Humans of Tasmania

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. People say the journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks. On your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

And yes, I hope I left something good behind.

Tasmanian wilderness hurt my eyes. Because it’s too pretty. Wineglass Bay’s water was too clear and the sand was too white. Launceston was a too-unforgettable city, the memory card in my brain was going to explode. And people that I met on this travel, oh God, they’ve taken a very big chunk of my heart. It’s even aching now. And I’d like to dedicate this article to them, those fun and beautiful souls I’ll always remember.

 

There’s “Art” in Hobart

I arrived in this city on a Tuesday afternoon. After studying the city map for less than three minutes, I could tell this city’s very easy to navigate. I could directly spot where my CouchSurfing host lived. I was hosted by a local guy named Rhys J Anderson who lived in South Hobart. I was a lil anxious when I was about to board the plane, as he gave me a wrong phone number and hadn’t sent me his home address. But at the last minute thankfully he was contactable.

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Rhys’ lovely-looking neighborhood

And I’m glad that I stayed at his awesome house. It’s located down the hill with the view of Mount Wellington from his backyard. What made it more awesome, he’s a board game expert, wine lover, and vinyl collector. That night he invited his friends Ellouise and Lucy to play a board game while listening to his vinyls and drinking his wine. He has a great taste of music. I didn’t know most songs he played, but I really enjoyed them. It was a fun night. We played The Settlers of Catan, the adult and complicated version of Monopoly. I liked this game, I even think to buy one for me to play with friends.

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Board game, wine, music, talks…

Talking to Ellousie and Lucy was also fun. They’re really nice, we talked a lot about so many stuffs from travel, movies, foods, to religion. And it wasn’t the only moment I shared with them. Two nights later after driving me to the top of Mount Wellington, Rhys brought me to his friend’s BBQ party where Ellouise and Lucy were there too. I had another fun that night. Ellousie is originally from Brisbane, and we plan to hangout together when I’m in Brisbane by the end of this month. It’s amazing how travel connects me with so many interesting people.

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When he drove me to the top of Mount Wellington

 

No WiFi in the Forest, But I Found a Better Connection

That morning in Coles Bay (Tasmania’s east coast), I went hiking to Freycinet National Park, this state’s most famous natural spot. I’m a lazy traveler; I didn’t do a proper research about what kind of track I was going to take there. I only brought 600 ml water in my backpack, and that was a huge mistake.

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My lips were too dry to be photographed

The walking trail was very steep. Very very steep. Twelve kilometers. Sharp rocks and bushes everywhere. And it was hot at noon. I finished all water supply I had after 4 kilometers.

I almost gave up at kilometer 6. I took a rest and sat on a giant rock. My throat was so dry. A minute later, a couple came and sat on a rock next to mine. We had a small talk, then the girl said, “It’s a mistake to skip my breakfast this morning. Now I’m famished and we have no food. My head is so dizzy.”

“I have a bacon & cheese bread,” I told her. “You want it?”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, but only if you want to share 200 ml of your water supply. I’m so thirsty.”

“We have plenty of water. You can have one of our Snapples.”

“Really? Alright, I think that’s a fair price.”

Then the exchange was conducted. One bottle of Snapple for a piece of bread. Everyone was happy, we all continued our walk. And I believe this is how world economy should work.

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Laurell & Adam, my life saviors

 

Hitchhiking Mission: FAILED!

I was bored that day. I had explored most parts of Coles Bay and wanted to see Launceston as soon as possible. Coles Bay-Launceston isn’t really a popular route, so I tried to break it down: Coles Bay-Bicheno, then Bicheno-Launceston. It was quite easy to find someone driving to Bicheno. An old dude named Chris who works as Freycinet National Park’s cleaning service gave me a lift until that small beach town. In Bicheno, I waited for someone to picked me up near the highway.

It was harder than I thought. For almost two hours, there was only one guy who stopped his car for me but he wasn’t driving to Launceston. At 1 pm when the sun was too bright, I decided to give up and find a ride back to Coles Bay.

