On the night of day two of our trip, Scott parked the camper van just off the main road, in a dirt semicircle that wasn’t obviously part of a local’s front yard. Though it was hard to tell in the darkness, the small town of 1770, Queensland, appeared to exist purely as a place for families to camp and fish. Probably to encourage business, most streets and parking lots had signs which said “NO CAMPING,” and so we went to sleep in the camper van expecting to be awoken by a disgruntled local.
We weren’t very concerned with finding a more appropriate place to sleep because we had just driven eight hours, mostly through the night’s complete blackness, on the creepiest stretch of road either of us had ever ventured. Navigating one of the most desolate, bumpy, spontaneously foggy highways in the world can really exhaust a guy.
Before our drive Scott and I had already had a workout, too. We tackled waves in the ocean at Byron Bay, and sank our feet deep into the sand in order to trudge against its aggressive current to reach those waves. Even standing still in the water forced our bodies away, so we slogged forward against the water’s push at every moment. The challenge of keeping position with our possessions back on the shore made the ocean more exciting, and just added to the fun we had already had that day.
Before visiting this beach, Scott and I ate delicious pizza-shaped omelets at a coffee shop and befriended an adorable Irish couple who were journeying up Australia’s eastern coast in a way very similar to our own. We exchanged stories and compared our upcoming travel plans. We all laughed a lot together and chatted for longer than I think any of us expected, which was perfect. Sticking around longer also gave us more opportunity to chat with our waitress, whom I already fallen in love with. She was friendly, at least appeared to think we were funny or charming, and was perfect-looking—she had the extreme version of every physical trait I find attractive in a woman. Plus her accent! (I promise I’m not normally this shallow-sounding.)
But I’m sure she had boyfriend. And not only because the “type” my friends once informed I have is dark-haired, petite, artsy, and coincidentally unavailable (I say “coincidentally unavailable” to mean that I’m not intentionally interested the already boyfriended), but because, objectively speaking, I am nothing compared to the typical Australian dude. So even if she was single, she could do better than me. I can admit it: Australian dudes are better looking. They all seem to be taller, tanner, more handsome, and more muscular. I don’t say that to fish for compliments or because I feel bad for myself, because I don’t feel bad for myself, I’m comfortable with my appearance, but I’m just very aware of my bodily strengths and weaknesses (for example, strength: dimples, weakness: lack of strength), and those jerks have got me beat.
But this didn’t bum me out. How could it, when I had the world’s greatest beach still in my mind from the hours before? Before finding the coffee shop, Scott and I wandered onto a vacant beach just after sunrise. A wire fence with an access-protesting sign several feet above and several yards away from the shore kept us from reaching the beach, until a local casually walked past us and stepped over the fence. We shrugged and followed his example. And we were glad we did. It had the flattest, cleanest sand my feet had ever touched. I actually enjoyed walking across it. The waves were loud and huge and constant, making the ocean gorgeous and probably unswimmable. A few other individuals were also on the beach, each of them walking a dog, but the presence of others was so scarce it was as if Scott and I had the sand and the waves and the view only to ourselves.
“This is the beach that made beaches make sense to me,” Scott said at one point. “I get it now, like, why a person would like a beach better than other places.”
I knew what he meant. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted us to abandon our duty to deliver the camper to Cairns, and stay at this beach, to read a book on its sand and stare at its horizon, and stay in Byron Bay right then and from then on (and especially so after I fell in love with the coffee shop girl).
After waking up in 1770 (and no one knocked on our door to tell us we couldn’t camp where we were), Scott and I had a conversation about how adventures can happen while following the rules, but the best adventures happen when some rules are ignored. Byron Bay taught me to climb over fences that say “NO ACCESS” because beyond those fences is something not as many people get to experience. Those are the places with the best beaches you’ve ever set foot on, the ones you have all to yourself, even if another person is walking her dog nearby.