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Published: November 7th 2014
Golden Girls and Golden Lessons on the Golden Coast
So the end of my time in Brisbane was a bit sleepy, but exactly what I needed. I've been getting some sinus pain and congestion so spent a fair deal of time on the couch watching episodes of Suits. Amazing show, highly recommended.
I could tell I was getting on Eoin's nerves a bit - not me, just the presence of another body in his space. I had a small bag ready for the weekend, and had initially planned on coming back after the weekend away and packing up the rest of my things. So I asked if he wanted me to pack up and figure out the rest of my plans after the Gold Coast. And he in more or less words said yes. Unfortunately, he gave me this heads up about 15 minutes before I had to head to the airport. So I hustled to my room was and had to throw shit into bags (laundry, wet clothes, everything) and felt very lost and unsettled. This is not an uncommon feeling when traveling, but I had become quite settled over the past week and just wasn't prepared. Fortunately he offered me a ride to the airport, because a bus ride with all that stuff would have been dreadful. I accepted, but the ride was strained and conversation was facetious. A big elephant in the car though we both maintained our niceties.
I guess that's where traveling gets tricky, particularly on a budget. People have been extremely kind to me on this journey... But people are people. We are creatures of habit. We love our space, crave our personal time, and people can often only handle this interruption for so long. And then the atmosphere gets tense, and friendships get strained. I am so grateful for being able to stay in his place for the time I did, but the exit was less than graceful, and I think our friendship has suffered on both ends for it. So would it have been better to cough up the money and stay somewhere else? In retrospect, yes. But I took him at his word that "I could stay for a month, he didn't care!". I think every circumstance is unique, and there's no way to predict the future. I think the key is open and honest communication about your boundaries, annoyances, and tolerances. Before it gets to a point of irrevocable damage. And I should have read the signs earlier, and he should have been more honest.
So I arrive at the airport and secure the rental car. Ai's flight is about an hour out, so I give Cameron a call to calm my soul a bit. And that he does. Wakes up at 5am just to talk with me. It really reminds me that THAT is home. Not a location, not a physical structure, but that feeling of steady in a sea of chaos, a knowledge of permanence in the throes of the temporary. And when traveling, you don't always have that. I was lucky he answered his phone. I was lucky I had one more day of phone service, and reception. But these times make you appreciate home so much more.
So I reorganized my suitcase (life) in the airport, literally throwing clothes onto seats and reps king everything. I had quite the audience and zero shame. Ai arrives and it is a lovely breath of fresh air. She is also home. My nerves are immediately settled just by her presence. We head to the car and get driving to the coast with only a few GPS snafus. The Gold Coast is actually a city (not a coast as I had once thought) and is sort of an Atlantic City on a dream beach. At night there's a bit of a skyline even. We get to the hostel around 1am and decide just to turn in. Fortunately we made sure our hostel has a noise curfew (highly recommended) and we had a nice room and bathroom and slept hard that night. We woke up to our free breakfast and took a walk down the beach from surfers paradise to the main beach. The waves are hopping and the beach seems endless. We meet some guys on our walk who have been up all night all the casinos and still are obviously drunk, a proper and appropriate introduction to the GC. It is here that we get our first taste of the V8 event which is happening this weekend (think Nascar, and no we did not know). The city center is closed off and converted to a race track. The cars are loud and constant and obnoxious and I am so happy we are staying on the beach away from the city center. There are a lot of tattoos and beer bellies and rat tails. Oh yes. We purposefully skirt around the festival and make it to the outdoor markets happening to the north of town. The market is really, really nice and we try a lot of delicious foods and teas and pick up some smoked trout and arugula for dinner. We make the walk back and I take a little run on the beach and we start the rest of our day.
We lay out for a bit on the beach and have some drinks sea side. We meet a club promoter and she offers us a deal for a bar crawl and we finally succumb. We spend some time in the city center and listen to some live music in the square. I'm pretty impressed by the quality of the street musicians. We have our dinner and get our party dresses on and head out for the night.
The crawl consists of 5 bars and clubs, a group of more than 100 people, really all tourists. We start at a bowling alley, head to a cocktail bar or two, and then make it to an R&B club. There's a free drink at each spot, and scandalous party games along the way. A bit cancun. But once we make it to the dance floor, all bets are off. I finally met someone who can dance harder than me! Ai can shake her thing, and we just dance for 2 hours straight.
In the midst of dancing, we get noticed by the club owners who want us to come to the VIP area, which of course we accept. However, this ends up being full of boring nondancing people, so we head back to the dance floor and get invited to a private booth and think why not. Actually, I think we were thinking "free drinks" but either way. Turns out the folks are motorcross athletes and their promoters (think DC hats, muscles, tattoos) and also really nice and fun. One of the promoters broke about every bone in his body some years back during a bike crash (including his neck) so we had a lot to talk about. We ultimately headed back to a motorcross party in a penthouse condo and were swimming until the sun came up. After breakfast we took a nap on the beach and laughed about this may be the last time we can swing a stunt like that. Ai and I then have an easy day and chilled at the hostel with the young ones and called it a night around midnight. We spent Monday hanging out in the port area of Brisbane eating sushi and saying our goodbyes. It was a very sad send off at the airport, and I then drove off to my hostel alone in Manly, wondering when we would see each other again...and where? Manila? Colorado? Only time may tell.
I head to the $15/night hostel and didn't expect much. But it had wifi and was relatively close to the airport, so good enough for me. So I thought. I arrived and the guy helped me with my bag and asked where all the balloons were. I realized then he thought I was the party planner for his daughters birthday. After we sorted the confusion we arrive at the hostel and there's a massive leak in the ceiling from the AC and water is pouring onto the floor. So I let the very distraught guy deal with this and he finally checks me in about an hour later. I'm staying in a 10 bed hostel and the room smells like boy and damp sheets. So I head to the kitchen which is decent and make an early dinner. I try to get on wifi and find there is an access code. When I go to ask for the code, the manager tells me that in order to log on, I have to "like" the hostel on Facebook, give it 5 stars, and then leave a positive review on Trip Advisor. I told him this was extortion and demanded the access code as it was advertised that access was free on the hostel website. He really didn't like me. Well he gave it to me, and it was fortunate because I had to download directions and get in contact with Anjali as we were meeting in New Zealand the next day. I got all that handled and watched a VHS video with some Brits and decided to do some laundry. I went down to the laundry room and two homeless people, man and woman, were using it for shelter and a bar. I scooted my way in and dropped my wash into the machine. I didn't trust my stuff at all, and then the man asks the woman if "he wants him to find someone to kick that b)&:'s ass." Yeah. They assure me that they are referring to someone else after my panicked gaze, but I use a very muscular 23 year old Brit to escort me from there on out, and gave the unruly couple a box of wine as a peace offering. My laundry was fine ultimately, and though my sleep was insanely fitful, I rose at 5 am to get to the airport. Things from there went quite smoothly, and after a very long check in and security line, I boarded my exit row seat en route for Christchurch, New Zealand. Next chapter to my adventure.
Life lessons learned:
If you get the impression you are overstaying your welcome, no matter how kind you are being and what the host says, get out. Pack up and get out. It's not worth fraying the ties of the friendship.
True friends are rare and precious. They are home. You feel the warmth in the pit of your stomach. Don't let them go.
Don't let the bad seeds contaminate the whole lot. Make orange juice out of lemons.
You get what you pay for.
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