I just finished Bill Bryson's "Down Under" published in the US as "In a Sunburned Country."
I'm not really in the mood to write a whole review, but I will say this - it was hilarious. Of the Bryson books I've read so far, this is by far my favorite. I think it's the combination of Australia actually *being* an interesting destination, and Bryson doing considerably more drinking this go 'round. So the moral of the story is, go to Australia, drink a lot, and try not to be killed by any of the many many poisonous plants / animals / rocks / weather that call the continent home.
In other news, after much brainstorming and vacillating, I'm settling into an idea for my return to the US. My contract ends at the end of September. My general plan is to spend October traveling through Laos and Vietnam, and once more through Thailand. There's nothing specific I'm dying to see in either Laos or Vietnam, but it's unlikely that I'll swing through this region again or make a trip here specifically to see them... so it will be good to visit them while it's so convenient. I plan to return to the US in mid-November, most likely flying into SF to spend some time with J. again (basically reversing my steps to come out here). From SF I'm thinking of taking the train to Oregon, stopping in Salem and Eugene to visit some friends around Thanksgiving. This plan puts me back in Portland by December 1.
The glaring disadvantage of this plan is that it puts me back in the Northwest in the height of the cold wet and yucky season... and keeps me away from my beloved corduroy pants & wool winter coat (which are stored in Portland) for a good two or three weeks. Gah!
Oh yeah... and the other little thing.... that whole recession / unemployment extravaganza that's going around... not too thrilled with that.
But the advantage is that I'll be back in the States in time to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I'm not going to lie to you - the thought of missing another year's worth of stuffing and gravy weighed heavily in this decision making process!
Yeah, it's all still a few months out... but I'm definitely feeling like I'm in the home stretch here.