I had a lovely time in Byron Bay. It’s a small town with a distinctive beach side feel – shoes are nonessential, everything’s just a little bit sandy, shops sell souvenirs, bathing suits and sun hats despite the impending winter, the water is dotted with surfers by 6 am and everyone’s hair and skin is sun kissed.
It’s famous for being a hippy town. People dress in all kinds of funky, alternative clothes and everything smells very faintly of weed. Nimbin, a town over that I didn’t get a chance to visit, is notorious for being the place to go to buy brownies or cookies off of old ladies who sell to tourists, or really to find a little bit of whatever you want. Anything goes in Byron.
I’ve been the laziest person on earth. Although I loved every second of New Zealand, it was very go-go-go in order to fit in as much as possible, so I took these past couple of days to relax, laze on the beach and read. I took another surf lesson and woke up early twice to watch the sun rise at the most easterly point in Australia, the Byron Bay Lighthouse, an hour away on foot from the Backpacker’s Inn. The first time, I made the trek with Alessio, my first friend at the hostel who is a Roman historian and tour guide. The second time I went with Tim and Sam, two English guys and Anton, a German, who I had been hanging out with the whole time. The sunrise with Alessio was spectacular – a perfect ball of orange rising steadily up over the calm expanse of sea, like we were in the lion king but by the water, and the second time was cloudy and underwhelming but still wonderful because of the great company and because we got to see a dolphin jumping about and a wallaby up close with a baby in her pouch. My life in Byron was definitely about the beauty of little things, the wonders of simplicity.
The town of Byron Bay was cool to explore. There were all-tye-dye shops, bead shops, herbal medicine shops, etc., and everyone was extremely friendly. Backpacker’s Inn has also by far been one of my favorite hostels that I’ve ever spent time at. It was built for the lazy beach bum community. Surfboards are strewn about and left after use over the stretch of open space in the backyard which is also home to a volley ball court, a pool and hammocks galore; there’s a tiny foot path decorated with wildflowers that leads directly to the beach and the common area is large enough to accommodate all of us travelers who congregate outside over drinks each night while listening to the live music Backpacker’s organizes.
While I really liked Byron Bay for all it had to offer on it’s own, the best part of these past few days were the people. Everyone I met was so interesting and so kind. My Swedish roommate, Djina, had backpacked the world – all through the Middle East, India, Asia… by herself and now teaches Swedish, German and English in universities. I met two Israeli guys who taught me about life in Israel and told me about their times serving in the army. Everyone was so well traveled, worldly, open, fun and kind. It made me remember why I love traveling alone so much and reminded me just how good people can be.
In order to avoid a $100 cab ride to the airport, a girl I had become friends with that worked at the travel desk and my surf instructor who happened to be her boyfriend, drove me, leaving me with the parting wisdom, “You’re only 21 right? Man, just travel. Try to never live in the same place twice.” Then with hugs and a promise to contact them if I’m ever in Cali, where he’s opening up a surf school and she’s finishing her masters, I started my journey back home to the states.
I’ll miss Australia, I know I will, but these last few days got me so excited for all of the possibilities my future holds. There’s so much world to see which means I’ve got a lot of dreams left to chase. But for now, I’m homeward bound!