In less than a minute, a couple pulled their car over for me. I jumped in, and they asked, “Which part of Coles Bay are you heading to?”

“Coles Bay Village Area,” I answered. That’s the “city center” of Coles Bay where you can find holiday park, hostel, supermarket, cafe, bakery, and bottle shop.

“No way, we also live there!” answered Dylan, the car driver. He was with Ronnie, his girlfriend. They’re both 19 years old.

“You stay at the backpacker hostel?” I asked him.

“No, actually my parents own that area. The whole business belongs to them. We have a house next to the hostel. My room is basically above the bakery, if you notice.”

“Ah, I do! So we’re actually neighbors.”

“Yeah, we are! Anyway how long have you been traveling in Aussie?”

“I arrived last October. I lived and worked in Melbourne until last month, and now just traveling in Tassie.”

“What did you do in Melbourne?”

“I was a waiter. At a Mediterranean restaurant.”

“Ah cool! Do you make coffee?”

“I do. Why?”

“Are you familiar with Australian beers and wines?”

“I am.”

“Perfect! There will be an open mic night at our cafe tonight. It will be very packed, but the guy who’s supposed to run the bar is calling sick. Can you replace him, from 3 pm until around 8?”

“Sure thing, I have no plans.”

“$20 per hour.”

“Sounds like a deal!”

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When bad luck turned to be a good fortune

So yeah, that day I worked for and with them. It was more than a job. It was great. Dylan and her girlfriend are perfect as a boss and a working partner. I served drinks to the happy customers during my five-hour shift. And the cafe is located just in front of the beach. Perfect, right? That day I didn’t reach my travel destination, but I have two new amazing friends and some cash in hand. That was a great day.

 

I’m Glad My Bus Didn’t Show Up

It was 7 am in the morning when I waited for my bus from Coles Bay to Launceston. The bus was scheduled to pick me up there at 7.20. But shit happened, it didn’t show up. I was waiting until 7.50 until I finally decided to call the bus operator. They gave me the driver’s number, and I called her. She’s a freakin’ liar, she said she was there but didn’t see me. Non sense. It was a very small and quiet place, there’s no way we’d miss each other. I debated her, but obviously she couldn’t turn over for me. And it was the only bus of the day, so I had to figure out something else to go to Launceston.

I started asking people at a gas station next to the bus stop. I asked them one by one if they were driving to Launceston or not. An old dude said he was, but he didn’t want to pick me up. He was rude as hell. Then I spent almost an hour to ask other people who filled up their tanks. Even though they couldn’t give me a ride because we were heading to different directions, most of them were very friendly and wished me good luck.

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The best hitchhiking experience ever!

Around 10.40 am I saw a couple filling up their tank. I almost didn’t approach them because I had a feeling it would be another rejection. But I almost jumped like a monket when they said they could give me a lift until Launceston. At first they were a bit skeptical, but after exchanging looks to each other they said yes. And they turned to be really nice travel partners. The guy’s name was Adrian, and the woman’s was Michelle. They let me sit in the front seat so I could see the view clearly, told me some insights about Tasmania, and talked about my travel and their life. When we arrived at a small town named Campbell Town, we even stopped and had drinks together at a small cafe. And as we arrived in Launceston, they also showed me their house and brought me to see the city for about an hour. It was so good to meet them, I even thanked God my bus didn’t show up.

 

I Found Love in the Valley

Beautiful city in the valley

Beautiful city in the valley

In Launceston, a beautiful city surrounded by hills & valley, I was hosted by Kylie, a single mom of two who lives with her friendly daughter, Alice (11), and super adorable son, Ethan (8). It’s my very first time being hosted by a parent on CouchSurfing. This community is dominated by very young people (mostly younger than me) who live on their own, so it was kinda “different” to be hosted by Kylie. But of course, different in a good way. She’s a very decent woman, polite, and I had a great time talking to her. She’s very curious about life in Indonesia and my travels, and I was so glad to tell her those stories.

