To sum it up: I hitchhiked from Brisbane to Maleny. A guy picked me up. I mentioned to him that I was looking for a job. He replied that he could hire me the next time I’m in Brisbane. I told him that I could go back the very moment, all he had to do was turn around. So he did. More importantly, the whole thing happened in less than 15 minutes.
What can I say? Should I say that the world is full of wonderful people? Or perhaps I should say that I may be just a bit too lucky.
I didn’t ask him any further questions – where I would live, what exactly I would do, how much money I would earn…nothing. All I knew was that I was in good hands. It turned out that I was right.
On our way back to his home we picked up his ten-year-old son Sebastian from school. Shortly after, we arrived on a big estate in the quiet suburb of the city which would be my new home. The moment I got there he showed me where my room was, which was occasionally occupied by his nephew who was also working for him, he changed the sheets, took me to the supermarket where he spent more than 400$ on the groceries saying that the food and accommodation were included.
Could have it gotten any better? Yes. My hourly wage was 20$ and there was enough work for me to do for the following ten days, and it was yet to be seen what we would do next. The only possible catch was that he asked me if I was afraid of heights. Naturally, I said that I didn’t have any problem with it, even though that wasn’t quite true. I had to hope for the best: I hoped that I wouldn’t have to climb the building slab. When I thought about it maybe it was the right time to overcome my fear.
The first day on work brought a smile on my face. My job consisted in: painting the front part of a hotel in the center of the town. A painting roll with a long handle, white paint and I was ready to go. Later on I was promoted to a position of a person who diverted pedestrians. I have to say, it was quite a difficult job. I didn’t have to buy myself a lunch, since it was included, I didn’t have to climb anything, so after 8 hours of working I was richer for 160$. I apologize to all of you who are reading this from work where you have to work a whole week to earn this amount of money; I know how you feel. I would change something, only if I could. I’m only passing down information – hurry up, go to Australia, hitchhike and get yourself a job!
All time I wasn’t working I spent with Sebastian who was one week with his mother, and the other one with Duane. The kid was awfully nice: we watched movies together, played rugby on his xBox – he was teaching me the rules, and I was winning, half of the time. He asked me a lot of questions and I answered them all: where Croatia was, what KKK was, meaning of life, and stuff like that. While we played the video games, I tried to teach him how to win and lose and accidentally came up with an appropriate definition – the only worse thing from being a bad loser, is being a bad winner. I gave him something to think about.
Duane prepared the dinner, while I was in charge of doing the dishes. After that he put my dirty clothes in the washing-machine and I…I don’t know. I must have been doing something. I felt like home. I didn’t feel like going anywhere. In less than a day I got myself a new family, a job, home, a younger brother; everything. I simply thought of all the forces I put in finding a job during my first month in Australia, and all in vain; while once I decided to give up and resume my travelling I managed to get two job offers in only two days of hitchhiking.
Along with work, home, family and other things mentioned above I also got new pets: in the yard around the house during the dusk and twilight kangaroos and wallabies would gather to treat themselves to the dew that would appear on the grass. They didn’t let us touch them, but they posed readily for some photos. And no, I didn’t taste kangaroo meat; unless it was in the čobanac I’d eaten a few days before.
The weekend was terrible. Duane went on a field trip with his new girlfriend and her two little kids and I was simply lingering aimlessly. I was working, I wasn’t travelling: I simply counted the days remaining to Monday. That was, in fact, pretty funny, since I had always wanted to have a working week lasting only two days, and the weekend lasting five days. Things change, what can I say?
So, after working for six days I left Brisbane richer for 960$. Duane would let me know if there was any work for me in the future. Also, he gave me a lift to the highway where, for the second time, I tried to hitchhike for Maleny.
I arrived to Maleny without any difficulty: this included a couple of different drivers and some stops we made – Glass House Mountain, a museum dedicated to The Crocodile Hunter and some fruit and vegetables plantations where I could try to find some job. The entire Maleny was practically one street with a couple of stores, shops and restaurants. It reminded me awfully of Nimbin: it was its less colorful version. I got myself acquainted with the main street with a backpack on my back, I bought some bananas in the supermarket, stretched myself in a little park, and stole some Wi-Fi from the library; all this while waiting for my host.
