Meeting New Friends was only a small part of our plans when we first began to tour full time over two years ago and now, it has become one of the best parts of travelling. We’ve made some lovely friends, those we keep in contact with over social media, those we email and those who we run into (not over) regularly in our travels around the country.
Some we knew before we went ‘on the wallaby’ and they have become firm friends. Others joined us along the way having witnessed that travel as retiree’s and pensioners is really possible, and some we have simply gathered in our travels. These are like-minded people, adventurers and just normal fun loving people, who are great to share the hours or days with.
We seem to have gathered distinct circles of friends though and this has come as a surprise in many ways. I have often commented that The Man would talk to a post if there were no-one else about, and this still is very true… I do love the guy though and over the years I have become accustomed to his face well and truly. This characteristic of his is a wonderful thing, as infuriating as it can be when we pull up… I get to setting up and he is ‘over there’ talking to the neighbours. I usually join him and eventually drag him off to finish the process of settling in… if I don’t get caught up chatting myself. The people you meet along the way though can be really interesting.
The different types of people you meet on your travels are very diverse and I tend to gather them into groups in my thoughts that reflect their, and our common interests. That there are distinct groups has been surprising, as most people tend to imagine that you will socialize with only those of your grouping… the one you are assigned the minute anyone sees Mum and Dad travelling with a caravan in tow… the Grey Nomads. This is so naive of the bureaucracy and the non-traveller in so many ways. So here I have tried to identify something of the diversity of people you can meet along the way… just to begin with.
THE INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLER
The most diverse of any group, or people of like interest that we have met, has to be the International Traveller or backpacker for want of another word. They don’t cart backpacks around much anymore, most we meet are in vehicles which have been rented or that are often bought with pooled funds, by one of the group who relies on the contributions or companionship of the others to go the distances they do. The biggest problem they face is trying not to get caught in one spot for overly long… life is just so interesting. Life in Aus’ too offers particular interests and challenges for the overseas traveller that can be found no where else in the world. From the wild… wild life, to the open spaces along with the stranger than strange lifestyles we often choose as Aussies.
A surprising member of this group are those who fly into one of the international airports at the Top End … head out on a 4×4 adventure of a life time and fly out of another international airport at the other end of the country. They come for the season… winter… theirs and ours, and they come with friends and families often from Darwin or Cairns and leaving through Adelaide or Perth. They never make it to the Gold Coast or the attractions of Sydney or Melbourne because they more often than not have been there before. This time around they are seeking adventure and in season their numbers fill such places as the Kimberley and Litchfield National Park as well as Kakadu, Uluru or Kata Tjuta. These are the hidden travellers of the Top End who treasure our freecamps and National Parks often over and above what Australians realize, and they are a multitude. Surprisingly enough they don’t seem to have discovered Cape York yet … perhaps it is that they get lost in the attractions of Cairns and mixed up with all those eastern seaboard adventures. Then again, Cape York does offer some particularly difficult challenges to the traveller, unlike any other place I know.
We love to meet up with such travellers and they love to chat over a campfire. They adore our country more often than not and they really appreciate our wilderness and the real beauty of our land like no other I have met, along with the friendly faces they meet.
THE GREY NOMAD
This group we know, and love. They are travellers, sometimes part time only. Some have a home base and many live full time in their rigs. Some travel from caravan park to caravan park, many mix the holiday parks with freecamps and some you would never find in a holiday park… because they simply are enjoying a lifestyle that doesn’t take in the holiday atmosphere enjoyed by families and workers… they like the quiet, the peace and the wilderness. They are the travellers and they go by many names. They have often opted out of the commercial world… the ‘buy buy buy’ mentality that is consumerism. Their world is a more peaceful place and we join them regularly, camped up in a landscape somewhere with a view preferably, and around a companionable campfire sharing some great tales and experiences.
THE WORKING TRAVELLER
These people are wonderful and often the backbone of the cities surprisingly enough. Without this group the cities would collapse. They provide the food for a nation… literally. They are an overlooked but valuable resource in our industries, particularly mining, husbandry and agriculture. They are the seasonal workers, the construction workers and the contract labourer. They are our other league of so called ‘back packers’ along with travelling families who are earning a living on the road. They are our roust-abouts, our station workers, our jillaroo’s and jackaroo’s and they are often a forgotten fraternity despite their magnificent contribution to our economy, our lifestyle and our resources.
They are not the ‘stay at home’ with a mortgage and a 9-5 job, the group that congregates and are stationary around our major cities and which are over represented in politics and society. Our working travellers are often ill-used and I have heard some harrowing tales. Experiences where they have been ill-paid, expected to volunteer endless hours and work (often for the ‘experience’) in extraordinary conditions. These people are commonly the salt of the earth, the characters of bush literature and they are a true Australian treasure that we should really recognize and look after more. Our world is wonderful in its diversity and we need to recognize that.
The group usually forgotten, and very under-represented, is the group most in need of our understanding. They are often happy souls who have given up on society, given up on being understood or even cared. These are parents on the road with their kids who find the cities are difficult places to survive in. They are the homeless, the often sick or the disadvantaged. Their experiences have moulded their lives and outlook. They do not feel welcome or comfortable in many places and they will congregate together at times in towns or live in splendid isolation. I have met these people in the NSW central coast region where they live in the forests, in communities and alone. They are often abused for their differences. I have found them in WA in towns such as Broome and its surrounds, where they are largely rejected and isolated. We recently stumbled across a camp of one of the forgotten and it touched me like no other camp I had ever stayed in.
The neighbour wasn’t there, we never met him, but he was the most interesting traveller I have ever come across. He had been gone for some weeks but his camp had been pilfered, his goods rifled through. But I would guess that other ‘forgotten’ people had done the pilfering apparently. They obviously saw no value social trappings and had left many of these often valued things to the dust and wind. We were in a remote region of the Northern Territory and it was a designated freecamp for travellers, one with minimal amenities and some sheltered structures. It was one of these he had occupied and cared for over a extended period of time. Scattered about were papers, personal items, it was obvious he had not expected to leave so unexpectedly. I imagined that he had gone to town and had likely been arrested and incarcerated, this from the scattered correspondence left to the wind.
There was a book left, dusty amongst the bracken and exposed to the weather. It was Beyond the Prison – Gathering Dreams of Freedom and it was such a fascinating read that we stayed long enough in camp so that I could finish it. It gave an insight to The Forgotten people and if I were ever to recommend a book into understanding a social reality… this would be it! The book is available still and Amazon and it was a really good read on the social realities that dumbfound our society.
You meet some wonderful people on the road… some real nutters and one or two rat bags but it is easy simply to deal with these things. More often than not the people you meet are gems, blessed are the entertainers amongst them and treasured are the bush poets. These things are what make up Australia and as Australia Day approaches, we need to recognise that it is the day we celebrate our liberty, our land and our life as they did on January 26th 1788… It wasn’t the day the convicts landed, nor the day they raised a flag. There was no fancy talks to the rabble on this first ‘Australia Day’… it was just a bloody good party by all accounts. One enjoyed by members of the Eora tribes and the convicts alike… it gave the overlords a headache though I read. And may we still, always give them (the beaurocrats) something to think on down through our history. This land Australia belongs to the people.