I've been in ultra-pensive mode over the last few days. As some of you know, I can be really annoying to be around in that mode. Steph often asks, "Are you alright?" and Carlien tries to break my brood by physically forcing my mouth into a smile. Not good. When you confront a thinker's mood, it's like pointing out an amputated limb. Just don't do it, it's obvious something isn't as it was but the amputee will sort it out, no need for you to remind him. I can't help it. It's what I do. I think. Over-think even.
Australia is a pricey place coming off of Asia. Accommodations here run around $25-$35 per night in high season (now). Throw in the cost of food and the bank account starts sweating profusely. On top of that are the costs of 'experiences'. I missed my opportunity to dive the Great Barrier reef which is a shame but diving with boat charter and equipment can run close to $100/dive. I had dental work done in Thailand for less than that!
You start to fall into the "once in a lifetime" debate. This is where you say "when am I ever going to have a chance to do this again?" Or you think, when I'm sitting back home with a mortgage over my head, stuck in traffic, on the way to 40hr/wk grind, am I going to say, "Boy, I wish I hadn't spent that $150 to sail the Whitsundays in Australia because I could really use the cash right now for my latte and a new DVD." It's a tough call because you know the deeper in debt you plunge yourself into now, the bigger the struggle you'll face getting back on your feet back home. I've spoken to a few people who've done their round the world trips and they returned with $30,000+ debts... but they have no regrets other than they'd wished they had more time. Debts get repaid. Or you die. Either way, why worry so much?
I think I mentioned the Oz Experience before. It's this hop on, hop off budget bus tour that takes backpackers around Australia. I signed up for it to do a little more traveling with Steph and Carlien who were already booked on it when I met up with them in Cairns. Unfortunately, I haven't really enjoyed it all that much. After 8 months of backpacking, I'm pretty much over that scene. These buses drop you off in beach towns and try to push you into raucous bars where you're to drink 'til you do something stupid. The last couple of nights, I've found myself in a joint called Cheeky Monkeys. The first night we were greeted by a girl at the door who nodded to us, "you're staying at -blank- backpackers right?" We weren't but agreed anyway to obtain free entry. Later in the night, the wrist band we had entitled us to a free drink. Whatever. I had resigned myself to observing the scene soberly. I would do a sociological study of sorts, maybe gather some reconnaissance for future fiction.
I watched as girls and guys stripped down to their underwear (and less) to win prizes. Four sober college years kept me out of this sort of environment so I'd missed all of this type of silliness. It's a bit fascinating, kind of amusing, and a little bit depressing. As the night went on, I watched the inebriation before my eyes. For some, it was gradual, for others, much too fast. If you paid close enough attention, you could watch little dramas unfold as the boys and girls fraternized or fought. By the late hours of the night, I was a bit caught up in my own little mental soap opera and had to flee the scene.
Yesterday, I was irritable and tired of laying around (which is a big part of the backpacker "morning after"). I decided to have myself a bit of a hike up to the Byron Bay lighthouse. With an old 'On-the-Go' playlist blasting Radiohead, Ray LaMontagne, and Sigur Ros into my ears, I sweated my way to the "Most Easterly Point in Australia" before reaching the towering beacon on the hill. It was invigorating. For a few moments I forgot about the garbage below and remembered that I am enjoying freedom and beauty. I took a deep breath and looked at the crashing coastlines in the distance. And for a moment, I stopped thinking.