In fact, my host was the reason why I came to Maleny, just like in most of the cases. However, that was the first time I sent a request to the guys with no reference whatsoever. As in situations like that my guts never had failed me the answer was quick and short – come when you want and stay as long as you want. It was exactly what I was looking for.
I spent the following few days in Maleny and, honestly, I can’t remember a single thing I did. In reality I was with my host and his friends: we drank a lot, went to the parties (I slept through most of them), went for an afternoon stroll in the nature. We played music a bit in the living room. Moreover, I found out that, in Australia, they had seat belts in buses. I got a job offer – if I came back during the mushroom season, I could go the woods and pick up a full bags of mushrooms in less than a half an hour: later I could sell them. Since the mushrooms weren’t button mushrooms, I turned it down.
After a blurry stay in Maleny, the same old story – back to the road. I had a host in Townsville and there were nearly 1500 kilometers from Maleny to Townsville, so I had to hurry up. During the first day I traveled more than 900 kilometers which was my new record. My last one was approx. 800 kilometers from Zagreb to Sofia. I spent the night in a chair on the terrace of McDonald’s. The restaurant was closed, and the drive in was open. They didn’t resent me for having decided to wrap myself in my sleeping bag there and wait for the morning to come.
The next day I continued in the same mood so in the twilight I arrived to Townsville where Steve, a CSer in his 50’s, welcomed me with a dinner and a cold beer. I adore older hosts – they always do that!
It was raining in Townsville. We hosted another two girls, and Steve also noticed a young couple in a van on a parking lot after which he invited them over for a shower/dinner and simply to hang out with us. That’s a true host!
Like I said, it was raining. I was supposed to decide where I would go in a month when my first three months of stay in Australia would be over. The simplest and the cheapest thing to do would be flying to Kuala Lumpur with AirAsia: I didn’t need a visa there. All I had to do was decide from which airport to fly: I was certain that I would come back to Gold Coast hoping that Duane would have some work for me. The decision was made – Perth. I would hitchhike to Perth, visit Uluru, Darwin and Broome on my way there. In Perth I would meet my friends from KORAKOR who were earning money for their IT’SKOOLproject in Mexico. Approx. 9 000 kilometers and nearly four weeks on the disposal. Let’s do it!
Steve dropped me off to a town exit wishing me a safe trip. I was nervous and excited which I hadn’t been for a very long time, to tell you the truth. I was heading for the longest journey I’d ever made. I only had one host through CS, but not before Mt Isa, which was 900 kilometers away. Where would I be sleeping for the following four weeks? Would it be freezing during the desert nights when the temperature can drop below zero degrees? Would I be bitten by a snake? Eaten by a dingo? I had no idea. That is why I was so excited; or was it because I had the feeling that in the following four weeks something big was going to happen?
I didn’t have to wait for a long to get an answer.
It took me quite some time to pass the first hundred kilometers before I was on a petrol station. And there was another hitchhiker. I approached him and we met. His name was Zeph and he was going from Melbourne to Uluru. I asked him if he was waiting for a long time, in which he replied that it was his third day on that gas station. I was dumbstruck: if he was waiting there for three days what would happen when/if we get to the desert? However, I had to say that the circumstances were extraordinary: after a few kilometers the road was closed due to flooding. But, from that day it was re-open.
Still hoping for something to happen, I sat by the curb watching Zeph continue with the hitchhiking. By the way, this is one of the unwritten rules of hitchhiking – if you happen to meet another hitchhiker, you need to let him/her to go first, then it’s your turn to hitchhike. If I’d joined him, our chances to get a ride would have been very slim, hardly anyone picks up two guys.
Fortunately, I happen to be a lucky charm for Zeph – after an hour or so some guy pulled over and I could finally start with my own possibly three-day-long hitchhiking. However, obviously I brought good luck to me, too – not even after ten minutes two girls pulled over, cheerfully ordered the mess on the back seat and the conversation could begin.
