I touched down in OOL after dark in a city with a population of half a million, the only person I knew being a girl I had met in the jungle 6 months prior, in a foreign country with the only belongings I had split between two suitcases and a board bag, not knowing where I was going to be living for the next few months, and having to drive a rental car on the opposite side of the road for the first time in my life.
With a deep breath and a sigh I shoved all of my earthly belongings into my tiny little rental car and hit the ignition.
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy I suppose.
The next few days were rough. I had signed up for flatmates, and I was lucky enough to find an entire three bedroom house with a big yard and a garage in Burleigh Heads. It was a nice house, in a great location, with a great price, and if I had been back home in the US there wouldn’t have been a problem. But, I just vividly remember sitting in the living room of this empty house when the enormity of just how alone I was hit me.
It’s not like I had a job lined up for me there. I couldn’t work there, and rightfully so since I was on a tourist visa. For thousands of miles in every direction I literally only knew one person. Things sort of reminded me of California, but everything was just different. The vibes were just completely different. Australia for those of you who have been there, and the Gold Coast in particular know that it’s unlike any other place on the planet. I couldn’t even call anyone, since nobody I knew back home was even awake. The way the time zones were, everyone back home was literally in a different day.
I still remember just sitting on the floor, with my back against the wall, and my fingers just tapping on my knees trying to think about what the hell I was going to do. The air was still, beams of light streamed through the blinds, and it was very quiet, save for a few cars driving by in the distance. It was then that the realization that I was going to have to spend hours upon hours on end here slowly drilled itself into my brain with every tick of the clock.
I could literally hear the tick of my wrist watch it was that quiet.
I sat there against the wall for about 10 minutes. And then, without a single word, I packed everything up into my car and drove away. I never saw that house again. I only lasted one night there (if you’re reading this I’m so sorry Jen).
Luckily though, the universe took care of me and after a flurry of text messages and hurried internet browsing on my phone I ended up finding a room in a townhouse apartment on Binya Avenue in Coolangatta, just down the road from Kirra.
I had spent two years living alone back in Los Angeles and I actually loved it, but for some reason this was different. From the bottom of my heart I just knew that in Australia, on the Gold Coast, I needed to live and be surrounded by other people – and in this case those people ended up being a bunch of Slovenians.
Funnily enough, as I write this, yesterday, my friends back home in the USA were asking me what a typical stereotype of a Slovenian is, since they had never even heard of that country. Well, after two months of living in that house, I learned that wherever there’s one Slovenian, there’s at least 5 more right around the corner.
Slovenia is a tiny country in Central Europe with a population of only 2 million. Slovenia is a beautiful country, full of mountains, gorgeous valleys carved out by glaciers, and pristine lakes the likes of which would grace the cover of any travel magazine. But, unfortunately, the winters get brutally cold, and if you have any dreams of living a life other than a relatively simple one out in a log cabin (albeit a modern, incredibly comfortable, insanely well-built one) in the woods with your family, then it’s time to pack your bags and hit the road.
Because of this, there are Slovenians everywhere in the world. The first lady of the United States of America is actually a Slovenian ex-patriot, although unless another Slovenian made you privy to this information, you would never know. They are like chameleons, Slovenians. They are an incredibly kind, polite, and hard- working people, and their skin is white, so unless you stumbled upon one and specifically asked, you would never know they were Slovenian and not just your average, run of the mill backpacking European.
Australia, unlike Slovenia, is almost never brutally cold, the ocean is accessible to almost everyone, it’s extremely easy to find a job, and you can make good money there if you are willing to put in the work. The Slovenians I ended up living with, were all trying to find a way to permanently live in Australia – and they were succeeding! When I moved into the house on Binya Avenue, I essentially stumbled upon the unofficially designated Gold Coast Slovenian outpost.
I would be on my computer in the dining/living room editing photos when a group of Slovenians would bust through the door and usually one of them would be clearly agitated about something. What that thing was I would never know since they would almost always talk to each other in Slovenian. They would bust in the kitchen, and within a few minutes the blender would be whirring, the oven would be cooking up some incredible vegan dish, and I’d be shaking hands meeting someone’s cousin or brother or sibling who had just gotten in from Europe two days ago and was on a road trip all along the East Coast.
It was great. It was exactly what I needed. And after that first week passed, and I was able to open a bank account, get my new SIM card, buy a bicycle, stock my fridge with groceries, and finally take a second to breathe – things got much better.
And for the first time in 3 weeks, Australia sort of started to feel like home.
[ to be continued … ]
P.S.: To all of my old housemates, and your guys’ friends and family, I miss you all.