Back from Australia – Memories and Lessons Learned

What a great trip! I got to see Sydney, the remoteness of the Blue Mountains, strengthened existing and created new friendships and business relationships, played golf on one of the world’s great courses, and expanded my speaking/presenting resume to include “international speaker.”

Here are some of the things I learned:

PEOPLE IN SYDNEY ARE: (I’m generalizing based on my observations from only 8 days there, so take this into consideration.)
-Friendly. They like America and Americans, and seem ready and willing to help visitors. Great people!
-Fit. Overweight people are rare in Sydney. Everywhere you look, people are running or biking. Sports and fitness are big here.
-Non-smokers. Goes hand in hand with fitness – I saw very few folks smoking.
-Prosperous. OK, I’m sure not everyone here is doing well, and I stayed mostly in the city. Likely the suburbs and rural areas are different. But I also heard from locals that the worldwide economic downturn has had relatively little impact in Australia. The standard of living – best I can tell – is identical to the USA.
-Tech savvy. PCs, MACs, iPads, smart phones, iPods, all the rest … everywhere you look.
-Proud of their country. For instance, numerous locals pointed out to me that Australia is roughly the same size as the continental US. (Just under 3 million square miles for AUS, and just over 3 million square miles for the US – I looked it up.) They are justifiably proud of their heritage, their culture and their accomplishments. (We Americans should be proud of the fact that Australia is a staunch ally of ours. I’m writing this post the day after the USA’s Veterans Day and am reminded that Aussies have fought, bled and died alongside Americans in wars all over the world.)
Free. “It’s a free country.” I’ve heard that saying hundreds of times over the years in the USA and was surprised to hear it (In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised) to hear it in Australia.
-Self-reliant. Hey, when your country gets its start as a prison colony and is an island in the middle of the ocean, what else can you expect?

A word about Australian coffee: I’m a coffee lover and when a bunch of my Aussie Great Game of Business colleagues came to the USA in May 2011 they told me, “Mate, American coffee is crap! Come to Australia for some real coffee!” So I did. They were right. My new favorite is Aussie “Flat White.” It’s like cappuccino without much foam. Order a “Long Black” and you’ll get American-style coffee but it will almost always be made to order, by the cup – not sitting for hours getting stale on a hot plate.

Aussie Q&A:
Do Australians say “Bonzer”? Nope – apparently only in the movies.
Do they call each other “mate”? Yep, all the time. But just the men.
Do Aussies wear leather hats and carry big knives, like Crocodile Dundee? Not in Sydney.  Maybe in the Outback.
What about money? Australia uses dollars and cents, just like the US. When I was there in Oct. 2011, the exchange rate was about 1:1.

Trivia: Australia is the flattest and dryest continent in the world, according to Wikipedia.

TRAVEL

  • A 12+ hour flight in coach/Economy is brutal. Even upgrading to United Airlines’ Economy Plus doesn’t cut it. The seats don’t recline much so you’re basically trying to sleep sitting up. Go for Business or First Class.
  • Use http://www.seatguru.com/ to determine which seats on your plane are good or bad, then choose a seat based on their ratings.
  • United’s 747s do not have electrical outlets in Economy. I assume all 747s are the same regardless of airline. If you want to use electronics on board, charge it up good before you leave.
  • Going through Customs is not a big deal. Read all the rules and follow them and you’ll be OK.
  • My electrical converter to allow use of USA devices in Australia went out my first day there, and despite trips to numerous stores I was unable to find another. I got by, but don’t assume you’ll find stuff like that when travelling – take a spare.
  • Depending on where you’re going, what cell phone you use and what cell carrier you have – you may or may not be able to use your own phone overseas. If so, order an international plan for the time you’ll be gone. If not, go to http://www.cellularabroad.com/ and for not much money, they’ll ship a phone to you at home before you leave. Do all this early and be prepared.
  • For the credit cards you plan to use overseas, contact those card companies in advance and give them the dates you’ll be there. They’ll approve use in the destination country. If you don’t, there’s a good chance your purchases there won’t be approved. Leave unneeded credit cards at home.
  • If you’ll use Skype to visit with foks back home during your trip, get yourself and them set up before you go, so all the Skype addresses are in place and you’re ready.
  • Take a 4GB or bigger memory stick so you can pull all your photos off your phone and camera. You don’t want to fill them up and be unable to take more photos.
  • If you need access to computer files back home, get an account with http://www.dropbox.com/, http://www.sugarsync.com/ or another similar cloud storage provider. Upload the files you’ll need before you leave and you’ll be able to get them from overseas.

