It’s cool to have backpacker friends. You can tell backpacker stories without boring anyone. You can have backpackers plans without sounding too much like a tourist. Yes we’re going to climb it, this mountain, and be the first to see the Sun in Australia. How cool will that be.
And you can say nasty things about the country you’re in without hurting anyone. But , no we did not find anything bad to say about Australia. My Japanese friend was even having Vegemite on toast for morning tea the other day.
But to feel good, The backpacker needs to blame the country for something. It’s like a birthright. Okay when it all goes wrong we can always blame the weather. That works really well in the UK. And this story about winter in summer is not right. We’re all expecting Christmas anytime soon. And guess what , pressies are months away. So not fair.
And then we talk about our backpacking experience in Australia. Well that’s when I stop talking. And smile. They were taking about the outback , about driving motorbike for miles ( sorry, kilometers) and the amazing things they had seen.
I’ve got to tell them the ugly truth. ‘’ I’ve stayed in a hostel once. For one night. When I landed. On 25th January. And in 6 months, I ‘ve traveled 37km. And a half. But I still have a backpack. I’m a backpacker!’’ To the answer ‘’why’’ they probably expected the answer ‘’ I wanted to extend my visa doing hard labor for 3 months ’’ ( yep you’re got to earn it mate) or ‘’ I have no money’’ or even worse ‘’ I am scared to travel by myself’’ I just told the truth ‘’ I just wanted to be with people’’. Lame.
And then I remembered that awesome trip I took to Armidale . 6hour 9minutes through New South Wales with my 26 year old car Chouchou. I was so proud of it! So what did you see in Armidale?’’ I looked at them , not understanding. ‘’ I saw… people of course! ‘’ I had snails in a French restaurant with friends I had met in England years ago. Beat that mate. Of course I remember what I see but I most remember whom I see it with.
‘’ I never stayed long enough anywhere to get attached to people’’ said John.
Backpackers are independent. I remember the feeling. I’ve done a round the world trip with this feeling in 2009. Japan, New Zealand , Australia, Fiji , Los Angeles. A month of frantic traveling from one capital city to another. From one hostel to another. And a sense of lack when you get home. Mmmmm what did I miss? I missed people. Yeah I even remember living a life of independence. ‘’ What? You want to do this for me? I a quite capable to do this by myself thank you’’ That’s how you end up coming back to a empty flat every night… and even like it.
A crazy French dude once said ‘’ Hell is other people’’. I see what he means. And if you have ever worked in hospitality you must know too!
‘’ Can you move our table in the Sun? I’m cold. Wait can we have half of it in the shade? She’s warm’’ ‘’ Can I have 2 of everything, in a separate box?’’
People are mean. They throw their frustration at you. They test you until you give in.They boss you around , insult you until you can’t take it.
‘’ People come to work here to be abused, it’s not MY fault’’ my boss Gary said one day. He is so awful with his staff that I decided to keep track of everything he says in a book ‘’ The evil Gary book’’. We even invented a Gary factor. We agreed to not talk to him when GF exceeds 4. And leave the premises when it reaches 6.People break your car, people call only on Fridays but forget about you the rest of the week, or they want to do everything for you because they must don’t YOU can do it. Hell IS other people.
So why did I miss the Great Barrier Reef for people then? Because they’re Heaven too Mate.
No I did not see much but I’ve learnt. From them. With them. I’ve learnt to put the exact right amount of vegemite on a toast to make it right , I've learnt to say Op Shop , Rego , Capsicum , Efpos machine ( like everyone else). I’ve learnt to block everything that Julia Gillard says and only focus on her hair cut (like everyone else) I’ve learnt to tolerate the embarrassing presence of Tony Abott (like everyone else), I’ve learnt the national anthem from a 6 year old Australian kid. I’ve learnt to say ‘’ G’day Mate’’ in an Aussie accent. And keep my French accent when it’s handy ( most of the time). I’ve learnt that the RTA is not good news and NRMA sucks , I've learnt to drink beer at 4am on Anzac Day. I’ve learnt how bad the war was from real soldiers. And how good it is to remember.
People give you , You know , that sense of belonging . When I returned to visit my first home 37 km away in Mount Burrell the other day, it was literally like going back Home to visit Mum and Dad. Because John and Sue ARE my Aussie mum and dad. They helped me to pick my car, we had morning tea together everyday for 3 months, they fed me when I had hard days at the other job and we even got drunk watching the Royal Wedding together. And when they invited their whole family for a birthday lunch , I was invited too.
And Evil Gary. He’s evil but how can you not love him when he says ‘’ you’ve got a job with me until you go. So you can pay your rent. Even if it’s scrubbing toilet you will work here and you will teach my son French’’ Thanks Gary. How delicate. I love him. He’s the most generous guy I’ve met. But don’t tell him that.
Even random people have something great for you if you look at it. Everyone has something to offer you. GUIDANCE. It could be a smile or a liquor from a customer when you feel down or sick ( bloody strong liquor by the way. Must have been French) It could be a random conversation with a stranger at the shop that reminds you of your life mission. Or your fitness buddy whom you barely know telling you to keep running because YOU can do it. And magically, you do it. It could be an artist friend who tells you he likes your blog and you want to keep going.
It’s one for all Mate. You take their crap they take yours.You grow together. Where would I be without people? I would probably have seen most of Austraaaalia. But hey, don’t we have all our life to do that?
For now , I’m enjoying every minute of this life , coming home to a noisy house ( I’m mostly responsible for the noise) , sharing my day with my 6 year old friend , my doubts and joys with my flatmate who undeniably became my best friend, sharing the gluten free lactose free dinner she made especially for me ( she rocks) And speak to our new cat. Blacky Noir Star.
And that Mate, is worth any Great Barrier Reef.