I used to think wallabies were merely cute. I’ve learned to fear their cunning.
One afternoon last year, my wife was sitting on the beach at the pristine Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, an island 150 miles off the southeastern tip of Australia, looking past the granite cliffs that surround Wineglass Bay and toward the Tasman Sea. I asked her to hold still so I could take pictures of her to send to our family. As she smiled and posed, over her shoulder I saw a wallaby—essentially a spaniel-size kangaroo—making its approach. It crept rather than hopped across the sand, its big doe-ish eyes and little T. rex–ish paws directed toward the lunch bag by her side. I faced a dilemma straight out of an Ethics of Journalism course: Do I let the story unfold, and keep the camera going? Or do I recognize the higher duty to intervene? When the wallaby got within one last step of making its grab, I decided the time had come to yell “Hey, get out of here!” The wallaby stared at me long enough to let me know it was not intimidated. Then, after a hard glance at my wife, it hopped 50 feet away—and started creeping toward us again.
I judge travel by the density of the memories it creates. The more distinctly I can recall the days, even the specific hours, of a journey, the more satisfied I am to have gone—even when, within reason, the memories are unpleasant or just bizarre, as with that wallaby. By the standard of sheer unforgettability, the five days my wife and I spent in Tasmania were as rewarding as any trip we have ever made—and fortunately, the recollections are mainly pleasant. A year later, I can clearly think of a dozen different chapters, among the vivid ones these: