On Monday the cafe was super slow. So slow, in fact, that Camille and I spent the morning pulling weeds. I actually enjoyed the task because it gave me a chance to enjoy some good music I had recently downloaded. The task was also pleasant because I had a huge load off of my shoulders. Today I wasn't working as a manager in training. I was simply working as a volunteer, and that was nice.
When we did finally have customers I waited on them and quickly fell into a good conversation. It was a family of four from Perth. The man reminded me of my Dad because he shared a lot of the same views as him. He told me thought America needed Trump because it had turned soft. He thought Trump would pull us back to our conservative roots. I asked them about Perth and they recommended going to Darwin during the winter and saving Perth for the Spring time. I hadn't yet thought about Darwin but after listening to them talk about it for several minutes I figured it was as good a place as any to head next.
The wife asked me what part of America I was from and when I responded they said they had never been to Oklahoma but thought it seemed nice. The man asked me if there was a lot to do for tourists there. Little did he know he was talking to a Oklahoma tourism fanatic.
“I think Oklahoma is relatively new to the tourism industry. We are one of the younger states and because of that we are still branding ourselves as a destination. I've worked a couple of different jobs in the Oklahoma tourism industry and I can tell you there is plenty to do, it's just not that well publicized.” I went on to tell them about the amazing opportunities in agritourism, the beautiful lakes and the delicious southern food. I told them about Oklahoma City and the Thunder, though they weren't familiar with the NBA.
“Yeah, the city sounds cool but it sounds like it might just be another big city, you know what I mean? Is that where you are from or do you know any smaller towns that might be interesting?”
That was the jackpot question I had waited for.
“Actually, I'm from Frederick, it's a very small town in the southwest corner of the state. We're actually just a ten minute drive from Texas.” I paused and noticed their eyebrows were raised.
“So is it real Western like Texas, with cowboys and stuff?”
“We are western but not like what you see on TV. My community is agriculture based and so there are plenty of farmers and ranchers in the area, but we also have a lot of neat museums and activities that make us unique too.”
“Wow, that sounds like a lot for a small town. What sorts of museums?”
“We have a little bit of everything, but a lot of it is history-based. We have a 1920's Mediterranean style theatre that is still in good use, a WWII Air Base that is currently used for living history demonstrations and an entire park that resembles a town in the early 1900's.” I was trying to keep my shpiel relatively short because I knew I could easily discuss my hometown for hours.
“That's quite a bit!” At this time I realized they had all finished eating throughout our conversation. I felt a bit embarrassed about this so I cued my exit.
“Well, I better let you guys finish your meal. I didn't mean to talk your ear off!”
The wife laughed and said it was a pleasure. The husband spoke up and said, “Well, you are a fine ambassador for Oklahoma and for Frederick. If we ever make it to Oklahoma we will definitely come visit your town and told them Haley from Australia sent us!” I laughed and told him the town was small enough that that would actually work. They thanked me again as I cleared their table and watched them walk to their car.
When I finished my shift I was invited to go to town with Matthew, Alex and Camille. Alex and Camille had packed their bags and were going to catch the bus and ferry back to Adelaide. I eyed their backpacks and a million questions filled my mind.
I asked Alex and Camille if they carried nail polish and make-up and they said they wanted to but the limited space deemed it unnecessary. Alex talked about how backpacking had taught her to care less and less about what people think. Like me, these two girls had been glamour queens before hitting the road. Now they both sat barefaced and carefree in front of me. I wanted to be like that but I wasn't quite ready. I couldn't let go of my mascara. It was the last thread between me and nature.
Before starting this trip I was a minimalist by American standards. I have never been name-brand conscious and I have a hard time spending money on clothes and electronics. Unlike my piers, I preferred to buy things like books and paintbrushes. Looking back I see how materialistic even that is in comparison to where I am now. The huge suitcase I had stressed over packing was now too big and too much. I had a great urge to mail half its contents back home and start over with a smaller bag. I didn't need all the fancy clothes I had packed. I didn't need multiple coloring books and hair products. In fact I had yet to brush or straighten my hair since I left the United States. It was really nice, actually. I think that's one of the things I like about the backpacking mindset. There is no glamour in backpacking; only life and living. That's the authenticity of it and that's why it's life changing.
The ride to town was a short one this week. Alex and I nearly cried when I told her goodbye. She gave me a big hug and told me good luck. I wished her a safe trip back to Canada and told her to keep in touch. Camille thanked me for the brief meeting and I wished her luck on her journey as well. It was a bittersweet goodbye for us all.