Words by: Georgia Cameron Art by: Liam Grant
Travelling the world can be one of the most liberating and life changing things that one can experience. Running on little sleep after being in transit for several hours, you arrive in an amazing new place wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to see what your new location has to offer — the amazing food, the different culture and the beautiful sights.
But one thing never formally makes it to the itinerary; the people you meet. The same people who often make travel the magical experience it almost always turns out to be.
During my trip across Asia, I met many of these people. Strangers who became friends. Previously nameless randoms, who now live in my mind as vivid memories. Here are their stories…
If you’ve ever explored the nightlife in a new city, you’ve probably met what I call The Flirt. While travelling in Japan on a study exchange, I met a guy named Kaoru, who I’m still good friends with today. I happened to be travelling with around 15 other students, some of whom caught Kaoru’s eye. Unfortunately, his one and only pick up line didn’t secure many ladies, rather many laughs. “Yeah, I guess you could say I’m smooth… like peanut butter,” he announced as he cosied up to one of my friends. While he may not have landed any dates that night, his efforts were admirable.
Sometimes it isn’t always a laugh that someone brings, but instead a tear after a heartfelt story. During an exchange in Busan, South Korea, I met so many people from around the world. People who shared stories with me as we walked the back alleyways near our university. We discussed hardships, discrimination, struggles with weight, and severe heartbreak. Though, despite our struggles and challenges, we talked about how we had pushed through them all and serendipitously both ended up in the same place at the same time. It’s these memories that made my time in Busan so special. However, the person whose story still breaks my heart to this day belongs to a lecturer from one of the classes I took. He shared with us life lessons beyond the syllabus from his time in the Korean Army, and the battles he went through. I can still hear the sadness in his voice as he proclaimed “there isn’t anything one could offer me to ever do it again.”
Finally there are the people you don’t expect to meet, especially those on the other side of the world. People you find in the strangest places. For me that came in many forms. It came once when I was at a karaage bar in Tokyo, I turned to the stranger next to me only to see my old high school teacher. Or on exchange in South Korea, when my roommate — who had been randomly assigned — was a business student from Monash who was taking a course in Korea that same semester. Or in the form of other travellers I bunked with in hostels or sat with on trains. With these people I’d spend hours learning about how they ended up in the exact same place and how we managed to cross paths.
Writing this, I am able to recall the interactions with these people so vividly because they were some of the most significant parts of my travel. While I’ll always remember the sights, sounds and tastes with fondness, there is nothing I miss more than seeing and experiencing the world with the people around me. So, on your next post-lockdown adventure, find yourself a Kaoru to make you laugh, make friends in back alleyways, and learn the life story of randoms on trains, because it’s these memories I hold closest to my heart.