Trusting My Gut: Finding Travel Buddies in Australia
Standing outside the State Library of Victoria, my stomach starts to growl. It is an empty pit of hunger. Wishing I had eaten more for lunch, now it is too late because in minutes two strangers will emerge from the crowded streets. Like spies having a clandestine meeting, we will chitchat for 30 minutes and then decided if we all want to go together on a three-week road trip from Melbourne to Darwin.
Part of an active debate I have been having with myself all week, this road trip is one way for me to get to Katherine, a small Outback town in the Northern Territory. Not a place I had anticipated living when I first arrived to Australia, Katherine is where my friend is waiting for me to meet her with a job lead. After months of traveling without any paid work, I am really looking forward to having a chance to settle in for a while and make some money.
With horror stories rumbling around in my head of people having problems with strangers they have met on the Internet, I felt justified in being cautious.
Not eager to buy another plane ticket and miss huge chunks of the Australian countryside in flight, I found myself perusing the ride share and travel companion section of Gumtree. A service similar to Craigslist, Gumtree was built on the idea of connecting people to their new community when they moved. A great resource for a money-conscious backpacker, I shook with anticipation when I saw the ad for a road trip that would get me to my destination while seeing the highly recommended Great Ocean Road as well as making a stop at Uluru.
Unable to ignore the scent of adventure, I answered the ad. Within minutes our meeting time was set at a public place with lots of witness, daylight and exits. With horror stories rumbling around in my head of people having problems with strangers they have met on the Internet, I felt justified in being cautious. Traveling alone has taught me to follow one basic safety rule.
Trust your gut.
Just as with life, travel can be a fine line between experience and misfortune. Before I arrived in Australia, I believed in riding out situations. I wanted to give everything a fighting chance to prove itself to me as something fun, safe and reliable. Quitting was a sign of weakness on my part as a failure in understanding and acceptance. If I was unhappy, this was an aspect I needed to work on fixing.
If I want to be safe in a new place every couple of weeks, I don’t have the time to access a situation until I can write a five-paragraph essay on why I am in the wrong place.
This was before I was alone in an unfamiliar country. I handled problems at home this way when my gut reaction was telling me I was in the wrong job or relationship, because they weren’t immediate impacts on my safety. I already knew how to be physically safe in my environment, so I fought my gut reaction because it tried to break down large portions of the life I had established. It was a vague feeling that needed reason to define it before I made a change.
Now I listen. With the ticking clock of a temporary visa and a limited bank account, the value of experience defines how I live. If I want to be safe in a new place every couple of weeks, I don’t have the time to access a situation until I can write a five-paragraph essay on why I am in the wrong place. It doesn’t matter if it is protecting my physical safety or my happiness, my gut talks and I simply move to the nearest exit.
Outside the library as I wait for my Gumtree counterparts with two clear exit strategies in mind: one to abandon ship if I have accidentally contacted a serial killer. The second plan is in place in case I decide to go on the road trip but end up being miserable. I don’t know these people or their stories. We may be friends or brief encounters in each others’ rambling lives. So I cross my fingers, scanning the crowd.
My gut is quiet.