In all iterations of our round-the-world trip, Australia was but a layover on our way from Southeast Asia to South America. Out of our way and especially out of our budget, we gave the down-under continent little consideration. Then in Thailand we changed our itinerary to head south to Malaysia and Singapore and decided that it would be a shame to not spend any time in Australia. I remembered I had an Australian connection after all.
In the summer of 1996 I traveled to the United States for the first time, to work at a camp for two months and travel for one afterward. One night the all-male staff of my boys camp met up at the pub called The Depot with the all-female staff of the nearby girls camp. Part of the unofficial agenda was identifying travel buddies. I made acquaintance with Zita from the Czech Republic and Joanne from Australia. We spent all of September traversing the U.S. (driveaway cars from Boston to San Diego and from Los Angeles to Seattle, and a three-day-straight Greyhound bus ride from Seattle to New York City).
Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 1996
It was the best trip of my life until then and for years after (until my European hitchhiking stints in 1998 and 2001). Thanks to the trip, I have seen more of the U.S. than many Americans.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, September 1996.
We traveled well together, the three strangers that we were.
San Francisco, California, September 1996.
After parting ways and returning to our respective countries, we kept in touch. I visited Zita in Brno, and all three of us even met again in Slovakia and the Czech Republic the following year when Joanne visited. Then, as things like this go, we gradually went our own ways again and lost touch.
I was a little apprehensive about reconnecting after such a long period of silence. But when I friended Joanne on Facebook and messaged her to say we’d be in Sydney and would like to meet up, she not only said she’d love to but also that we could stay with her for a few days. Then she told me the most amazing part: Zita was going to be visiting with her at the same time!
In other words, we went from ignoring Australia to an 18-year travelers reunion. We all stayed and hung out at Joanne’s house, where we also met her partner Russell and their son Riley (my eternal thanks goes to them all for their hospitality). And Lindsay finally met the people I have mentioned throughout our relationship.
We also took a day trip, along the coast south of Sydney.
Eighteen years after road-tripping across the USA together we sat around the dinner table and retold stories from our trip. We giggled at the old photos and with nostalgia in our eyes remembered the way we were.
As I mentioned in the reflections on 9 months of travel, the trip aka the 2013-2014 Where Is Your Toothbrush? World Tour reconnected me with my traveling past. Not only did the 18-year travelers reunion reinforce that sensation, I now know that once you start traveling, even if you settle down for a few years like I did in the States, you cannot leave the road again.
Peter Korchnak, April 18, 2014