Today I want to write about a very inspiring and special human being I came across during my travels. His name is Paul, originally born in mainland Australia, and now living in beautiful Tasmania.
For Tasmania I decided to travel a different way – this time it wouldn’t be by motorbike or public transport – this time I chose to hitchhike! On reflection, hitch-hiking was a very positive experience, even though it required a bit of readjusting for me, I do not regret a single bit having done it!
Paul came to my life in one of the longest hitch-hiking days, where in an entire day and six different rides, I had travelled only a few hundred kilometres. Perhaps this was the Universe balancing things out?
The previous ride had been worthy of one of those travelling books or movies. I had been picked up by a huge logging truck, to which I had no idea even how to get up to the cabin, and when I sat down I found myself in this aeroplane-looking environment, and instead of a smart-looking pilot sitting beside me, I had a truck driver who looked somewhere in between a man and a bear, speaking an almost indecipherable language.
This post is not about bears though, so I will say that I was dropped off literally in the middle of nowhere. Exactly here, if you are curious and want to put yourself into context.
Although at first glance it doesn’t look like a complicated spot to be picked up, by that day my beard had grown long enough to trigger some (legit) doubts in the drivers’ minds. And pulling my best smile did not help either.
Without either a shaver handy or a valid smile, I started to ponder what my options were, and how long should I wait until being forced to pitch my tent. With rain on its way, I was facing a mighty shower, which although necessary if I am honest, was not welcomed in that particular moment.
And then I saw approaching what was worse than the clouds, and that was a police car. Just to let you know, hitchhiking is not allowed on the Australian highways. So it was time to experiment with some unknown muscles in my face and throw the friendliest smile I have ever put together, and what did the police do? Just a friendly wave and smile, and carry on with their business. Tasmanians are truly friendly.
And then the magic happened, and another example of one of the most important things travelling made me understand took place: things always work out!
A car that had already passed by in one direction, came back and pulled up beside me. Paul had seen the situation with the police, and thinking that they could give me trouble, decided to turn around and come back to pick me up.
I explained I was going to Strahan, and he was up to give me a lift most of the way, as he lives nearby. It took just a few minutes to realise that we shared interests and views towards life, and so the seed of our connection was sown.
After some driving, Paul invited me to stay in his beautiful house, and I could not reject such a kind offer! In exchange, I promised to cook him some Spanish food. We both were happy with the deal!
Paul’s house is a dream that I strive for – in a beautiful location in nature and mostly self-sustainable. One of those houses that feel like a home, rather than a soul-less block of concrete.
The traveller’s dream came true – a room for myself, a comfy bed, towels, and a shower. Commonly overlooked luxuries in a “standard” life, true miracles while travelling long term.
Refreshed, it was time for me to cook a Spanish omelette, following my mummy’s recipe! We opened a bottle of wine and had some snacks while the food was coming along.
I always believed that human beings prove their real nature through little, subtle gestures, rather than magnificent actions and words. Paul is an example of this, and since we have been friends there hasn’t been a shortage of kind gestures. For the dinner, he deliberately positioned us at the table in such a way that it would be me having the nicest views through the window.
The conversation went on for endless hours, and if my memory does not fail, when I went to bed we had been speaking non-stop for 7 hours.
What did we speak about?
Life, literature, philosophy, travelling, meditation, motorbikes, adventures, and health, along with many others.
There was time to discuss the topics at length, in-depth, and with a sense of being in a safe environment to share our deepest thoughts and reflections. In some way, it did feel as we were relishing each word with our minds and hearts.
We were mutually inspired and I like to believe that we elevated each other a step higher on the staircase of the human development. These are the friendships that I value the most.
Health was an important topic and one that triggered a deep sense of respect for the man I had in front of me.
Paul had been diagnosed with polyps in his colon, which in other words meant a high risk of getting cancer, and the solution given to him was to remove part of his colon and live with a colostomy bag attached to his abdomen for the rest of his life.
But Paul did not want this for himself, as for him that would not be “a life” anymore, and decided to go down a different route. The Royal Melbourne Hospital was pioneering a new alternative treatment, based on the consumption of starchy vegetables (called the Starplus B trial). Paul decided to enrol on this programme, although they gave him only a 10% chance of success. Yes, that is 90% chance against him.
In shock, I questioned him about his decision, and his reply was absolutely mind-blowing:
“They said 10%, not 0%. If you were told that you would have 10% chance of winning the lottery, wouldn’t you be happy?”
My eyes grew teary, although I tried to hide this from Paul. Even though Paul sees with me, seeing his action as cowardly for not wanting to take the surgery route, I regard him as an extremely brave human being. He chose the path that, even though being the riskiest one, would allow him to feel alive if things were to work out. This should be an example to follow for all of us, without needing to get to the point of facing such a health condition. And, as you probably want to know, things worked out for him, and he has healed! But I will explain that a little bit later.
