Georgina Carr’s novel Upside Down reads like a diary – an intimate collection of her thoughts, feelings, and experiences as she seeks (and finds) adventure throughout Australia. In her humorous and informal style, Georgina offers an inspiring story about daring to leave behind a monotonous desk job and start anew in completely unfamiliar, exciting, sometimes dangerous surroundings.
The novel traces her journey, from working as a secretary in a stockyard ruled by turf wars, to swimming in crocodile-infested waters, to volunteering through WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on an isolated banana farm, and her
attendant anxieties about her often perilous surroundings. Georgina eventually gets accustomed to the indestructible cockroaches, territorial magpies, poisonous snakes, and prowling crocodiles down under and, through conquering her fears, gains a life-changing appreciation of the beauty and freedom of the Australian landscape.
Georgina starts in Sydney, working as a secretary and waitress. Her open and cheerful personality allows her to easily make friends and travel companions and to quickly move beyond playing the part of mere tourist. Georgina learns to dive, conquering her fear of water snakes and the fact that she almost passes out her first few tries underwater.
Perhaps her most characteristic observations revolve around her near-constant awareness of the strange, often dangerous, creatures that surround her. In a passage entitled “Harry the Huntsman,” she comes to terms with the presence of huntsman spiders, which she describes as “the size of your hand, with big fat black hairy bodies.” While staying on an organic banana farm, Georgina sees the same giant spider in the same corner of her bedroom night after night. Forced to cohabitate with it, she feels compelled to befriend the spider, naming it Harry and engaging it in nightly talks. Though Georgina laughs at herself for these “conversations,” she finds her ability to accept this spider cures her of any residual arachnophobia. By the end of her stay, she’s jumping into lake along with the locals, unconcerned about the signs warning of crocodiles.
Those reading her relatable stories will surely be inspired to at least wonder what would await them if they, too, quit their job, sold their house, and flew halfway around the world to seek adventure as solo travelers.
Upside Down, Georgina Carr, Vanguard, 2009.