I recently wrote a review of Mojo Surf School for the fab site, Travel With a Mate. The web site arranged for me to go on the company’s 5-Day Great Aussie Surf Adventure northbound to Byron Bay, stopping in Crescent Head and Spot X along the New South Wales Coast. You can read the review here.
But there was more to the trip than I was able to include in my TWAM story: mainly, the other travelers I met.
Going into the surf trip, I was getting a bit burnt out. I was traveling alone again on an early and long bus ride, I’d just been to Cairns and was preparing a trip to North America that takes place Wednesday. I definitely recognized the coolness factor of getting to write about learning to surf, but I didn’t have high hopes for the other facets of the trip, like the people or the atmosphere.
I guess it is best to keep expectations low, because this trip turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.
It started when at the ungodly hour of 6, I smiled and said hello to a curly-haired brunette in front of me on the bus who seemed to also be on the trip alone. I was being polite and just wanted to sort of zone out on the ride, but we struck up a conversation. She was a French-speaking Swiss still working on her English. We were around the same age and had a close birthday. She was on holiday before going to work as a pediatrician and was quadrolingual–she also spoke Portuguese and Spanish in addition to her growing English.
We wound up becoming buddies the entire week. At times, we encountered the language barrier, which had me grappling with how to explain myself better and her looking up translations in her phone. We helped each other carry our surf boards. We talked about catching and riding our own waves (her) and falling spectacularly into the surf after managing a mere five seconds on the board (me). We hung out at a bonfire at our first camp, which had no Internet or cell phone service and had me feeling more relaxed than I had in a while, and drank beer and wine. She snapped a picture of me napping in a hammock. We ate meals together. The final night , we gathered a group of Canadian, Dutch and Norwegian travelers, drank beer and learned a hilarious game called “Spoons.” When I retired early to bed so I could be somewhat cognizant for my 5:30 wakeup call to go back to Sydney, she hugged me, kissed my cheek and said, “I will miss you.”
You meet people all the time traveling. There are a lot of nice people and there are some jerks. But this experience for me was akin to meeting a pal at the hotel pool when you’re on vacation with your parents as a kid. It’s a brief encounter, in which you will go back to your home far away in a few days and she hers, but something clicks, and for that span of a few days, you have someone who actually feels like a friend, someone with whom you feel very comfortable very quickly. Back then, you’d go your separate ways and probably never think about the other child again past a few days.
Except that today, there is Internet. Before I left the surf trip, my friend and I exchanged full names and I gave her my email. I tried to find her on Facebook, but couldn’t, despite toying with several spellings.
The an email appeared in my spam folder with my friend’s first name, an uncommon one, in the subject. She said she’d tried to find my name on FB, but couldn’t–she must’ve saved the scrap of paper on which I’d written my email the previous week. The email lasted about three paragraphs, in which she told me about her time in Byron and how the group she was with wasn’t as fun as ours had been.
I smiled at the end. Her English, on which she had been so unsure