Thankfulness for contact

Australians have become used to relatively simple and convenient overseas travel. Even before affordable long-distance air travel, many went to Europe and elsewhere by sea.

But it has not always been so and, for many, it is not so now. The most recent of my forbears to immigrate to Australia, for example, arrived in 1921 after a long, though comfortable, sea voyage. Other ancestors withstood much tougher nineteenth-century voyages by sail. None entertained the idea of ever seeing their homeland again. The journey was too far, too long, and too expensive. Letters took months. Later there were telegrams and telephones, but they were extraordinarily expensive. Emigration was for life.

Even today, many leave troubled or impoverished countries as migrants or refugees with little hope of a return visit to family or homeplace.

We forget how privileged many of us are. Today we have cheap video calls, email, air-mail and more to connect us with distant loved ones, colleagues and associates. Yes, it would be good for James and me to visit family in Korea (and in Queensland and Tasmania!). But the tyranny of distance is less than it was. Let’s be thankful.