We always said one of the most important parts of our trip was other people. Yes, we are pretty fond of each other, but we knew we wouldn’t cope without the company of others to shake things up a bit when we ran out of conversation…
I jest; we all know I’d never run out of conversation.
In travelling to the other side of the world, people have often been the thing that has shaped our experience of a place. It can sometimes feel quite vulnerable being away from home, with no family or friends nearby, without our own home (oh, how we miss our wood burner) and our own bed. When you meet people who are aware that you’re in that situation, we have found they so often go out of their way to welcome you into the place they call home, and in doing so it completely changes your perception of that place, since you experience things in a way that is a reflection of their life and their habits. We SO prefer experiencing places in this way (from a local’s viewpoint). We have recently been reviewed on Airbnb as an ‘inquisitive’ couple (!) but we are essentially just super keen to know how other people live and learn about what they know, and to embrace that for the short time we are with them.
Here are some people who have shaped our experience in the last few weeks in Oz and NZ (apologies for the lack of photos of all these awesome people. Sometimes it’s just too embarrassing to ask for a selfie. In an attempt to hold your interest, I have included some token photos of each area):
Rachael and Ben, Newcastle/Cairns: Our long-suffering hosts, who put up with us twice and with whom we enjoyed plenty of wine, chocolate and chats about rubbish disposal.
Ollie and Naomi, Townsville: Our dear friends from Barnstaple welcomed us to the place they currently call home, and lifted our spirits with deep chats and good food.
Eli, Cairns: A friendship that began with an offering of mushrooms in a shared kitchen, and a mistaken nationality (he thought I (Abi) was from Israel!). We had one of the deepest chats we have ever had with a stranger, and shared stories about life and faith in Jerusalem and England.
Jamie and Carla, Cairns: Our bunk buddies in the same hostel where we met Eli. Fellow Englishwomen who gave us all sorts of advice about our time in Sydney and possible ideas for the USA, if we end up going there.
Sara, Jan Juc: Our very first Airbnb host (and a British one at that!) who welcomed us at the end of our Great Ocean Road road trip with bubbly, a wood burner, pizza and a film night.
James and Carly, Melbourne: James and James were pals at school, but haven’t seen each other for about 10 years! We enjoyed $5 steaks (still debating whether or not that was a good choice) and wistful tales of travels with this lovely couple.
Bec, Sydney: Beautiful Bec embraced us (literally and metaphorically) as soon as she opened the door to welcome us. Her warmth and generosity overwhelmed us during our stay, from the chocolate left on our bed to her open minded conversation to her offers of lifts to her enthusiasm towards life in general. Bec made us feel at home in Sydney, and I genuinely feel that we warmed to the city so quickly because of the warmth she showed us when we arrived.
Leanne, Char, James and Bridget, Auckland and Waiheke Island: Our transition to New Zealand was difficult since we had become quite attached to Australia. Leanne (another example of someone appearing from the past and welcoming us to the place they call home) showed such kindness in letting us stay for such a long time, and driving us absolutely everywhere! We spent a beautiful, sunny day on Waiheke where we felt we were seeing and experiencing the NZ we had dreamed of, and a big part of this was the enthusiasm and kindness of Char in her passion for the island and in welcoming us into her home, the generosity of James in his tips about our travels, and the encouragement of Bridget in her conversation.
The opposite, of course, can also be true: we have stayed in hostels where people treat the shared kitchen like a pig sty and we’ve struggled to be patient with the lack of regard for others, we’ve tried to have conversations and been rejected (sad face), we’ve stayed at places where we just haven’t got much in common with people, and we’ve been to places where, due to circumstances, we’ve simply not met anyone. We have great memories, but often those that have stayed with us most strongly are where we have shared, in some small way, in other people’s lives.
It seemed a bit of a shame to leave this post on what might appear, to some, to be a negative note. I decided to stick with it. Travelling isn’t always easy and perfect, and as we know, if nothing else, I like to be honest 🙂
But just in case anyone was disappointed, here is Yoshi, the most beautiful dog in the world and yet another reason why staying with Bec in Sydney was an absolute delight. As you can see, I fell head over heels, but he remained pretty aloof…