As expected, the bus was full of excited backpackers. Just like my amused findings in supermarkets, I enjoyed hearing the scattered lingo from the English and Irish travellers.
“Erin, let’s hop off - I could really go for a lolly”. – L
…I thought she meant a lollipop.
This ice cream was more interesting back then (sigh, how belated are these posts!). Magnum ice cream was launched last year in Canada – but it was new to me then! Even more interesting, is that Breyers is called Streets in Australia (and, as I later discovered, Walls in London and Langnese in Germany)
We hopped on and off for awhile, had a couple of pit stops (Although I’m really glad they still labelled them - Mangoes is definitely up for interpretation).
Townsville was a wonderful change from Cairns. I didn't care for the crazy-backpacker-ridden town, and the locals were tired of travellers. Townsville was friendly, the locals were open, and I was in good company. L & I walked around in the burning heat (searing, really), stopping for dinner at a Thai place on Flinders. I was ecstatic to finally try the Yabby that C & D from Melbourne told me about. Deee-lish!
The Queensland coast was riddled with warnings – it was such a tease! Beautiful blue waters, but deadly jellyfish! Beautiful sunny day, but the UV is going to get ya (actually, this one is no joke – I later learned in Airlie Beach just how bad the sun can get…). Endless highways and adventures – but Ivan Milat stories were not very encouraging. After exploring the coast, seeing plenty of pokey-beaked birds, and a minor freak-out that involved L pounding on the locked station door for our backpacks (so awkward), we hopped on the ferry and headed to Magnetic Island. Locals were extremely friendly and offered us a ride to the bungalow and koala ridden hostel. It was definitely different after Couchsurfing for the past few weeks. Especially since breakfast came with guava champagne (definitely not a backpacker’s breakfast) and honeycomb.
I was really glad to get a chance to explore the island by foot – I was craving the outdoors after weeks of city-exploring. I loved the ocean (the reef is one of the most amazing things I ever saw…), but there’s something so satisfying from spending a whole day exploring the outdoors. And this was just a little taste!
At the hostel, I was happy to see J again - we met at Cape Tribulation and this was the first of many encounters of backpackers down the East coast. We made plans to go to Airlie Beach next, as Lena was racing down to Brisbane to go back to London, and I was finding it more and more easy to meet people...but enjoyed the freedom of travelling on my own to satisfy my introverted needs.
I also love how the term 'backpacker' is not limited to the young-twenties. A 50 year old woman was recently inspired to step outside of her country, and had the most infectious excitement. I was particularly touched whenever I ran into a 75 year old Austrian woman, who was travelling around Australia and New Zealand on her own. When her husband passed, her children surprised her with funds and a plane ticket to travel - even more amazing, she didn't speak a lick of English. The plethora of Germans in Australia helped her when she needed translating, and I was tickled and surprised when she gave her a big grin and wave weeks later, on Whitehaven beach.
As I put on my heels, switch on my laptop, and think about my career...I find myself settling more and more into a routine. The days of roaming an unknown continent and jumping out of airplanes seem so far away, as I begin to think about real estate, retirement savings, and other grown-up issues. Constant questions have gone from How much more training do I need to run a half marathon? Am I brave enough to hitchhike and disappear into the forest for 4 days? to Is this right for my career? Can I afford that big of a mortgage? Will this be enough for the client? I am not sure if I like this change.
I realize that I'm immensely lucky to have a job that lets me travel as much as I do. I have no ties, no obligations, no giant issues that force me to stay put so it's even easier for me to spontaneously pick up and go. But what I crave is uninhibited exploration of the world and what I lack is patience.
As I work on my career and try build some stability, sometimes I catch myself feeling afraid that I'm letting time slip away too fast. Time that I could be using to explore the world. What good is an owned home and a successful career, if I always dream of pilgrammages in Japan, exploring the jungles of Cambodia, or climbing mountains in Chile? Will I wake up one day with immense regret that I didn't drop it all to really live? I can always travel when I'm older, as the wonderful ladies proved, but why wait?
You need to build equity. You want to retire comfortably. You should get married and have children. You need stability. I can hear those words ringing in my ear from well-meaning adults. But how about You need to understand what will truly make you happy.
Easier said than done.