The driver, if the memory serves me, had Aborigine, Papua New Guinean and Chinese, and her friend Canadian, Australian and Scottish origin. Since I was both Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian, in total, we had the representatives of nine countries in the car! That had to be some kind of a record.
However, it was only a beginning of a great ride: the co-driver (Sarah) didn’t stop talking during the whole ride, mostly about Tammy (driver), her best friend. She told me how she had been kidnapped from her own community, her own people and put somewhere else so she could be australized. They took her beliefs, culture, language, and also made it impossible for her to learn the truth. I was stunned by the fact that these things still happened to the Aborigines, all over Australia which was supposed to be a modern and advanced country.
Even though Sarah had grown up in a family that wasn’t too affectionate about the Aborigines, she felt as being one of them. She even spoke the language, got herself acquainted with the culture, and, after all, they treated her as one of their own. I asked her for the moment when she finally had seen the light and started thinking in the way she was thinking today. She instantly answered – when she was 13, when she started going to boarding school. The kids she met there where coming from different parts of the world – there were Chinese, Papua New Guineans, Aborigines. And when her best friend hurt her, two Aborigines girls were the first ones to approach her and made her feel loved and wanted.
It reminded me of my story: when did I start thinking differently than my environment? It was a bit later than Sarah – when I was 23 and I started hosting strangers in my home. That was the moment when I saw with my own eyes that people should not be classified by their nationality, color of their skin, religion or sexual orientation – the only criterion should be the fact whether they’re good or bad. Nothing else.
People are afraid of diversity, but mostly because as kids we were scared by everything that we didn’t know, except seeing on TV, in newspapers…this is what you learn from hanging with the different ones, in case you didn’t know this before.
Talking about this subject led us to another theme: in our society you, basically, had to decide what you want to be right after your finish elementary school. Do you want to go to the high school or educate yourself to do some real job? A 13-year-old! Find me a 13-year-old who knows what he/she wants to be in life. I believe there aren’t so many of those who do know this thing, if there is even any. This may be the reason why in Western countries people tend to take a year off after high school to travel, see what interests you, see what your options are. There you go – another reason to travel.
After the girls had left me in their small village I resumed my hitchhiking. There were very few cars: each twenty minutes one would pass by; and it was getting darker and darker. In the very moment I thought to give up, take out my tent and spend the night by the road, a truck pulled over. There were two guys with cowboy hats inside giving me weird looks. I responded in the same way. They asked me where I was headed for on which I indicated with my finger the direction in which they were driving. They told me that they could give me a ride in case I didn’t mind the fact that I would have to ride in the back part of the pick-up because there was no room in the front. I simply smiled and hopped on the truck.
I recorded my thoughts with the cell phone:
Another one of those moments that would remain in my memory – 250 kilometers from Townsville, the sun has just set down; street lights were on, a truck pulled over. I jumped on the back part of the truck, just like many times in Thailand, and I enjoyed the Australian night. I have no idea how far they were going, the closest town was 100-200 kilometers away, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am here, wrapped up in a sleeping bag to protect me from the wind. I am HAPPY. Utterly happy. The clouds I’d been accompanied by for the past few days have been gone as if swept away by an Invisible Hand and the starry sky is slowly showing above me. I truly don’t know whom should I give thanks for my life, but the things that have been happening to me… I have no idea. To sum up, I’m alive, healthy, free and really happy.
Even though, alone.
The last word showed me the importance and greatness of the moment. I was alone and happy. I was happy. I, who thought that one cannot truly be happy if he/she didn’t share it with someone; who has always shared his happiness with someone else. My whole life flashed before my eyes, and I realized that that was the thing I had been missing all those years: be happy on my own.
And I still haven’t find found what I’m looking for…
It those moments of sheer happiness the truck began slowing down. I looked around me, and there was no sign of civilization. I remembered how I thought that the looks of the two cowboys seemed strange. I remembered all the horror stories I’d heard about hitchhikers disappearing all over Australia.
The truck pulled over. I didn’t have enough time to grab my pocket knife which was on the bottom of my backpack. I let myself go. Whatever was supposed to happen, at least I’d learnt the most important lesson in the life.
Always keep a knife within hand’s reach.
YT VIDEO – AUSTRALIA (1):