It was winter, July ‘13. He was driving, and I was passenger. He knew the right side of the road, and I knew the American side of the road. He knew how to read maps, and I knew how to get lost. He had explored the countryside before, and I had eager, foreign eyes soaking up every inch of new terrain that stretched across the horizon.
He guided us up Australia’s East Coast, the long stretches of highway eased by the simplicity of our plan: no plan. He would point to stars on the treasure map describing beautiful beaches and scenic campsites, waiting for me to confirm or deny. But I never denied so we kept on driving further and further. His intuition was our guidebook, and I trusted it.
It felt organic. It felt honest. It felt like no mystery at all although everything was a perfect mystery to me.
In Cape Cohran, he boiled tea and played guitar beneath the stars while my mind silenced for the first time in a long time. In Mimosa Rocks, he guided me to an empty beach ironically covered in great lengths of fresh footprints. Up the coastline, he stopped at viewpoints that could only be described as heavenly. In Newcastle, he took me to his home and we laughed with his childhood friends. In Bodella, he pulled off to mom and pop shops so we could observe the lives of people far removed from city-life ‘normalcies,’ – if there ever were such a thing.
The company of my travel companion was beautifully comfortable as he often reached over and squeezed my knee, or when he put his arm around my shoulder and tapped the beat of the song humming from the speakers on the crest of my neck. He pulled me in closer, closer - even though we were already close enough. Suddenly, the homesickness that had been haunting me back in Melbourne belonged to another person. I realized, with the windows down and wind in my hair, that I was at home: here on the wide open road in a stranger’s country.