So I’m in Australia now, as far as I can be sure. I’ve certainly met a few people called Brodie.
I was supposed to fly to Melbourne via a connecting flight at Gold Coast, but the weather in Melbourne is freezing right now so I sacked that idea off and simply ditched my connecting flight. I took a 45 minute bus from Gold Coast to Byron Bay, a town I visited four years ago, and here I remain eleven days later.
I have not done very much in my eleven days here. I am afraid there are no stories of wild shenanigans, no roaming Norse gods, no brothels, no wild dogs. I’ve just sort of been… existing. I’ve been leading a lifestyle that I suppose you could call idyllic; living in a hostel by the beach, sleeping in late, going for a run along the empty sands every morning, reading on the shore, drinking red wine on an evening. It’s been perfectly lovely. But – and come on, you sensed there was a ’but’ coming, didn’t you, you clever clogs – after almost a fortnight I’m ready for something new. I want more adventure.
I held off writing an article when I first arrived in Byron because my initial reaction was ‘oh FUCK it’s so sunny and pretty and the sea is so blue it hurts and this is HEAVEN forever oh my GOD’, and had I penned a diary entry in my first few days it would have been superlative-packed and starry-eyed and kitsch. Honestly, I almost wrote something like ‘I’ve found my happy ending’. Moron. You don’t get happy endings in real life; you simply get happy chapters, along with sad chapters and all the rest. Sometimes I have to beat my inner romantic with a flip flop to stop him rearing his stupid head and vomiting glitter all over the mundanities of everyday life. A beach is just a beach; a nice place to stay for a while. It doesn’t mean you’ve found your happily ever after, Dan, you sighing buffoon.
I think I’m feeling a bit cynical about Australia right now because I gave up a hell of a lot to come here, and therefore Byron Bay has to compete with everything I’ve ever loved in the world and, surprise, it’s not faring too well. But then again, my moods are volatile and topsy-turvy anywhere in the world, so there’s probably no point in analysing too much.
I’ve been quite solitary mostly. I’m staying in a sleepy beachside hostel. My dorm has six beds but no people, and I quite like it because I can sing and fart all night as loud as I want (I make sure to crack a window in the morning to air it out before the cleaning lady enters). I’ve been writing my next book most days, and trying not to drink too much. Beer costs the earth, but wine is cheap. For my first few nights I was in a rowdy hostel, where I would drink a bottle of red wine a night at pre-drinks, then more at whichever bar we meandered to. I stopped that when I felt the life begin to slip out of me, as it did so many times in Berlin. I checked out of the party place and moved to a more tranquil location. Gotta be healthy.
I’ve got a couple of grand in the bank to last me. I’ve spent a lot already, but when I’m sober I spend next to nothing. Sober Dan is composed and reserved and dignified and good with money. Drunk Dan is the opposite of all of those things. So I’ve decided to cage Drunk Dan for a little while so I can actually accomplish things – like writing my book. I’ll never have so much free time in my life again (I probably will, actually, I tend to quit my job quite often it seems), and so I have no excuse not to produce the most brilliant book I can drag out from the depths of my bonce. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it when it’s written. Look for publishers, I suppose. That’s the dream.
I’ve lost a bit of weight from a combination of not eating and running. I’ve never really fucked with running before, but I’ve found that I love it. I wake up in the morning, pull on shorts and t shirt – leave the shoes – and cross the road, where lieth the beach some 20 metres away. I put headphones in and run along the wet sand, enjoying the cool water between my toes. I play songs in my headphones and sprint with the choruses. A mile down the beach, there are no more people. Just me and twenty miles of sand and water, to roam as I wish. I take my top off to tan my chest and dance and sing and leap around in the surf, yelling as loud as I want. It’s tremendous stress relief, and sets me up for a happy, productive day of writing, cooking and socialising.
I’ve found that there are different types of aloneness. There’s big city alone, which is depressing, because you are still bound by the silly rules and expectations of the society around you, but nobody wants to actually interact with you. And then there’s nature alone. Nature alone is truly alone – in fact, alone isn’t the right word due to its negative connotations. Freedom. On the beach every morning, with nobody around for two miles in every direction, I am free. Free to be weird, free to be an idiot. Free to sing along to Oasis’s Live Forever at the top of my fucking lungs and find with pleasant surprise that I can actually hit the high notes, even at bellowed volume.
And I can dance as I run, and pretend I’m in some 1990’s music video, and I can play air guitar and kick the water up ahead of me then leap through the rainbow. I can pick up shells and crouch down to examine strange clumps of flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shore. It’s a joy, and I didn’t know I was capable of such childlike silliness, free from any outside input. Running on the beach in the mornings makes me feel how I did on the several occasions I tried mushrooms and spent the day giggling at every plant, rock and tree, like a three year old child fascinated by the wonders of the new world growing around him. Running free on the beach makes me understand why dogs are so happy all the time. Nobody expects anything more of them.
I’m not going to stick around Byron Bay too long. Beach joy aside, the people here aren’t really my crowd. Berlin’s great, beautiful swathes of enlightened libertines enamoured me for a year, but I grew tired of the apathetic debauchery inside the city’s bubble (though I miss it now, of course). Byron has a nice aesthetic, but it’s already changed from when I came here four years ago. Less hippies here now, and more backpackers looking for a place to buy weed cookies and take cool photos of themselves holding surf boards. It’s funny how I used to think backpackers were the most exciting people in the world. I suppose the line between backpacker and tourist has blurred so much now that nobody can really tell who’s who anymore.
I want to find the real places, off the backpacking trail. I want to meet wild new people that dazzle and shock and delight, all with the same sentence. I want to learn, and achieve and grow. I’m not here to get drunk and toss it all off. I’m here, like everywhere I’ve gone on this trip, to gain new life experiences that will help me become the greatest writer I can possibly be.