February 21, 2015 - Caleb (5th person I approached)
Spring-like weather while it’s still winter, sunshine, blue skies, flowers blooming. Saturday. In Vancouver, there’s a lift that happens when all these things come together. I intended to walk to a small park over towards the east side of Vancouver to look for today's story. Although I did try my luck a few times along the way. The first person I approached was wearing pyjamas and a housecoat, sitting in a shopping mall, eating a sandwich. I was certain there was a story there, but he wasn’t willing to share it. The second person I had approached once before, and she told me then that she didn’t have time to chat. Today, I didn’t even get far into my ask before I was told, in a strong voice, to respect that she wanted nothing to do with me, and to move away. Lesson learned. The next two weren't able to spare the time. They both wished me well in my search. To the park I headed.
I walked around the perimeter of the block-long playing field, and went in from the opposite corner that I’ve used before. I saw Caleb sitting on a bench, writing in a small notebook. On another bench nearby was another gentleman, watching some children playing on a swing set nearby. As I got closer, I decided to see if Caleb would chat with me. I said hello and got no response. Then Caleb looked up and quickly removed his earphones, which I hadn't seen. He listened while I told him what I was doing. He smiled and put his journal aside, telling me he’d be happy to chat.
Caleb was born in Toowoomba, about 130kms west of Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia.
“The population is about one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand people. It’s one of the larger inland cities in Australia. Most are located closer to the coast,” he told me. Caleb is the oldest of three children, with a younger brother and sister.
“We got along as kids, and then we didn’t as we got older. Typical sibling stuff. But I find now as we’re getting older we get along better.”
All of Caleb’s primary and secondary schooling was done in Toowoomba.
“I was a bit of a rebel when I was around thirteen or fourteen. I went to a Christian school, for primary and secondary. By the time I reached my teens, my friends were all kids who went to the same Christian school, so I never wanted to change schools,” he said.
“My parents are both Christian and we went to church. I guess part of the rebel thing was a way of reacting towards the religion. A way to say to my parents 'I’m not like you, I’m different.'”
Caleb said that growing up with religion helped him be more open to spirituality.
“I believe in a God. I’m not going to say Him or Her. I know that most Christian’s have a solid idea of who God is to them. I see God as a more spiritual form. I spend a lot of time out in nature, and that's where I feel most connected. I’m still working through my own ideals of that,” he said.
“I used to dress differently, and I got kicked out of the house a few times when I was about thirteen or fourteen. My parents wanted me to live more the way they thought I should, and I wouldn’t. I was rebelling somewhat against my parents, but I was trying to find my own identity as well. They’d say if I didn’t change that I could go live somewhere else. That was fine with me. I’d go stay at a friend’s house for a couple of weeks until my parents would tell me to come home again. It was a nice break, and a chance to feel independent.” Eventually his parents accepted that Caleb was his own person and allowed him to live his own life.
He finished Grade twelve at secondary school.
“I had already said I wasn’t going to go to Uni (college) before I graduated. I had been working in a retail job during school, and I worked there after I finished school,” he told me.
“I left home and moved to Brisbane. After almost twenty years in Toowoomba, I wanted to try living in a bigger city. I got a job and I’m still living and working there,” he said.
Caleb pulled out a pack of cigarettes and asked if I minded if he smoked. It actually surprises me, pleasantly, how many people ask if I mind if they smoke while we’re chatting. I’m an ex-smoker; I quit on my fortieth birthday, so I’m the worst kind - reformed! But we were outside, so it doesn’t bother me. Really.
Caleb is on a month-long vacation here in Vancouver.
“I’ve been here for just about a week-and-a-half. A good friend of mine from Toowoomba, moved here. He and I were in a metal band in school. I played bass back then. Anyway, we had talked about doing a road trip from Vancouver to LA (Los Angeles). I booked my plane ticket so we could do that trip.,” Caleb told me. About a week after booking his trip, his friend told Caleb that he wouldn’t be able to make the road trip after all.
“He said he and his girlfriend were going to stay here in Vancouver for a while longer and make some more money. I had already booked the flight, so I decided to come out here with no agenda. Except that my return flight home departs from LA,” he said.
“I’m staying with my mate and his girlfriend in their one room studio apartment. It’s a little cramped with the three of us there. I’m sleeping on a mattress right next to their bed,” Caleb said a little sheepishly. I asked how he was enjoying his trip so far.
“Well, to be honest, this week has been a little stressful.” He was quiet while he gathered his thoughts.
“It was my birthday last Sunday. (He turned twenty-one). We went out and I got pretty drunk. My friends left, but I stayed out. By the time I got home to their place, well, this might sound weird. But I guess I got sick and a bit messy. My friends weren’t too happy with me. With everything that’s going on, they're trying to plan this trip, the small studio apartment and everything, it's just too much. They’ve suggested I find somewhere else to stay now,” he said.
This is Caleb’s first trip this far away from home.
“I travelled oversea's with my parents, but this is my first trip alone,” he said. We talked about what it’s like to be travelling, and to be carefree and celebrating. I assured Caleb that there wasn't a halo over my head. Without comparing my many drunken escapades, I assured him I knew what he was talking about. He mentioned that he had met a girl who was living here and she was from Melbourne, Australia. She had tad him if he needed a place to stay he could go there. I encouraged him to make the most of the adventure he is on and go for it, including travelling to LA. I mentioned The Bolt Bus, a cheaper way to travel. While they don’t go to Los Angeles, it would still save him some money, and keep the adventure going. He's considering a domestic flight once he's over the boarder, thinking he might go via Portland.
I took his picture and thanked him for his time. He had written the name of my project down in his journal, so he could check it out later. We shook hands and I told him I had enjoyed chatting with him.
“No, thank you,” he said.
“I was just writing in my journal before we started to talk. This is my day to write down the things I’ve done so far and keep a journal of my trip. That’s why I’m sitting here in the park. I don’t have a sim card in my phone so I’m not able to call anyone back in Australia to talk to them about what’s going on. I was literally writing in my journal that I wished I had someone to talk to. And then you came over to me, and asked me to chat.” #notastranger