STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN IN BYRON BAY
First of all, let me start by saying that Byron Bay, in New South Wales on the East Coast of Australia, is a very place nice indeed. Its chilled out vibe, beautiful beach, gorgeous people, awesome cafes and quirky shops all add to it being a very enjoyable place to visit. I had a great time there.
However my trip to this laid back beach town was interesting for another reason entirely. Perhaps the atmosphere in Bryon is so relaxed, people react to it by doing strange things.
I guess I will never know if what happened to me happened to others, or if it was a once off.
‘YOUR COUSIN AND HIS WIFE MET IN BYRON BAY’
A few weeks earlier I had clicked on my Facebook notifications to discover the above comment from my auntie. It was added in response to a photo I’d uploaded to my Facebook page earlier that day.
The photo in question had not been taken in Byron Bay nor featured anyone that I would one day end up getting married to.
Now I do love Rob (pictured above) but I am not in love with him and nor is he with me. To use a word that is used very regularly here in Australia, we are what is known as ‘mates’. Or for the truly initiated amongst us, ‘maaates’.
A ONE WAY TICKET TO AUSTRALIA = A ONE WAY TICKET TO LOVE
The assumption that I would find true love in Australia was not a new occurrence.
From the moment I announced I was leaving for a backpacking lifestyle Down Under everyone was keen to chip in with the notion that I’d probably never return because I’d find the Aussie love of my life over there just like their son, cousin or barmaid’s daughter had done.
People saw a one way ticket to Australia as being a one way ticket to love. It seemed all you had to do was step off the plane onto Australian soil and you will find some fella standing there ready to whisk you off your feet and make you his Sheila. The man will also look something like this (which coincidentally looks a bit like Rob now I think about it).
Now I don’t know why he’s topless nor why he would be allowed to bring his surfboard with him onto the airport tarmac. Regardless, none of this happened and I was greeted with the following sight instead:
No topless surfer waiting for me and it turned out that the man in yellow worked there and was not my husband to be… which got slightly awkward when I ran up to him and threw my legs round his waist.
Fast forward a couple weeks later to my first evening in Byron when I get talking to a lad in my hostel room from the North. Of England that it. The Pom (as they are affectionately known here) seemed on the shy side but was friendly enough. We shared a brief dialogue before I turned in for bed.
Later than night I woke up in the top bunk I had inhabited and quickly realised I needed to wee. I peered down at the bunk below where the northern lad was sleeping and then started to climb down the bunk as quietly as possible so not to wake him. Three rungs down I noticed his hand slide out of his cover and move towards my foot. Then I felt it. An absolutely undeniable sensation. My foot was being tickled! This stranger had decided it would be a totally normal thing to start tickling my foot. I laughed. Mostly because I was being ticked and thats what it does to you and partially because I was shocked.
A GREAT ESCAPE
I quickly made my way down the ladder, stumbled out the room and got myself to the toilet. By this point I was desperate! If there is one thing that tickling does well it’s increasing your urgency to pee. ‘So that was pretty weird’, I thought to myself, still musing on it when I reentered the room.
As soon as I started making my way up the ladder, the tickling hand returned prompting me to get up that ladder faster than I have ever got up a ladder in my life. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of it all.
The next morning the feet tickler and I got slightly better acquainted and in the light of day and without the tickling going on, which I decided not to mention, things seemed normal enough. Perhaps he was a Sleep Tickler? Perhaps it was just a joke? I pushed these thoughts to the side and soon we were heading to go to the beach together. We had a swim, chatted about travelling then ended up at a bar where we enjoyed an evening sans tickling or inappropriate touching of any kind.
That night I woke up around 2am again and needed to go to the toilet instantly. (Sam: stop drinking liquids past 10pm). I put my foot onto the top rung and started to make my way down the ladder. As I got to the third rung I felt a finger on my foot.
No, he wasn’t was he?
I looked down and could see his hand squirming below me followed by the unmistakeable ‘tickle tickle tickle’ gesture that you might perform on a three year old. Here I was again in this dangerous situation of needing the toilet and having to stand the sensation of having my feet tickled. If this guy wasn’t careful I would soon be accidentally piddling all over where he slept. Oh god. What if that was the point? Perhaps this guy had something in common with the current US president!
Not wanting to stick around to find out, I leapt off the ladder onto the floo. Landing with all the grace of a baby hippopotamus, I pegged it to the bathroom.
I sat on the dunny (another Australian term for you which means toilet – who said this blog wasn’t educational?) and pondered. The tickling had amused me the night before but now I found it a bit weird. Why does he morph into a devious foot tickler once darkness falls? Was this some kind of flirting? I had no idea. As I made my way back to the room I could see him in the darkness patiently waiting to attack. ‘Do not do it’, I whispered sternly, not realising until that moment that you could whisper sternly. With that I quickly pulled myself into the safety of the top bunk.
LOOKING FOR THE LIGHTHOUSE
Trying to avoid him as much as possible the next day, I opted to go find the Byron Bay Lighthouse. I also did what everyone does when weird stuff happens. Naturally I texted my friends about it.
WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS BEFORE?
I’ve just realised that the combination of lighthouses, weird goings on and being in Australia is all very ‘Round the Twist’ isn’t it? More to the point have you ever.. ever felt like this? When strange things happen and you’re going round the twist? (Points for all who recognise the theme tune). You may have also noticed that my friend’s nickname on messenger is ‘Solid Bloke’ – this is because he always gives the best advice and most thought out responses as you can clearly see from above.
That night while I was getting some shut eye, the foot tickler came into the room and shouted ‘boo!’ before trying to tickle my feet again. As I was half asleep I instinctively reacted by grabbing the nearest thing to me and launching it at his head region. The nearest thing to me turned out to be a coat hanger. I’m not particularly proud of this moment and I want to assure you that I do not condone violence of any kind. However in my defence I was reacting in the moment and as far as coat hangers go, it wasn’t a very dangerous one. After it bounced (gently) off his head he giggled and said ‘aww don’t go to sleep!’. I reacted to this by turning round and promptly going to sleep.
It was Backpacker Blonde, in the hostel dorm with a coat hanger.
The next day I saw him downstairs as I was checking out the hostel. ‘Leaving me already?’ he asked, seemingly oblivious to how I felt about his tickling activities. ‘I hope I didn’t annoy you too much’ he joked. With a deep breath I decided I needed to address the proverbial elephant in the room.
‘Well I mentioned the feet tickling thing to a few people.. and the general consensus was that it was a bit.. you know.. creepy’, I informed him hoping that this would deter him from future tickling sprees on some other unsuspecting backpackers. ‘Oh but that’s just because they don’t know me!’ he said, ‘if they knew me they would think that’s just cheeky me being the silly sausage that I am’.
And with that I left to get my bus. ‘Have you met the man of your dreams yet?’ my auntie commented on a new picture of mine. Well I certainly didn’t find the man of my dreams in Byron Bay but I did have my feet tickled several times by a northern guy who self identifies as a silly sausage.. if that counts?
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
I suppose that’s the thing about travelling… all sorts of weird and wonderful moments will happen when you start living outside of your comfort zone and outwith your normal routine. A new hostel may introduce you to the love of your life as it did for my cousin or it could introduce you to a foot tickler you will probably never see again.
I hope people realise that travelling is not about finding someone to fall in love with. It’s as cheesy as learning to fall back in love with who you are as a person.
Each new town you navigate, each new friend you make, each lighthouse you find and each strange social situation you dodge, your confidence will grow and you learn new parts of yourself you didn’t think you could find out, 30 years in.
It’s about collecting those moments, the great and the terrible and everything in between. The good, the bad and the tickly.