Caoilte: the Dude with the 3 Passports
Indonesia: Bali & Germany: Berlin
I met Kilch along with a couple of other bunch of guys in Canggu, Bali. Towards the end we’d formed quite the chummy little group (including Joe, who you can read about here) and after 2 years, I’m still in touch with Kilch.
“We met back in 2019 at the Clandestino hostel. It was at the end of January and I had just been to Ubud, where I met Lewis and Finn who introduced you to me. I’ll always remember how friendly, warm and welcoming you were (especially after having just been bitten by a monkey) and I just knew we were gonna click straight away!”
Lewis and I went to grab a Bintang at the bar, where I met one of the friendliest, warmest people I’ve known to this day. We hugged as soon as we were introduced. (I actually wrote this before Kilch sent me his answers, so it’s an entirely beautiful coincidence that we described each other with matching adjectives!)
“Hey! Happy Australia Day!” I said, instantly regretting it, confused as to why I would ever say that. I did not and will never agree with this dark “celebration”.
“Ha – happy invasion day!” He returned and I sighed with relief – nodding, flashing my bracelet with the beads of the Aboriginal flag on it a good friend in Australia had gifted me – where I had just left about 2 weeks ago. He gave me a look of recognition and we were then instantly on the same page. As it turns out Kilch had also predicted the same thing: I too knew that we were going to get along just fine! We swapped names and I remember hearing his for the first time…
“Sorry I have to ask again-“
“-Don’t worry, I get this all the time – Kilch.” He started telling me about the origins of his Celtic name as we sat down at the bar. I couldn’t help but think how fucking cool this guy was and how chilled I felt around him. He had such kind eyes that instantly put you at ease. He then told me about his not one, not two, but his THREE passports that he has because of his unique triple-nationality – his mother is Japanese, his dad, Irish and Kilch was born in Tokyo, but raised in Sydney. Call me a giant, raging nerd, but I actually Googled the meaning behind Caoilte, and it’s spot on:
Persons with the name Caoilte are most often optimistic souls who have a genuine enthusiasm about life and the living of it. They are generally charming, pretty easy-going and are good conversationalists. Their ability to communicate often motivates and inspires others.
Well, there ya have it.
I was lucky to be able to have a good couple of weeks with Kilch and the boys. Some highlights include drinking beers the pool, oversharing stories – as you do, and having a bbq at the hostel, accompanied by Papito our adopted stray cat that wouldn’t shut up or leave us alone. Someone dropped some mayo on his poor head, and it was just the most hilarious thing (he was totally fine and we cleaned him up). But writing about that now, objectively, I appreciate that it really just doesn’t sound funny at all. You had to be there.
Kilch put on some Floating Points and I remember being in that moment, all of us starting to feel the high a little, sat in our low deck chairs, completely content in the shared silence. A while later, we’d head out into the chaos that is the sand bar at one of Canggu’s beaches for some (read: many) Bintangs and boogies for the evening.
One night, there was an epic thunderstorm in the distance and I remember us watching it from the roof, humbled by the beauty, before getting back to another crucial game of President.
Towards the end of our time together, we headed to Uluwatu in south Bali, where the real beaches were. We scoped out one of the more up-market ones which was tucked away in the countryside. Our entourage of scooters whizzed through the remote landscape til we reached a fancy hotel that had some long, steep steps leading down to Karma beach: an exclusive, private place we had to pay to use, but it was so worth it. Soft tropical house music was pumping out from expensive speakers in the background while we lay on the white sand, enjoying the moment. We made it in time for the beautiful sunset and it would just do it a huge injustice if I tried to put it into words:
After a few dinners out together, our time was sadly up. Kilch was heading back to his homeland before heading back to his adopted home, Berlin and I parted ways with the boys not long after. But because we were still in touch, while on my European stint of my trip, I dropped Kilch a message to see if he were around in Berlin at the same time as me – it turned out I had picked THE time to go to. I dropped him a message to which he replied:
“Oh god you’re here for May Day!!! Have you heard about May Day? It’s HUGE. The whole of Berlin turns into a massive party. Oh god you’ve come at the right time. Holy shit you’re gonna have the best time.”
