3 July 2021
The doctor advised me to go back on the crutches, so there aren’t any photos from my time so far in Cairns. I hop up and down the same streets and sit around the hostel all day every day. Instead, I made some verbal snapshots of some people I’ve met.
“Sss… so… so. So which team are you guys going for?”
Waiting for some food to get ready, a homeless guy came up behind us. I turned around. I almost didn’t recognise him because he looked several years older since the last time I saw him a 9 months ago. Last year I was walking around the streets and we got chatting. Originally from Melbourne he arrived in Cairns, out of prison, addicted to heroin. Now he’s off the heroin but drinks wine all day out of a steel bottle.
“I didn’t even need to see your face, Olly, I recognised ya from the back of ya head!”
During the communal cookup at the hostel, I saw John and Tina, the Welsh couple who manage the hostel I stayed at for a couple of months last year. I wasn’t sure how to approach and re-introduce myself. Lots of travellers pass through these hostels, surely they wouldn’t remember me. Before I worked it out John came up behind me and gave me a big slap on the back.
“They are my audience … They’re captivated by me … And they keep me young”
Paul works as a primary school teacher in between those long school holiday breaks. Then he’ll travel on the cheap around Europe and Asia. Or when there’s a pandemic on: around Australia. As each day passed, we chatted more and more about films, and Paul became more and more theatrical.
“One of the hardest things at my age is knowing what it is you really want to do”
It’s Antony’s first time travelling without family. This has given him time to wonder whether civil engineering is his true passion. He asked me about it. I felt old telling him about my tech career. And it gave me a new opinion that academia (and others) sells bullshit: that everyone should get paid to work on their passions.
“I only get offended when they assume where I’m from, not when they ask”
I didn’t expect to meet someone with a strong Dutch-Indonesian background in Cairns. Especially at the end-of-week drinks at the coworking space with just 2 other people. But there we were, trading thoughts on living in the tropics versus the Netherlands, and meeting Dutch family that we didn’t really know we had. She looks more Indian and I look more caucasian, but we both speak Dutch.
“It makes me sound like a bitch, but I bought this canvas glamping tent because I thought girls would like it”
2020 was the year of passion projects for both me and Damien. I shot my 10-minute documentary about backpacking, and Damien wrote his 25,000-word novel about housing affordability. He was the only other person in the coworking space when I got there. Then there was not 1 but 2 young, professional, shorts- and t-shirt-wearing single males in the space. After Melbourne exited COVID lockdown, Damien updated his Tinder profile, packed his hatchback full and drove up to the tropics.