Finding Yourself. That’s the phrase isn’t it? To justify travelling around, perhaps not living everyone else’s idea of life. Taking off into the sunset with a backpack and literally chasing your dreams. Seems like a pretty picture but those friends and loved-ones aren’t making that decision lightly. It takes a lot of courage to be able to purchase a plane ticket and go travelling somewhere. The first time I did that, I planned out the important details- a flight to and from Sydney in Australia and that was about it. I was younger and wanted to throw caution to the wind, so I did. I learned a lot about myself, travelling solo for 6 weeks up the gold coast of Eastern Australia.
It wasn’t until the airplane was making it descent into Sydney that the sheer panic of what was ahead of me set in. The woman next to me must have sensed something because she started making small chit chat with me. After finding out I was going to be staying in hostels, but didn’t currently have one booked, she suggested we share a taxi as there was a reputable hostel, YHA, in her neighbourhood. How could I say no to this obvious sign sent from the universe letting me know that all would be fine. Staying at hostels are beneficial for travellers because there is a plethora of information available for local or popular backpacking routes. This is how I found out about the “Hop On Hop Off” bus ticket I could get from Greyhound and use the same ticket to travel up the coast.
My first stop was Byron Bay, in New South Wales. A little surf town that has a lot of bars. I ended up staying 2 weeks and then was forced to move on due to timing issues. I found other solo backpackers and forged a few friendships. One of the downsides, but totally a right of passage of hosteling on a budget, is shared rooms. In Byron Bay, I was sleeping in a room with up to 8 other people depending on the day, a mix of ladies and gentlemen. There was one particular girl I met whom I will never forget, lets call her Deedee. She was from Scotland and also travelling alone she was also a bit older than I. It was through her that I learned the kind of traveller I did not want to be. She wasn’t a very nice person but the experience made me learn that it is important to set boundaries and not just because you’re alone you need to friend everyone you meet. Some people are just not for you.
The first few days there we made some plans to hike to Cape Byron Lighthouse, the most easterly point in Australia, together since it was ‘one of those things to do’ while in Byron Bay. As we learned there are two ways to reach there: either the scenic route which is by the beaches, through the sand and different paths or the road that people can also use to drive up. It was quite late in the afternoon when we started and of course we took the scenic route. No regrets! Beautiful little beaches and views of the ocean while getting a bit of exercise.
We got to marvel at the view at the top and then realized the sun was setting so we should hurry back down toward the hostel via the road. Well. It got dark and we weren’t sure when we got to a fork in the road. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but being in a place you don’t know well, in the dark, I’ll admit I was scared. She was suggesting we go on the right, but as my memory served the right was towards the ocean, in fact in the distance, I could faintly hear it rolling and weaving. I suggested left because it made sense but she overrode me. I had doubts but I chose to follow her. Well, turns out I was right! We ended up very close to the beach and nowhere near where we had to be. So, we had to double back and still make the very long walk back to the hostel. That is one lesson I’ve learned when finding myself. Speak up! I knew what I needed to do but being in an unfamiliar place made me lose my confidence.
Because I had spent a large chunk of my time in one place, I had to speed up my trip travelling north towards Cairns in Queensland. At the end of my trip I had a flight booked from Cairns back to Sydney and then back home to Canada. This portion of the trip was mine to find out about some DON’Ts of travelling. Some overnight bus rides to the next destination had me FREEZING on the bus. Australia being below the equator, the seasons were reversed for me: it was my summer time but their winter time. Needless to say, I had packed entirely for summer. I spent one night in Frazer Beach and almost froze to death, yes, I am being dramatic, but once again feeling the consequences of the decision not to pack warmer clothes for the event of. Finding yourself isn’t all rainbows and kitty cats but sometimes being pushed past your threshold of comfort and watching yourself handle it and knowing you could do it all along. I was also running out of money so being resourceful was asked of me as well. I had to make a decision to buy these amazing blue suede shoes or food so I could eat. Thankfully, I chose food.
I had a few days before I was to leave Australia . I was in Cairns and having problems obtaining money from my account and had to sort out through an international call at an odd time of day. I had been out walking and happened upon some sort of market. I looked through it but not having access to funds, I could only browse. I sat down at a table to soak it all in. I had a paperback novel I was reading when a middle-aged indigenous lady sat down across from me. She asked me a few questions about myself. I felt compelled to answer her soft-spoken queries. We fell into silence and then,
“Would it be ok if I bought you lunch?” She asked me. I was so grateful as I actually hadn’t eaten yet. She left for awhile and came back with a coca cola in a glass bottle and a falafel and beet sandwich. I will never forget that meal. It was one of the tastiest sandwiches I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. We ate together in silence, just enjoying the hustle and bustle going on all around. I thanked her and gave her a hug and then she disappeared into the crowd. A simple act of kindness had made my day. Finding yourself doesn’t always have to be dramatic. That woman’s kindness has stayed with me all this time.
There have been more trips since Australia, more experiences and more finding myself moments. Each time I have learned things that have made me into the person I am today. I fully advocate for everyone to have experiences like this. I don’t mean travelling across the globe to Australia, but putting yourself outside your comfort zone to achieve amazing things or create wonderful memories . It is in those things that are uncomfortable that pushes us closer to our dreams and being who we are meant to be.