Dan: the Fellow Brit in Aus
Australia: Brisbane & Sydney
I remember meeting Dan and feeling relief. My time in Brisbane so far had been pretty lonely and underwhelming having just left what was the best 3 months of my life in SE Asia, reality came crashing down around me pretty quickly. The plan was to find a job in Queensland, where the weather was still hot in the winter, then make my way to Sydney when the summer started. I did not last long. I hated Brisbane. To me, all I saw were casinos and fancy restaurants and dull suburbia nestled in the hilltops. So you could say it had dyed my mood a pretty sour colour.
I met Dan in one of the weirder ways…
“We met in a cockroach-infested dorm room. You were kind enough to let me tag along on your girl’s night out because I had no friends!”
Touché, Dan, because I had no friends then either! Up to that point, I was being a bit of a social recluse – still mentally in SE Asia and sad about having left. But Dan was really open, easygoing and friendly and we got along pretty much instantly. It was nice to have another Brit to relate to. I think Dan was living in Sydney at the time and was in Brisbane for some temporary work, so I think that actually sparked that curiosity in me that made me move there in the end.
And when I did eventually move there, Dan was kind enough to let me tag along on his guys’ night out!
“You came on a night out with me and my friends and we had an extremely sophisticated pre-drinks of downing cheap wine in a carpark, before going out to the bars. We were the typical classy backpackers!”
The last time I saw him we happened to both be on Bondi beach and we caught up in the late afternoon sun, watching the waves crash. I was due to leave Sydney a few days later, so we were talking about my post-Australia plans and his plans to stay. He was telling me about him getting a place with the people he’d met while doing farm work. Having seen his pictures (keep scrolling) and heard his gruelling stories, I had a lot of respect for Dan. He truly got his hands dirty and worked hard. I’d always heard of rogue stories on farms so I asked from the source himself!
“My first farm job was picking peppers, and for those who don’t know where peppers come from; they grow on a small bush low to the ground. So as you can imagine after picking peppers for 9-10 hours, in 35 degrees, as a 6ft3 guy the first day was a not a nice experience on my back. But aside from the pain, there was nothing too eventful really on my first day.“
But brace yourselves for this.
“The next day, after a few ibuprofen, I continued my career as a pepper picker. After a few hours of pain crawling through bushes, I felt something on my ear and tried brushing it away, but before I could bat it off it had crawled into my ear – and when something is crawling around in your ear, it honestly sounds and feels like it is inside your brain. It is a horrible feeling. I started freaking out thinking it could be a redback spider. I shook my head like crazy trying to get this thing out! Finally, the tractor stopped and everyone gathered around me trying to help. We tried everything to get it out with no success. After a while, I couldn’t hear any movement, so I thought maybe it might have fallen out. Along with the shouts from the farmer, who was a miserable bastard, I just got back to work.
“I walked back over to my row and continued picking, trying my hardest to not think about whether I had something still in my ear or not. Moments later, I felt it moving again, so of course I freaked out, again! Whilst violently shaking my head, in the corner of my eye I saw this crazy looking bug finally fall out of my ear. To this day, I’ve no idea what it was, but still – a moment of huge relief. After that, I was straight back to picking peppers!
“This was my second day and I was hoping it would be a case of having shit luck at the start and that it would get better, but honestly everyday on the farm you’re dealing with shit; whether it’s spiders, snakes or even the crazy bogan farmers. I certainly will never forget farmwork for the good times with the amazing people, but of course, the many many bad times, too.”
Before Australia, he’d done a similar route to me, but had been away far longer in total – probably by far the longest trip I had known of from the people I’d met in my mere 10 months – I deeply respected that dedication to the backpacking lifestyle too…
“I was away from home for 3 years and would class the first two years as ‘travelling’ and then my last year away I was living in Chile, with my girlfriend, who I met in Australia. I started off like most do, by travelling around South East Asia before heading onto Aus for a working holiday visa. I then moved around there a bit, working where I could, but mainly in Sydney. I just fell in love with Bondi and the beach life.
