Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. – Cesare Pavese
Consider me off balance. Living in Australia for the past month has already been a childhood dream come true – but with the accomplishment of dreams, a bit of a void appears. Like digging a hole in dry sand, my surroundings quickly begin filling this void with new goals but everything shifts around causing further imbalance. Don’t misunderstand: the excitement of it all is addictive and not to be feared. This isn’t a tight-rope on which a misstep is fatal. It’s more like the surfboard I recently learned to ride in Botany Bay: you place your feet and adjust accordingly to the wave beneath you. When you make a mistake, there’s a face full of water waiting for you, maybe some tumbling and a few dings and scratches, but you’re still alive and now you’ve got some stories to tell. And if you don’t misstep, you ride the wave and the excitement courses through you. Again, you’ve got a story.
These stories are traded like baseball cards over beers back at the hostel or the campsite. Strangers want to know where you’re from, where you’ve been, how long you’ve been traveling and how long you expect to keep on the trail before retiring home. These strangers really do become a pseudo-family: some you get along with and learn from, others you look forward to them moving on down the road. In Sydney, a fellow traveler and blogger, Andrew Ballantine, saw that I was under the weather and put an extra blanket over me while I slept. The next day, he made me a cup of soup because “I know how terrible it feels to be sick when you’re traveling.” A bit of kindness from a stranger like this is worth more than gold when you’re away from home.
Cesare Pavese nailed almost everything in this quote but I take issue with his inclusion of sleep – it’s not always yours to possess. Whether fellow travelers decide on a midnight jam session outside your window or a chest cough rears its ugly head anytime you are in anything but a standing position, sleep sometimes comes at a premium. You make up for it the next day when you nap on the beach or in the old botanical gardens of a city as I did in Brisbane. The key takeaway is: you figure it out. There are others who have done similar things and can tell you how to wash your laundry for free or how to eat cheaply. Take a chance and trust the strangers around you. Realize that mankind is mostly helpful and friendly. Be smart. And most of all, trust yourself to be able to handle the brutality of travel. If I can do it, so can you.
I hope you enjoy following my adventures. Leave a comment to say hello or ask a question – I look forward to hearing from you!