The next morning I woke up as fresh as a lettuce, and Paul had gone shopping, leaving a note. It did surprise me that he trusted me enough to leave the house unattended, being almost a stranger!
When he came back we had a yummy porridge for breakfast, and we were set for another magical moment to happen. Paul’s property has also a part of native Tasmanian bush (which looks almost identical to the one in New Zealand), and he had even a little ‘trek’ across his land, which he had opened up with a machete! We reached the top, where a stream can be found along with the most impressive thing: a cave, a real cave in his land!
We went inside, and totally naturally we fell into silence. We closed our eyes and spent a long time meditating together. In Pulp Fiction they say that you know when you have found somebody special when you can comfortably enjoy the silence. This quote could not be truer! We walked out in silence, feeling deeply peaceful.
After lunch, our time came to an end, and Paul gave me a lift to my next hitchhiking spot. This was not the end of our friendship, but rather the beginning, as we have been interchanging emails ever since.
And all the emails that I receive are moving and touching. Every single one!
Paul likes the simple things of life, such as a warm cup of tea, building and nourishing relationships with his neighbours, looking after the elderly, baking bread, silence, nature, or his wooden oven that warms the house up during the cold Tasmanian winter.
He is genuine, humble, sweet, thoughtful, warm, and acts and speaks in-line with his moral values always. I feel peaceful beside him. And even if we are now as far as it gets in terms of physical distance, I still feel close to him.
Not long after I left Tassie I received two very special emails. One letting me know that he had decided to plant a Frangipani tree in his garden after me, naming it Fernando, as he knows that is my favourite tree! Bearing in mind that I was born literally on the other side of the world, how special it is to have a tree named after you all those thousands of kilometres away?
I asked him which tree will he want me to plant in my garden after him, and he chose a Peppercorn tree, his reasoning being the following. I clearly see why he made that choice.
Fernando, my favourite tree is a Peppercorn tree, because it gets a tough, old look about its trunk as it ages but has gentle green foliage flowing over the top. Also the peppercorns are good in cooking.
But the most touching email came one morning when I had just woken up. Paul had recovered himself from the polyps, in a rather unbelievable way, just in 6 months! Even the doctors were not able to explain it. He gives credit to the turmeric drink I recommended him, which could potentially help, but I believe the real reason was another one: his brave and alive personality, and his perseverance and commitment to life. He decided to overcome the condition and did everything possible physically and mentally, and certainly, he did win the battle. I had no doubts that this would happen!
Meeting Paul deeply inspired me, and I learn so much from him all the time. It is the first time I have an “older” friend, in the sense of passport-age, not spirit-age, and I regard this friendship as extremely valuable. He has a wealth of life experience, and is an example to follow in life. Hopefully, we will have the chance to live more experiences together.
Lots of love your way, my inspiring friend!
Of course, I asked Paul for permission both to write this post and to make it public. He insisted that he wanted me to add the following, in-line with his humble spirit! Here his words:
Fernando has given me a kind, gracious, yet a very humbling view of me, one that I’m not really deserving of but I thank him for his sincere words.I am a lover of nature, wilderness, peace and quietness – this is what brought me to the beautiful, rugged West Coast of Tasmania. Mostly I like solitude but I know I learn more about Life and myself through other people so I’m not a hermit. I, also experience the whole gamut of human emotions, same as you read this. St Paul?…not this Paul.When I picked up Fernando, and started talking with him, I found a gentle, genuine, considerate and friendly human being with a desire to experience more of life and people at a grass roots level in a harmonious and caring way. It was not hard to like him and offer him accommodation for the night and I got a great Spanish dinner cooked for me as well! Breakfast too! Also he gave me a great Tumeric drink recipe as well. Yes, I do give this credit to my health.Like all of us, he is trying to find his way through the Maze of Life and is ‘Keeping his Engine going’, he has recently completed a great chapter in his Life with his backpacking journey, (he’ll probably never know how much he inspired the many people he met) and when he looks back on his journey in later years, he’ll see that no amount of money can buy the experience….In relation to my colon issue I want to state firmly there was no bravery on my part at all in the decision I took. Being pragmatic by nature, I decided what I could accept and what I couldn’t (the couldn’t was my own Room 101,-see the film 1984 or read the book by George Orwell). Yes, I had my 3 or 4 days of being terrified and was close to the edge, but then I made a decision, based on possible outcomes, to go down a certain road and I stuck to it. There’s no bravery in it – in fact I choose the easier (for me ) option. This is my own experience and certainly not a recommendation for anyone else. For those who go down the road that I wouldn’t, my hat is off to you, my head bowed in humble respect at your bravery. Hug.
Ok, I don’t want to end on this sombre level, so I’ll finish off with a recommendation for you to consider including in your thinking. The Desiderate; and from an even older writing, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.Keep the Engine Going.Paul