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The Only Traveling Advice I Will Ever Give You: The Inevitable Australian
I have only ever given one piece of universal advice, which is that if you are ever offered your choice of a beverage during a job interview, you should take it, because whether or not you are offered the job will never depend upon your not having imposed upon the office manager for getting you a cup of coffee. It’s a free drink! You should take it. After years of careful consideration, I would like to add a second piece, bringing the total of absolute truths I’m aware of to exactly two: If you travel any distance – even merely outside the city limits of your hometown – you must be prepared to meet an Australian person. I will develop this further: You must prepare yourself for an Australian person to talk to you, to offer only the vaguest background information as to why they are so far from Australia, and to have no discernible occupation or plans to return to their home country. In my admittedly limited travel experience, from which I am prepared to extrapolate wildly, all Australian people are on vacation an average of 400 days a year, and prefer to spend that time talking to Americans about carpentry, their future travel plans, national monuments, and the supplement/fake cold remedy Emergen-C. If you have ever filled a Ziploc baggie with multivitamins in preparation for a trip, you have just upped the odds of running into your Australian. I don’t make the rules, I just work here.
You may meet the Australian in a hotel, or in line at the movies. The odds of encountering one at a hostel or bar increase to roughly 100%. The Australian will either be inexplicably stone-cold sober at a bar at two a.m. or eight beers into an afternoon at a museum, never anywhere between the two. The Australian will, generally speaking, wish you well. The Australian will have a baffling energy that is somehow both sexual and non-sexual at the same time. They will have some sort of issue with their credit card that will never be made quite clear to you, but they will have established some sort of financial workaround on the strength of an app you have never heard of. The next day, when you check your phone, you will find that you have the app now too. This is the power of the Inevitable Australian.
Every traveler must decide for herself how she would like to deal with her particular Australian. Certainly sex (or at least the possibility of sexual intrigue) is on the table. One can have the playful-yet-draining sort of public argument that is always readily to hand when one meets a member of the Commonwealth on the road; simply say the words either “Radiohead” or “health care” and your entertainment for the evening is sorted. If you’re looking for scientifically-dubious but earnest and well-intended medical advice, ask your Australian about their thoughts on health. If you wish to have a guitar played at you or to be arm wrestled, the Australian will provide. Friendly non-engagement is also an option, for those who prefer their Australians at a distance. It should go without saying that the Australian is also good for more specific travel advice, but bear in mind that the wise traveler never accompanies the Australian to the next destination, or to “check out a waterfall” they’ve heard great things about. You’ve seen horror movies.
I have no further thoughts on the provenance of the Australian, or what the Australian’s appearance may portend for your individual journey. The Australian travels without explanation, context, or goal; I cannot say what this agent of chaos will bring into (or remove from) your life when you meet him on the road. Greet him carefully, and with the right speech, and keep your own counsel.