The very best thing about traveling overseas on your own is the people you get to meet and the stories you can tell about them years after. Well over ten years ago I found myself with a dilemma. As a young man with some cash in the bank did I buy a house and become imprisoned by a mortgage or blow it all on my very first overseas holiday. As every smart young man does I chose the latter option and began with a mixture of excitement and wonder planning my trip of a lifetime. The very first stop on a nine month adventure saw me fly from Adelaide to Heathrow. Another story for another time I found that my multi-stop venture began with this hop from Australia to the United Kingdom and there it basically stopped.
This story is from the time I spent in Winchester, where I based myself after discovering how expensive London is and how awesome the Winchester Youth Hostel is. At that time the hostel was based in the Old City Mill. I was incredibly lucky in that my cousin from Australia was living in Winchester back then, yet another reason why I found my travels had drawn me to this amazing city. Michelle (my cousin) had shown me the fun that can be had in Winchester on the High Street with our first stop always being a great cheap pub, the Old Gaolhouse. Here the atmosphere was light on but the drinks were very well priced. Everyone who knew always started their Friday and Saturday nights here before discovering who else was out and about and planning where they wanted to go next.
Back in Winchester after a couple of weeks backpacking through Wales I counted up the pounds I had left in my wallet and with no cousin to catchup with I bravely stepped out myself and headed from the City Mill to the Goalhouse. As all Aussies do I said “G’day!” to a few that didn’t seem local as they made their way into the pub. One fellow backpacker surprised me by returning from the bar with a pint of his own to plant himself down at the table where I sat.
“You’ve got to be Aussie!” the fellow announced and offered his glass up for cheers.
I nodded as our pints clinked.
“Guilty,” I replied with a grin.
From his accent I’d already picked this fellow as a New Zealander. He confirmed it in the next second.
“I’m Kiwi! We’re practically brothers.”
The fun thing about the Aussie and Kiwi accents is that we can tell each other apart and poke fun at each other’s accents but the rest of the world can’t seem to pick up on the difference. I find it is the same with America and Canada and other, similar countries.
That is why when he said his name I clearly heard Jim. I happily supplied my name, Tim and we continued the night jumping from pub to pub shouting each other pints of dark ale. As the night went on we chatted about our travels. I’d arrived in April and was coming up to the end of my trip. He had just arrived in late August and was here in Winchester looking for work. Jim had been smart and actually organized the proper working VISA he needed before flying over. He was a chef by trade and was confident that his skills and experience learnt in pub kitchens back in New Zealand would help him to find a couple of months of work here in Winchester before he headed off to another part of the United Kingdom or another part of Europe. He admitted that each pub we had visited that night he had enquired about the possibility of work as he had been ordering a round of drinks. Already he had two or three places where he planned to drop in his resume. I told my new mate Jim a few stories of the places I had already visited and places that I wanted to go back to next time I was lucky enough to venture this way. We rose a glass to the girls we had left behind and longed to get back to. Jim told me he was hopeful that part way through his twelve month working holiday he could catchup with his love as she was also planning a jaunt overseas. Again more dark ale was quaffed as we celebrated the thought of rendezvousing with our girlfriends somewhere in the big wide world.
By the time midnight came and went I realized I had never spent so much time with a stranger just casually chatting and drinking the night away. Jim seemed like a top bloke, especially for a Kiwi. It did indeed feel like we were brothers, or better yet close friends who were meeting at a shared local and just continuing a conversation we had started last week. Not normally a socialite, I was pleasantly surprised with the ease at which the conversation flowed. Talking with this stranger just seemed easy.
As all good things must do though out night eventually came to an end.
“I have an early morning tomorrow but tonight has been great fun,” said Jim as he finished off his last pint.
I nodded as I drained my drink too. “We should keep in touch.”
As Jim and I scribbled down our email addresses on napkins I stifled a laugh.
It works out his name was Tim and I had been calling him Jim.
Tim in turn had to laugh as well. He explained he had been calling me Jim also. It is yet another victory for misheard accents.
Sadly I never did get back in touch with Tim the Kiwi. I wish I did keep in touch. Deep down I am certain though that he had a ball working the Winchester pub scene all those years ago. I hope he is still out there somewhere in the big wide world with the love of his life by his side. I imagine them both creating magical memories cooking up and storm and sharing a chat with a fellow traveler. It was a pleasure to meet you Jim… I mean Tim!