dinner. Before you could say ‘Na Zdorovie!’ the homemade vodka was being passed around.It must have been one hell of a night, because Aunt says she woke up the next morning on a rooftop in East Berlin. Luckily for her the wall came down three days later, and while Aunty insists she played no role in the fall, our whole family suspects she had some hand in it.
After a week of celebrations in Berlin, Aunt Betty found herself a little short on spending money, and soon had to find some work. She went south to Yugoslavia and found a job in a hospital helping children injured by the war. The job didn’t pay much but she says the best part was “becoming Aunt to a whole lot of other kids.” As the region became more peaceful and the fighting ceased, she felt that old familiar call to continue her travels. The captain of a local transporter ship offered her a crew-hand position on his next journey to Mumbai, Aunt of course happily accepted.
3 weeks at sea saw Aunt Betty arrive safely in Mumbai Port Trust, and after downing one last bowl of Goulash she set off once again, this time hitch hiking across India. With the help of 47 trucks, 65 scooters, 92 cars and an elephant, Aunt Betty made her way coast-to-coast. She taught English at schools in return for meals and often slept under the stars. While she learnt much in her travels, she always tells us this was the time she learnt about herself.
Aunt Betty returned to Australia in 1995, but her time here was short lived. She made sure to pop by and give us all a big hug but soon set off on another adventure. Travelling to Hong Kong without a single flight is no easy task, but for Aunt Betty, it was no trouble traversing jungle nations and remote islands, hoping from boat to bus all the way.
In 1998 something happened, that we never counted on... Aunt Betty got married! He was a Brazilian named Gilberto and was an avid traveller as well. The ceremony was in Reno and it was officiated by an Elvis impersonator. We couldn’t make it out there in time, but of course she made sure we got a nice photo to put on the fridge. Sadly, Gilberto was killed when struck by lightning only a few months later. Aunt Betty said he was the love of her life and that she would not marry again.
Aunt Betty’s adventures didn't stop there, and while she still has a few places to tick off her list, she started to settle down a bit. Now she enjoys telling us all her stories, and helping us explore the world the same way she did. Everyone we know goes to Aunt Betty for advice, she always knows just the right place to visit. The thing people love about Aunt Betty is she treats everyone like family. She loves to make everyone happy, the same way she makes us happy.