I look at my watch. It's only 8pm. I can't go to bed yet, I tell myself. What if I go to a local bar in Byron Bay and have a glass of wine? I agree that if I last til 10 then I can go back to the hostel and turn in for the night without being embarrassed. I head to the Great Northern, sip on a glass of domestic red wine, and listen to Harry Healy playing live in the background (I found out later that he is a face of Byron and has been playing at that bar for over 15 years. In his prime, the bar was packed with groupies; now, he was lucky to have 20 people in the room. Maybe he needs to change his song lineup...).
So I'm sitting there alone, something I would never do in a Chicago bar, when I see a couple walk in the door, head to the bar, and dreamily look into each other's eyes. They grab their drinks, look around for a seat, and we lock eyes. They ask to sit down next to me and of course I'm all for it.
The next four hours include in-depth conversations about everything and anything. More of the couple's friends join us along the way. We exchange travel stories, love stories, surfing stories, etc. I come to find out that the guy was a famous surfer and used to be on the Nestle Milo product packaging. He also teaches yoga in Indonesia and surfs all around the world. He told me countless stories of his travel days but the most important information I learned from him was, "We all just have to help each other." He said that so many people around the world helped him get to where he was that he just wanted to pay it forward to others.
Long story short, I trusted my gut and knew I was surrounded by genuine, good-souled people. They offered up their king-sized bed in their spare bedroom overlooking the lighthouse and ocean. They said they would feel better helping me out and letting me stay with them. I Googled them, located myself on a map, and made sure people knew where I was (don't have a heart attack, Mom and Dad!).
All of us sat on their balcony overlooking the Southern Hemisphere stars. It was a beautifully clear night and Orion was in perfect view. They pointed out the constellations and planets and all of the Milky Way. I can honestly say my breath was taken away.
Then they cooked me an organic late night meal and put on a pot of tea. I turned in for the night and as I slipped into bed I could see the lighthouse beam through the bedroom window. In the morning, we parted ways and I knew I had had a true Byron Bay experience.
Believe me, I don't do things like this very often, but my gut told me it was okay. I truly believe you get what you give. Had I seen someone out by herself and had a great conversation with her, I'd welcome her in, too. As I learned that night, "We just have to help each other."