“I actually ended up spending the rest of my time in Australia with my guy friends and we had an apartment together there, which was probably the best 3 months of my life. My girlfriend and I travelled the Philippines and Bali before going to Chile, where I spent the last year (in quarantine, thanks Covid!). Now I’ve returned home as I desperately need a job and to save some money.”
I asked him if there were any times he was truly well and done (we’ve all been there) with backpacking:
“Over the few years I was away travelling, I had to deal with a few really big moments which made me think about what I was even doing and whether I should just head home. But I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people who each helped me in their own unique ways. There [are] times whilst travelling where you can feel so alone – and especially when you go through some big problems, you can feel so far away from home – but I was always lucky enough to be with great friends who never let me feel alone for too long. So, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to deal with some of the shit I did without them.”
Too true. No matter what happens to you on the road – and trust me, literally anything can happen – it’s who’s around you to support you at those times. They will actually end up becoming some of your best friends, despite the geographical distance.
When I asked where the most special place he had visited was, I simply had to agree. There was no competition: Vietnam.
“I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but it has everything you would want to see as a tourist: beautiful mountains, lakes, beaches, waterfalls, sand dunes, cities. I fell in love with the whole country and of course the food. I really developed an unhealthy addiction to street food banh mis!”
I myself developed an addiction to those baguettes in baskets you saw on every street corner. Although, I filled mine with peanut butter as an on-the-go snack, because too many times I had been caught out with the traditional lashings of coriander, which is enough to traumatise anyone who hates the stuff! But, I agree with Dan there – I fell in love with Vietnam too; its history, its landscape, diversity in climate… the place is just rich in everything.
I asked him if he had a specific memory that was special to his from his time travelling, which he summed up perfectly:
“I honestly cannot think of an individual special travel memory. I know that probably sounds sad, but almost every day, something memorable happens whilst travelling. It’s like mind-blowing experience after mind-blowing experience and I guess that’s what makes it so amazing. And is also why I feel that travelling changes you so much as a person.”
AND NOW I WANT TO RUN AWAY AND GO TRAVELLING AGAIN, THANKS DAN.
I asked him if he’d met anyone particular who’d made a significant impact on his life:
“You just meet the most incredible people whilst away and some of them turn into some of your greatest friends. I met Danny about 2 months into Australia through a mutual friend and I don’t think I have ever clicked with someone like I did with him.
“Our sense of humour was identical, constantly on the same wavelength and wanting to get up to the same shit. I have had some of the maddest nights of my life with the guy and some of the most unforgettable (and forgettable) experiences I could ever imagine. So he was definitely the most unique person I met. Even though he’s staying in Australia for the foreseeable future, I know that we will keep in touch for a long time to come. Big shoutout to Danny!”
And finally, when I asked if he had any travel-related wisdom to impart, he had a lot of salient things to say; the top 3 were:
- “If you are sleeping in the top bunk in a 10 man dorm and you have an alarm set for 5am for work, ALWAYS sleep with the phone in your pillow case. Because I can assure you, if it falls down the side of the bed and the alarm starts blasting at 5am and it takes you 10 minutes to retrieve it from underneath the bed, in the dark, you will not be a popular person in that dorm room.”
- “If you are really strapped for cash, but you are someone who can’t skip meals (like myself) then instant noodles and a loaf of bread is extremely cheap and will keep you going until pay day. Instant noodle sandwiches are actually delicious as well.”
- “It doesn’t matter how well you think you tan, the midday Australian sun in summer is a different level of UV. If you lie on the beach for just 10 minutes without your top and without suncream at 1pm you will burn to a crisp. That’s just a fact.”
Equally, a big shoutout to Dan. We’re still in touch via social media having only really met on a few passing occasions. I’m sure we’ll meet again, to share more travel memories in person over some beers (proper pints, not those pathetic Aussie schooners).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go and make my first instant noodle sandwich because I simply cannot stop thinking about that genius combination.
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