And that we did.
I navigated my way to Kreuzberg, part of the party district in the city, to meet him and his friends on the lovely sunny day it’d turned out to be. As I resurfaced from the metro station, I took a gulp – of anticipation and indeed, holy shit. The streets were completely stripped of traffic and swapped with swarms of people, crowds walking in all directions to the sounds of pumping music. Almost every adult gripped giant pints of beer in their hands, which were being sold on every corner where the streets met. I thought to myself in a mild panic: how the hell am I going to find Kilch?
Because the streets were so jammed, the signal was pretty bad. But to cut a long story short, after multiple attempted phone calls and messages that wouldn’t send, I decided to stay in one place, praying it’d work. I waited by a petrol station and stood on one of their signs so he wouldn’t be able to miss me (I’m quite the tree as it is). It worked!
We locked eyes and both instantly laughed, ran over to each other and jumped into a giant hug, me melting a bit with relief.
“You made it!!!!” He beamed. We walked over to the park where he’d been hanging with his mates and introduced me to them. We sat there getting to know each other, drinking beers in the sun and life was pretty bloody good right then.
After a long afternoon of partying, Kilch took us back to his hostel where he worked as the sun succumbed to the evening. He kindly managed to score us free beers while we played giant Jenga and had some laughs as the day wound down. And because Kilch has the biggest heart in the world, he also got me a private room to myself for that night so I didn’t have to go all the way across the city to my hostel. And that was the last time I saw him – but I know it won’t be the last.
We caught up again recently and I asked him all of the things I’d been dying to know about him but had never got the chance to ask while we were together. One of which being how his parents met and how his triple nationality came to be!
“My mum and dad both moved [separately] to Australia in their early 20s. Mum went with the purpose of learning English and my dad was teaching it. Dad ended up being my mum’s tutor and the rest is history! I guess they both ended up settling in Australia as they met there and were very fond of it. They saw it as a place that offered a lot of potential – great opportunities, amazing weather and lifestyle, safety and its diversity. I guess Australia is probably one of the best countries to raise a family in and I’m so glad and lucky that my parents felt the same.”
I asked him what would be one of his most special travel memories:“I have so many! And for so many different reasons! For the sake of giving one example; spending Christmas in Iceland with my family in 2019. We usually don’t get to celebrate Christmas all together, so this was a really special occasion. We spent a week there and travelled around the Golden Circle by car – exploring all the waterfalls, geysers, geothermal pools and glaciers.
“We rented out a secluded mountain cottage which was nestled on a large hill overlooking the valley. It was perfect.
“I also discovered my new found love for ‘Hardfiskur’ or Icelandic air cured fish – if you know you know. Would highly recommend Iceland to anyone, it’s out of this world.”
I asked if he’d met anyone particularly special on the road who had changed him in some way:
“When I first saw Henry in 2017, he was shadowboxing (lol) in the alleyway leading to the hostel I was staying at in Malaga. I was checking in and he was the first person I saw. Turns out we were in the same room and he struck up a conversation with me later that day. He told me he was from Norwich, UK and was about to start his 2nd year in medicine but dropped out due to stress and burnout.
“We realised that we were both on very similar wavelengths and became good mates instantly. He was very friendly, easy going and he just made you feel at ease around him. He was traveling through Spain with very little money but got by busking on the street and playing outside restaurants on his acoustic guitar.
“He was a strong advocate for meditation and mindfulness and was very passionate about it. It was something that I never looked into before but I was very intrigued and impressed from what he told me about his own personal experience with it. At the time, I was living in London and was quite stressed and dealing with my own mental health issues. After learning about meditation from Henry, it has helped me so much and Is something that I still continue practicing to this day. As cliche as it sounds, I almost feel like I met him at the right place and at the right time.”