On the first night I cooked them an Indonesian dish: ayam panggang bumbu pecel (grilled chicken with peanut sauce). In the kitchen we had some interesting conversation, but there was one moment I will always remember. It’s about her view regarding sexual orientation.

I asked her, “Is it okay for you if one of kids is gay?”

She answered, “Yes, of course. I want my kids to know that we can love anyone we want. That some men have girlfriends/wives, but some other can also have boyfriends/husbands. I also want them to think that homosexuality is a normal thing, so they will accept anyone in their life who’s gay/lesbian. And I believe their father will also be okay if they’re gay.”

That’s a very powerful statement I don’t usually hear from a parent. I have lots of friends in Indonesia, my country, who accept their homosexual friends, but I’m pretty sure they will be so mad if their kids are gay. I believe we all need more people like Kylie in our life.

Not only Kylie actually, but also their kids. Alice is fun girl to talk to and hangout with. She’s talkative, energetic, and humorous. We went to the park, horse racing court, and swimming pool together… that day was really fun.

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Having fun under the sun

And Ethan, her little brother, is definitely one of my most favorite people I met on my travels. I even want to cry when writing this. He had been so friendly since I first arrived in their house. He asked me to play this and that with him, and on my last day in Launceston he said, “I don’t want you to leave.”

This little kid made me feel so loved. He wanted to sit next to me when we had dinner. He invited me to come to his school holiday program. He hugged me. I was supposed to go to Queenstown Wednesday morning, but I cancelled my plan because of several reasons, and Ethan was actually one of them. I didn’t tell them this. I decided to stay longer in Launceston so I could see him again that day.

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I’ll definitely see you again, little brother!

I went downtown and bought a box of paper plane for him and a travel diary for Alice. When we had our very last dinner together, I gave those farewell presents to them. Alice said the diary was so cool, and Ethan hugged me four times because he was happy with the gift. I almost wept. And I almost wept again when he made me a paper plane on his own design, “You must carry this everywhere you go, so you’ll always remember me.”

Of course I’ll always remember him, with or without that paper plane. That night he also downloaded Skype on his iPad so we can talk anytime we want. In the morning he told me once more that he didn’t want me to go. After I left, Kylie said he cried. Oh dear, so did I. On the bus.

A few hours later Kylie sent me this picture above, with #BrotherFromAnotherMother hashtag. I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy because he feels that way, and sad because I had to go. He’s super awesome, and I want him to be my brother. I promise to myself I will always come back to Launceston to visit him, because our goodbye was the most heartbreaking one I have ever had on my travels.

#PaperPlaneBrothers

#PaperPlaneBrothers

Uh ya, it’s strange how travel can leave a huge marks in my heart like this. It hurts and breaks a little piece of my heart. But hopefully I left something good behind. For Ethan. Also for Alice, Kylie, Adrian, Michelle, Dylan, Ronnie, Laurell, Adam, and Rhys.

Some Joys I Found on the Island

In 2014, I had the most beautiful December in my life. It was snowing in Warsaw when I headed to a small town in East Poland named Lublin. A beautiful family hosted me in their snow-covered house, gave me some warmth I needed in the -7 degree weather. Snow was also falling from Berlin’s sky when my friend and I went downtown at night, and it was all white when her lovely family took me on a city tour in the morning after.

One year later (read: last month), I was “trapped” in a hot December in Australia. Without the snow and real Christmas ambiance, I was afraid I’d have a dull holiday season. So I decided to quit my job in Melbourne and travel somewhere else where I could have a “home” and “family” to celebrate Christmas with. And I have to admit, I missed having a home. So I browsed HelpX, a website that enables people to exchange helps, to find what I wanted. I sent a request to Serena Cabello, a taco shop owner in Phillip Island, only 2.5 hours from Melbourne. Just a few hours after the message was sent, she replied and said yes. So we made the deal: she’d host me for two weeks and I’d work for her at the shop. I was so happy.

