I’ve been in this foreign yet familiar land for about six weeks now, and I have some musings to share on the experience of backpacking solo along the East Coast, as well as some quirks about Australia.
OK, so that’s underselling it a bit. Australia is practically a continent by it’s lonesome, so places are far apart. How far apart? Well it takes overnight busses to barely make a dent in the coastal journey up the East side – we’re talking ten hours sat in a coach that any DJ Thomas bus driver wouldn’t be caught dead in (shout out to Neath people for that one).
So stuck in a air conditioned box for ten hours through the night doesn’t sound too bad? Well they stop every four hours to remind you not to sleep and to remind you that yes, your legs do have to work.
There’s something very surreal about a 1am stop at a random part of Australia. All around is absolute night, no civilisation beyond the harsh fluorescent lighting of the truck stop you’re at.
Inside is the haggard souls of other travellers, everyone in a strange mood or haze, simultaneously unwilling to move and impatient to just get this fucking trek done.
Music like this springs to mind:
It also helps massively when trying to sleep on the damn things – which is almost impossible.
However, it must be said, despite the distance and despite the fact it’s a bus, it managed to be on time, every single time. Now that’s impressive.
You meet people
Seems pretty obvious, but you do meet a lot of people. Somehow, the combination of constantly moving from place to place to crash in 8 man dorms all the time brings people together.
Even socially awkward geeks such as myself.
Now I don’t know if I lucked out but 99% of folk I met on the East Coast were pretty interesting and decent people (and I’m not just saying that in case they happen to read this). Everyone had a tale, everyone was either moving north or south, and most were willing to engage in more than one word conversations.
Some I’d say I could quite easily be friends with in more secure surroundings.
And there were some good laughs on the way up. And despite the ability for people to stay in touch more than ever, there’s a sense of loss when they move on, or you do, and people had a decent connection over a 24 hour period.
Shit is expensive
HOLY FUCK is it expensive. Alcohol is the prime example, costing about 3 times as much here in a bottle shop than it does in some fucked up Bargain Booze back home.
Food isn’t too bad, with some places (like Dominos, weirdly) Being filthy cheap – a full ten inch pizza can cost the equivalent of a few quid here.
But the most expensive shit is definitely the thing most backpackers, students or anyone under the age of thirty is after.
However this can be mitigated by a simple solution – GOON. This nasty stuff:
Goon is box wine that is nasty, foul, about 11% and is unbelievably cheap. We’re talking a fiver for over a gallon of this shit. Did I mention is disgusting?
Yet, after four or five glasses of the stuff the taste grows on you. So does the stain on your shirt from spilling it everywhere and so does the sensation of not being upright for very long.
But yeah, long story short – trying to buy anything in Australia is going to cost a significant amount of money.
Travelling alone has some downsides
This is definitely something of a mixed blessing. One the one hand, you have absolute liberation and freedom to do what you want without diplomacy or argument getting in the way.
On the other, you are alone. That’s something that can occasionally hit your nerves, and remind you of what you walked away from.
In my case I had the occasional doubt and nervous twitch. Sometimes you’ve got it suck it up though, and head on out, because it isn’t going to go away any time soon.
Luckily, and as I said above, you meet people on the road and don’t feel that gut feeling so much. But now and then, there’s a twitch that reminds you, you are very far away from the friends and family you once had on the other side of the world.
And while that sounds awful, it does force your hand to get involved. And when you’re a semi reclusive geek from South Wales, having a boot up your arse in this regard is very handy.
having said that…
People come…and People Go…
One of the most curious sensations I’ve felt is absence, not of what I had back at home, but of what I kept stumbling into on my way up the coast.
Friendships and acquaintances that blossom and bloom disappear as soon as they’re formed. Moments in time are created in an instant in some random act of kindness or stupidity. Laughs are shared between people on a foreign shore under an alien sky, half a world away from our starting points.
Sometimes its more than that, and for an instant, even if its fleeting, you are no longer alone.
And the next day, you part ways, unsure of the next time your paths cross.
And that’s the hardest thing I’m struggling with. For a long time I have struggled with putting myself out there, afraid of being disliked, afraid of what many would think of me.
Overcoming that fear to make friends with people who I may never see again is a concern, one that isn’t visible on the surface, but a concern I feel deeply. There’s been plenty of people over the years I let slip away, either due to my neglect, or due to changing circumstances.
To know there are brilliant people you can meet at a moment’s notice, only to vanish into the ether…well it’s quite a unique feeling that.
But it’s been good, those moments. Minor or fleeting though they are, they were good moments in time. And ultimately, we’re on this Earth for a limited period.
Living for those moments is what we as people are doing, or trying to do. And despite that feeling of immediate loss when the roads part ways, at least I know that the moments were something to remember.
And who knows? Maybe the roads will meet up again, in some distant place and time, with more stories to tell and share.