Given the current situation, I asked if there was anything he missed about travelling:
“Nothing gives me more happiness and excitement than meeting cool, like-minded people from all different parts of the world. The friendships you create while on the road help solidify the experience and make it unforgettable. I think being stuck in lockdown, stripped away of any ability to socialise and meet new people has really helped me realise how much I miss interacting with new people. I’m really concerned about the psychological scar that COVID is going to leave once the situation gets better. I really hope that people will feel comfortable socialising as we once did!”
I agree there. I think it will take a good few years for things to return to normal – but I know that we can collectively heal from this shitstorm over time.
I asked where he would go right now, if he could:
“Russia – always have been fascinated with Russia and find it somewhat mysterious. I’m particularly interested in its history – former USSR, KGB, Cold War, WW2 etc. I think I could spend a whole day just checking out the Moscow subway system! Then South Korea – I’m obsessed with Korean cuisine. A spicy Kimchi Jjigae is the way to my heart. Then finally, Hawaii – stunning beaches, mountains, the tropical climate – my sort of paradise. I also find it interesting that majority of the people there are mixed – so perhaps somewhere I’d feel like I fit in straight away!”
The last part of that sentence broke my heart a little bit.
I was curious to learn about his experiences living both in Berlin and London, lowkey gutted I missed Kilch in his UK stint.
“I’ve been in Berlin for 3 years now and it’s been nothing short of amazing. I moved here after 2 years in London, fed up of the hectic, expensive and just full-on lifestyle (no hate – just wasn’t for me). I was looking for my next home and wanted a place that better suited my tempo better. Berlin looked like a perfect option. I went for my birthday in 2017 with the intention of seeing if it was a viable option. From the very first day of my trip, everything felt perfect – I moved 2 months later.
“Living in Berlin is like a spiritual experience.There is a tangible sense of freedom about the city. I don’t know whether it is due to its history or because liberal kinds of people flock here, but it really does feel so free. It is also still relatively cheap to live here compared to many other major cities in Europe. I found a job really quickly as a bartender at Wombats City Hostel. It was the best job Ive ever had and a time I’ll never forget (it felt like I was traveling everyday, but not). I met so many incredible people including some of my best friends to this day. All signs continue to point right here.
“I moved to London as soon as I graduated from uni and picked up a bar job at bar in Kings Cross. We were worked to the bone and it was probably one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever had to do. We were earning minimum wage which was £8 an hour at the time, with no tips. However, the team and the people that I worked with while I was there were absolute legends and made the whole experience worthwhile. We are still good mates to this day.
“Sharing a 12m2 room with my one of my best mates in Camden was pretty special. The place was a complete shithole, but the location was great. We were getting massively ripped off, but I guess thats to be expected in London. On our days off we’d stroll around Camden markets and have beers by the locke. I couldn’t have asked for more at 22.”
I asked if he were in touch with any of his other travel mates he’d met along the way:
“Yeah for sure! That’s the beauty with social media, we’re always connected. I try and make an effort to contact people that I met traveling every once in a while, even if it’s just a brief ‘how ya going’ or a little comment under a photo or something, just to let them know that you’re thinking about them. I have been lucky enough to have some mates come visit me here in Berlin, just like yourself!”
And finally, the 3 lessons he learnt during his time exploring the planet:
- Kindness and empathy are the keys to the heart.
- Great things come from living outside your comfort zone.
- Don’t sleep on your back after a big night of drinking – I found out the hard way that I was a master trumpeter.
As I said, I’m sure I’ll see Kilch again at some point. We’ve talked about Bali reunions a few times in the past and one day in the future, we’ll make them happen. Thank you Kilch for being such a wonderful example of a genuinely kind spirit and generally awesome person to have in one’s life!