When I first visited the USA four years ago, I noticed a trend. When meeting any new American woman, within five minutes I would invariably be asked, “Do you surf?”
Growing up in small country towns up to 500 kilometres (~300 Miles) away from the nearest coastline, surfing was not something I often had the chance to do, and by the time I did live somewhere coastal, the closest beach was St Kilda, which has about as many waves as your average coffee cup.
The problem I had was that the look of disappointment on the faces of these American women was hard to take. I was shattering their image of what an Australian man really was. I guess not being six feet tall and having long blonde hair played a part, but the no surfing thing certainly helped.
I've realised recently though, that I'm actually somewhat of a surfing champion. While throwing on a wetsuit and running out to the waves with a board may never happen regularly for me, I've found something else I love to surf: couches.
Poutine; one of the things from Canada I missed the most
Anyone paying attention will note that I haven’t added to this blog in well over a month. What have I been doing in that time? I've been travelling through Canada and the USA meeting up with old friends, going to my favourite bars and eating all of my favourite food all over again. In short, nothing remotely new. Unlike while in India and Burma, I haven't been discovering new cultures, cuisines, cities and people. I've gone back to a bunch of places that I'd already discovered.
While this may not seem like the greatest use of my time (and limited money) while out of the country for a year, it has reminded me of the number one reason I love to travel – meeting and becoming genuine friends with people in other countries.
In the two months since I left India (including my time in the UK, Spain and Sweden) I've been fortunate enough to be welcomes into the homes of many different people. These people vary greatly in their backgrounds as well as my level of familiarity with them before coming into their homes.
My second time at the Daily Show
I've been hosted by not only my sister and some great friends who've hosted me numerous times before, but also people whom I've not seen in up to seven years, and others that were probably best described as “friends of friends” that welcomed me as though we'd been close forever.
I have also used the official Couch Surfing website where I've stayed with people who were literally strangers before staying with them, but for the most part I've stayed with people I've met through my network of travelling friends. To put it into perspective, in the 64 days I've spent in Europe and North America since leaving India, I've spent just 10 nights in paid accommodation, and only two nights since arriving in North America six weeks ago.
A group of my friends in Montreal, Canada
To me that says a lot about the welcoming and kind nature of the people I've met in my last eight years of travelling, and one of the reasons its going to be so difficult to let go of this lifestyle I the future.
While I may not be discovering any new cities just now, it has been far from boring. Reconnecting with people I haven't seen in years is as much of a reward as seeing a great monument for the first time. Just as those said monuments have stood the test of time, so too do many of these friendships.
And hey, some things do change. When an American girl asks me if I surf these days, I answer with a firm “Yes, of course”.