One of the most common questions I get in regards to my traveling is:
“Daniel, how do you have friends that live all over the world?”
It’s simple. I meet them while I’m traveling. In trains, airports, buses, through volunteering, excursions, etc. One of the most frequent means is while backpacking and staying in a variety of hostels with other solo backpackers.
Meeting new people while traveling occurs totally naturally and usually with a lack of effort.
Even here in Melbourne, I’m technically backpacking visiting loads of Aussie’s I met through previous travels and still I’m meeting loads of new people along the way.
But for some reason, a good majority of them strangely are always from Germany.
And all the German backpackers are all here in Australia. Everyone I meet. German. German. German. German. French. German. German.
It’s def not a bad thing though.
If I were to guess, I’d say my German friends now outnumber my regular friends back home. It’s true. After my week in Melbourne, that scale has tipped even further by a hesitant decision I made on my first night back in the city.
I flew into Melbourne from Launceston fairly late in the evening. I landed around 9:30pm, retrieved my bags, and took the double decker bus to the main city. From there, I walked about 15 minutes to the hostel I booked prior, the YHA Melbourne Metro Hostel.
I highly recommend this hostel by the way. It had a great common area to meet loads of travelers.
I reserved a 4-bed dorm as opposed to the 12-bed dorm to reduce my chances of getting stuck with a snorer. It just so happened that underneath my bunk was the loudest snorer in all of Victoria. It was 10:30pm, I was tired and decided to call it a night.
I actually began to doze off in between his snores and not only a few minutes later, I heard the door knob to my room being tampered with from the outside and inaudible drunken chatter. Whoever was outside the door was having trouble getting in. Still, I laid there motionless and slightly annoyed, hoping they were just at the wrong room. Mr. Snorty McSnore below me and the two drunks outside the door…
…How did I get stuck with these people?
Once the two guys finally figured out how to get inside, I popped my head up to see the faces of the culprits making all the ruckus. One of ’em came to me and eagerly introduced himself as Connor (Scotland) and the other was Nicolas (Switzerland). They apologized for being loud which was pretty nice of them to do. Connor was even amazed when I told him I was from the US. We are a rare breed here I guess? Which I think he’s right. I only met one American in Australia so far and she was a nut house.
“We’re going out for a few beers with some people waiting for us downstairs,” Connor began in his Scottish accent. “You should join us! That would be cool!”
I already made up my mind as soon as he started speaking. No. I was cozy in bed already half asleep. It was an easy no, but I thought about it and for some strange reason, I said “Yeah, I’ll come.”
Why did I say that? Now I HAVE to go. I instantly regretted my decision but I went to bed without eating dinner so I was quite hungry, so maybe I’d find some grub on the way. Plus, they were both super nice.
I followed Connor and Nicolas downstairs to a group of backpackers waiting outside.
“Man, everybody knows each other and I’m the odd man out,” I thought to myself.
Turns out that wasn’t the case. Everyone literally just met and most of them were German. Included in that bunch, were two German buddies named Luca and Mahid. They didn’t stay at the hostel, but instead were living in a camper van parked just outside the hostel.
After the night was said and done (around 4am), I was glad I went out with them. These were the most generous group of backpackers I’ve come across since…well not too long. I met another neat group a couple months ago when I first arrived in Fiji.
Over the next few days, I became tighter with the German group. I would give Luca and Mahid my hostel key to take showers every morning and in return they made me sandwiches they created up from the top of their head which included a combination of bacon, dorito-esque chips, barbecue sauce, and sriracha sauce. It sounds kinda odd but it was actually mighty tasty!
“The chips give it a crunch,” Luca would say.
As a matter of fact, this specific group of backpackers proved to be extremely useful, as they can all cook! They even cooked for me a few times while I stood back and supervised. (I did my part by washing all the dishes afterwards.)
Within the week, our group grew with the addition of even more Germans including Tarek, a guy from the outskirts of Paris named Jules and a few other randos, all from Germany.
A good measure to tell if I like ya or not is if I start to make fun of you. The more I can make fun of someone, the more comfortable I am around them. If I can’t poke fun, then it’s because you hold some power over me (boss, teacher, etc) or because I’m unsure about you. I was able to make fun of these guys within just a few hours of meeting them. But with Germans its easier to tease them because of their funny English.
Like the way they pronounce the word “clothes” as “cloTHIS” for example.
Their English was already great, but I took it upon myself to refine it with the help of a professional English speaker such as myself.
Guys, remember to swap your ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds in the English vocabulary!
In addition, I was able to practice my horrible German and learn a few new words to add to my dismal German vocabulary.
During the week, I would periodically leave the backpackers to meet up with other friends I knew around the area. I met up with Ben and his friends again at the noodle market and later also met Nakul’s girlfriend Latha for the very first time. She gave me all sorts of tips for my upcoming trip into India.
I also met up with a former backpacker who joined my party while I was traveling through Nicaragua. Her name is Debbie and she lived in the Fitzroy area of Melbourne.
When I last saw Debbie, I departed from her and Luke while in Costa Rica to stay with some friends of mine there. When I met up with her here at a hip restaurant somewhere in Fitzroy, it was like talking as if we had seen each other just yesterday as opposed to two years. It also happened to be Thanksgiving and so we celebrated by pigging out on the tapa’s plates she chose.
The Fitzroy area is collectively trendy with a lot of unique bars and pubs scattered in the area. Debbie graciously took me through a handful of the ones she liked the best. The Pixel Bar was perhaps my favorite. A bar filled with classic arcade and pinball machines and retro 8-bit inspired art along the walls.
I mentioned to Debbie that I planned on traveling along the Great Ocean Road the next weekend and that if she found the time, she should join along. As a matter of fact, the ordeal of me going to the Great Ocean road was crazy spontaneous. I was presented with the generous gift of a free house over the weekend by my friend Alison, another backpacker I met back in Laos, who was out of the country working in Dubai. The house is situated right on the start of the Ocean Road. Initially, I had a few friends joining me. Mychaela, Josh, and Timo; three volunteers who I met while in Fiji who happened to be in Australia. Also Clint, my friend from the States who was studying here as well. Josh and Timo both got brand new jobs and weren’t able to get the weekend off like they wanted, while Clint got the dates mixed up. Oops.
So now it was just Mychaela and I. How did that happen? We can’t hog this big wonderful house all to ourselves, so I invited some of the backpackers I hung out with all week at the hostel. I knew they would want to go and they were appreciative of me for inviting them. Debbie planned on joining us a day later.
Onward to the Great Ocean Road!