Day 7 in Australia – GOLF! Fri. Oct. 21

My Aussie friend & business colleague Paul Lawrence from Sydney and I had planned to play, and I left it up to him to pick the course and make the arrangements. But I didn’t know we’d be playing one of the top courses in Australia – New South Wales Golf Club, right on the Pacific Ocean! It occupies the northern headland of Botany Bay (which Captain Cook originally named “Stingray Harbour.”)
www.nswgolfclub.com.au

His friend Dean is a member, so he got us on the course and played the first 2 holes with us and then left. (Thanks, Dean!) We didn’t get to play all 18 as several holes are under major rework. Paul suspects NSW is getting ready to host a major next year – maybe the Australian Open. The 2009 Australian Open was played there, won by Adam Scott.

Hole #1 is a short par 4, 244 meters. (About 266 yards.) We had to hit over some tall rough to get to the fairway. Paul brought a set of Callaways for me to use and advised a 5 iron for a safe shot, so that’s what I did. All 3 of us hit safely to the landing area. I pitched onto the green and got down in 2 to par my first hole on NSW! This was a relief and set the tone for some decent golf, despite being intimidated by being on a pro-level course and using unfamiliar equipment.

In all, we played 11 holes and avoided the construction areas. This was fine with me – I wasn’t concerned about playing all 18 and was there mainly for the experience.

Here are the holes we played and my scores:

Hole #     Par     My Strokes
1               4               4
3               4               5
5               5               5
6               3               5  * See note below
7               4               4
13             4               4
15             4               6
16             4               4
17             3               3
18             5               5
19             3               3  Temporary Hole during construction
Total:     43            48  for 11 holes

* Hole #6 is NSW’s signature hole – par 3 and an over-the-ocean carry. I sissied out and played for a safe landing area, as the green was small and right by the cliff. Paul hit the green and parred it. If I go back I’ll try better on this hole next time.
1 bogey, 2 double bogeys and 8 pars – I was very happy with this score. What a golf experience!

We each had a couple of beers in the club house. I tried a Victoria Bitter and a Resch’s. Both great but I liked the Resch’s better. I bought a few souvenirs in the pro shop and then off to lunch.

We took lunch to Paul’s family who was enjoying the surf at a nearby beach. After meeting his wife and two of his three kids who were there, we headed to Paul’s office so I could see his Great Game scoreboards.

I had met Wendy from his office when they were both in the US for the Great Game conference in May 2011, so I got to visit with her again. She and I walked down the street to get coffees for a few folks in the office and I got to meet some of Paul’s colleagues.

Paul was nice enough to help me find and take me to a “Supercheap Auto” store to find some Aussie souvenirs for my son-in-law Tony who is a racing nut and who I noticed was watching Aussie racing on TV recently. We stopped for a couple of his errands and then back to his house so he could show me his miniature golf course on the roof of his 2 story house! Yep – it’s a flat roof and he has the cups built into the roof surface and the roof is covered with SmartGrass artificial turf! Incredible!

Although I was happy to take the rail back to my hotel, Paul and Louise insisted I stay for dinner. (I bet Louise thought she had seen the last of me at the beach.) We had a delicious dinner and the kids were great.

Getting to see their house and spending time with them, I was amazed at how much like America things are in Australia. Same concerns, family life, home styles – I really felt at home.

Thanks a million to Paul for a great day of golf, and thanks to his family for opening their home to me and making me feel welcome.