I can’t remember if it was the Dalai Lama or Mr Miyagi who said “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” But in the afternoon of my day off in Augusta, he did.
I had a Little Creatures beer and a book as a prop, and I sat down in the yard of the Youth Hostel in the shade. A guy was dragging a chair over to one of the tables. “I’d join you,” I said, “but if I sit in the sun I’ll shrivel.” So he dragged the table over to my chair instead. He was from New Zealand and he looked like a cross between Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China and Shane Warne before Elizabeth Hurley airbrushed him.
Dwayne was 40, had recently stopped travelling and was learning to settle down. I’m 40, have recently stopped settling down am learning to travel. It was a good moment for our paths to cross.
He was a man with a plan. After 20 years travelling round the world, sometimes on cruise ships, sometimes not, he’d spent 2 years in South Africa, trying to make a romance work and getting paid under the table, before admitting defeat. His mother, who sounds like a sensible lady, sat him down and told him that charm and good looks weren’t going to last him forever. So he went back to school and qualified as a PE teacher, so that he’d have a career. He bought a dog, so that he couldn’t go back on the road, and now, equipped with permanent residency in WA, a career and a canine companion, he was on a mission to find a wife. It isn’t plain sailing. Most single women in their 40s, he said, either have lots of baggage, are being deafened by their biological clocks ticking, or are mad. I couldn’t really fault his logic. As a newly-qualified teacher he’s getting jobs in very small mining towns where the workforce is overwhelmingly single and male. It’s a good life and the people are friendly, but there aren’t many women to meet. So he’s joined a dating agency for girls who like the outdoor life. If the dates don’t go well, that’s fine, he said. Maybe she’ll have a friend who’s more his type. And not baby-crazed. Or bonkers.
I liked his optimism and his certainty that this final part of his plan would soon be realised. I liked that he had identified his weak spots (with help from his mother) and had designed a life that would make it easier to reach his goals.
We talked about single travelling and how to meet people. You have to make the first move, he said. If you sit reading a book, people will think you want to be left alone and will give you space. Put out what you want to get back.
Take time to value the little things, he said, as we opened some more beers. Like sitting under the moon and stars, with good company and eye candy.
Federico the Italian chef and I were the good company. The eye candy were the girls from the bakery who were trying to figure out how to light the barbecue. They were young, beautiful and blonde, and having immense amounts of fun. Federico told us about his friend who had been riding round the world on a bike. He couldn’t get a visa into China so he had to ride round it – into Siberia. Federico shivered at the thought, then had to go and talk to his girlfriend on Skype. He’s in Australia on a working holiday – she’s still in Italy. “Complicated,” he said, with a very Italian shrug.
PS: this is a slightly random photo from my cruise up the Blackwood River. The water comes halfway up the dog. The necessity for a boat as opposed to a pair of waders seems unproven.