One of my best friends once described our lives as “a series of awkward events.”
On my own and so far away from home for the first time,
“she has no idea,” I thought.
“Are you sure this is normal? Australians really do this?” I asked my roommate as she pushed and I pulled an overflowing shopping cart over the curb into the busy intersection.
“Other people were doing it!” Anne attempted to assure us both as her eyes darted back and forth between traffic.
“It just feels so wrong” I added as we passed other red Coles trollies that had been abandoned on the side of the road leading away from Pac Fair, the shopping center down the street from our new apartment.
“Other people do it,” she motioned towards the abandoned carts.
I closed my eyes wanting to believe that this was normal as a grinning Australian nearly lunged out of the passenger window of a car to snap a picture, immortalizing our struggle. Just then the cart’s wheel slid off the sidewalk into the grass, causing Anne to grit her teeth and throw her hands in the air.
“Never again!” She declared.
Even stranger was seeing the shopping cart in our small apartment kitchenette. It clearly didn’t belong there, or in the lift as we tried to sneak it out of the building without concierge noticing. In the end we left it out by the street along with the others, to be used during the earliest hours of the morning by rowdy bar goers to transport their incapacitated mates through the streets of Broadbeach.
Awkward, embarrassing, clueless, confused, messy, terrifying and exhausting are all words my new friends and fellow travelers use on a daily basis when talking about things we’ve done since leaving The States. These words are always intensified and accompanied by a more colorful vocabulary any time we venture out of our newly established comfort zones, which we’ve built around Broadbeach on shaky foundations.
“Excuse me?” a disembodied voice accompanied by a knock on the shower stall seeps through the sound of the water. “Do you have any hot water in there?”
“Not at all!” I reply through chattering teeth as I look down at my one-dollar pair of flip-flops.
I wrap myself in an infinitely sandy beach towel and clutch it tightly. Walking down the cell block to room twenty something, I try to smile when a heavily bearded and bellied man winks at me with a “how ya going?”
I share a room with five strangers, who have all come more prepared for hostel life than I. In the corner one of the girls quickly changes, flashing us all, as a backpacker peeks in the oddly positioned barred window of the room.
Anyone can get a key to this room if they are willing to part with a ten-dollar deposit, no questions asked. The pool outside is a murky green and even sketchier than the key policy, but there is a nearly hidden path that leads to a beach In back of the hostel past the BBQ pit, the man buns and newly arrived backpackers who have yet to visit the showers.
At the end of this path I find the kind of Beach you find at Byron Bay. The kind with impossibly soft white sand and rolling waves that are as clear and green as a piece of a broken Peroni bottle that’s been aged by sea and sand. These are the kind of beaches that I’ve come to love east coast Australia for.
I find myself a solo audience member for what I think will be yet another perfect sunset. The air is balmy yet chilled and hangs in one place. There’s no telling how long this calm will last, as I’ve learned here that the weather often changes within a moment’s notice.
At that thought a bolt of lightning strikes over the ocean in the distance and the wind picks up blowing my hair into my face so that I can’t see the remaining sunset. I’m temporarily overcome with annoyance, which turns to a mild embarrassment as three Australian backpackers who’ve come to smoke their weed, appear at the mouth of the path. One of them has long blond hair, more natural than mine and perfectly waved. They’re quickly blown back out of view as a gust of wind nearly knocks me off my feet. I turn, straightening myself out one last time, before heading back up the path.
“So much for a perfect sunset,” I think to myself, sarcastically thanking the wind, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from these windy beaches, it’s that if the wind blows your hair one way, it will blow it the other. All you need to do is turn around.
This piece was originally written for my creative writing class and is a creative non-fiction piece. It’s a little different from what I usually post on my blog, but what I love about traveling the most are the stories that come from it. This, just like all my writing is a work in progress so I’d love to hear what you think about the piece!
Thanks so much for reading!
What are some awkward or embarrassing things that have happened to you while traveling?
and Thanks to Molly Gallagher for the photo taken at Currumbin!