Before beginning our two-week road-trip through the outback, Matthew, Maggie and I had already spent two full months together. We had worked and lived and played together. I think most people would agree that it takes a special blend of personalities to put up with each other at that rate for that long.
The group dynamics were quite comical to me, actually. Matthew and Maggie were so similar that they almost clashed with one another. Fortunately, they found a way to make it work. Both Matthew and Maggie were realists and perfectionists. They had a certain way of doing things and if you didn't do it the way they believed was best, they would rather you move out of the way and let them handle it themselves. There both had a keen eye for detail and strategy and both were natural born leaders.
On the other hand, I am a somewhat careless idealist. I don't care how things get done as long as they are done in a timely manner. Details bore me and I'd rather not waste time over analyzing the insignificant things of life. I can be a leader if need-be but I'm quick to be an indian if I sense there are too many chiefs in the group. This worked out in my favor in regards to our group. In fact, I spent the majority of the time watching Matthew and Maggie playfully argue about something silly while I kept my patience by sticking my nose in a book or magazine.
The smallest things called for a full-length debate. Grocery shopping was one of my favorites. Was I fully capable of planning and organizing a grocery list for two weeks? Sure I was. Did I know my best efforts would immediately be overrun by the stronger personalities? Absolutely. So what did I do? I sat back and enjoyed the show.
“Okay, this is the water we need.”
“Why that one?”
“It's cheapest. $4.95”
“But what about this one? It's $3.95.”
“That's for four liters.”
“This one is for five liters. It's cheaper”
Me: “Hey guys, why don't we just get the one that's smaller so it will fit in the car better?”
“Oh, great idea Haley. Let's take the smallest amount of water out into the driest part of the outback! We'll just die of thirst because it fits in the car!”
“We can take the five liter one, it's fine.”
“No, no, you want four liters so we'll take four liters.”
“Matthew! Just get the five liter one.”
“No. Maggie wants the four liters so we'll take the four liters.”
This sort of thing could last for ten minutes. It also happened every half hour on the dot. Most of the time I laughed and watched as Matthew and Maggie purposely pushed each other's buttons and then laughed at each other out of frustration. I guess this is partly why the two of them took on a parental-type role in my life. I was the child-like figure who couldn't drive, navigate or accurately figure out metric conversions. This plus my idealistic mindset landed me in the backseat, which was fine by me.
Maggie was like a cool older cousin you could look up to. She always knew what was hip and what was up and coming. She is literally the only person I know who can make camping look stylish. Plus she has been to all these cool places (including the Outback just a few months ago) so she knew heaps about everything. She was one of those really intriguing people who wouldn't tell you about all the fabulous places they've been until you sit down and beg for the details. I think that made her even more sophisticated.
Matthew was a mix between a crazy older cousin and your mature uncle. One minute he was in control, explaining how the mechanics of the car worked and why they were important and the next minute he was pulling a prank on you and laughing hysterically at you for falling for it. He took on the role of comedy when things got tense or frustrating. This helped us all.
Another reason I feel like Maggie and Matthew were sort of parental towards me is that I often caught them using a lot of the same phrases that my mother uses.
Things like: "Haley, we're right here! You don't have to shout." and "The world doesn't revolve around you, Haley!"
And all this time I thought my parents were being mean...
Because of the closeness of our group, I sometimes think we came across as snobby at other campsites and hostels. But because Maggie and Matthew wouldn't like me saying that, I'll say we looked much cooler than everyone else. We had jokes about everything, especially things like sacred rituals, famous landmarks and cultural norms. Unfortunately, these are all the things you aren't supposed to make jokes about. I can't imagine how many people we secretly offended. The good thing is, when you're in the car, no one else can hear your jokes.
At campsites we always had the best food. I think it's because Maggie was a great cook and none of us would dare skimp on a good square meal, three times a day. On top of our super-cool food, Maggie and Matthew were really trendy people. So even in the middle of the outback, they somehow still had fashionable clothes and Ray Bans and things that people find attractive. (I can't say the same for myself, but hey, I'm cool by association, right?)
Despite our weird closeness, we did love meeting other backpackers and we made lots of new friends everywhere we went. I just wanted to spend some time writing about how awesome my friends were.