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So this is Phillip Island

On December 21 I took a bus to Cowes, a beach town on the island where Serena lives with her husband Alex and their kids Chili (8) & Marley (5). I love this family at the first sight. Serena is really friendly. Chili and Marley are really sweet and not annoying at all (that’s very important). And Alex is a kind of guy you want to hangout with. And oh, did I mention that they hosted me in their glamping tent? Glamping stands for glamorous camping, and they set the tent up in their backyard for me. When I arrived Serena brought me to my tent, and it was awesome. They provided me with a comfortable bed, table lamp & electricity power, heater & fan, cutlery, towel & beach towel, and ice box. It was just like a hotel inside the tent, and it’s also part of their businesses. Last year they started Phillip Island Glamping where people can hire that kind of luxurious tent for their holiday on the island.

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My tent featuring the sound of native birds and waves from the beach

I love my tent. I also love their warm home. They didn’t treat me like a stranger at all. They shared every food they had. They brought me to see some awesome spots at the island and meet their lovely friends. I couldn’t ask for a better homestay family. On December 25, Serena and Alex invited me to their table to have a Christmas feast together. We had leg ham, prawns, crabs, oysters, salmon, and some other delicacies. Not only foods, we also shared stories and laughter. Even though there was no snow outside the house, that was a perfect Christmas celebration.

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Christmas feast with the Cabellos

The day after Christmas I started working effectively at Gidget’s Beach Cantina, their lovely taco shop. It’s a do-it-yourself Mexican food shop where they customer can take any toppings they want from the salad bar for their taco/nachos/burger. My duty was to take order from customers, handle the payment, make margarita, grill the quesadilla, serve nachos with a beautiful melted cheese sauce, warm up the tortillas and serves them. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life! It was stress-free, because most people who came there were on holiday vibe: casual, laid-back, and friendly. Alex & Serena are the best working partners ever. They’re not bossy, and didn’t get mad when I forgot to charge $2 extra for a guacamole order or burned the quesadilla

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The taco shop and its interior

And I was so in love with the shop’s design. The color is blue, very me. They put some cool Mexican details in the shop, such as Mexican spices in big jars, Mexican cooking book, sombrero, and of course the happy Latin music. It didn’t feel like working at all. Everytime I had to go to the shop I was always happy because it felt like another kind of holiday.

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And the taco is beautiful!

Phillip Island itself is a really beautiful place. Surrounded by spectacular coastal lines, the view is just awesome. I love the beaches, especially Flynns Beach because it’s clean and quiet. The town center is also charming although it’s really small (I didn’t get tired by walking all around the town). More photos of the island: THE PHOTOGENIC PHILLIP.

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The Nobbies, a must-visit place on the island

My most favorite place on the island is absolutely The Nobbies, one of coastal lines that has hills, walking trail with beautiful views, and some stunning rocks. The water color was ridiculously blue, breathtaking! I went there not with Cabello family, but Philipp Kautner, a new German friend of mine that I met during my travel in Australia. He drove me all around the island, and we were fascinated by most views we saw. I think the Nobbies was his favorite too. We also went to an island called Churchill, and it was also pretty awesome. Unfortunately the flies were really annoying, we just couldn’t stand it when they flew on our face, earlobe, and lips. Ew.

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Heritage farm at Churchill Island

I was also glad that I spent time with Philipp on the island. I’ve been wanting to visit conflict area Pakistan, Afghanistan, or tak a road trip across African countries, but none of people I know wants to be my travel partner. I’m not confident to go by myself. Luckily when Philipp and I drove somewhere that afternoon, we talked about it and it turned out that he also has the same interest! And I can see someday we’ll travel there together.

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Fun under the sun

Basically, everything that I experienced on the island was amazing. Every food was perfect, and every person I met was beautiful. That’s why it was so sad for me when bidding farewell to the Cabellos. Serena even wept. I didn’t wanna look at Chili & Marley’s eyes because I was afraid I’d cry. But happiness was way greater than my sadness. Now I feel I have a family in Australia that opens their door for me anytime I want to come. I didn’t know how to thank them for this. I promise one day I’ll be back to Phillip Island to collect every piece of memory I left there.

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My new best friends on the island: Chili (left) and Marley (middle).