I received a letter from a friend today.
She had just arrived in New York City after two weeks spent fulfilling her lifelong ambition of visiting Cuba.
She dreamed of a country stuck in a time warp; with decades-old taxis kept running to whisk her around to the bars where Ernest Hemingway visited and drank and wrote and loved.
The warmth and generosity of the locals amazed her, even as they catcalled her and undressed her with their eyes – such is the experience for a blonde eastern european girl in a latin american city.
She lamented the difficulty she had finding the Havana salsa bars she had romanticised for so many years.
She went out on her 26th birthday, wearing a lovely dress and observing the casual rhythm of the cuban people, learning to admire their happiness and kindness achieved despite abject poverty.
And she wrote to me, a sprawling letter of thousands of words, because she thought me deserving of reading about her experiences and her wonderful storytelling.
And a vast weight of emotion came over me.
Aside from travel around North America and a summer spent in Tofino on Vancouver Island, for the past three years I have lived in Revelstoke.
One of my friends during this entire time is a girl who left town only this week, and who is returning home to Ontario before moving to Australia.
Even though I will likely see her in Perth around the New Year, it still feels like a significant part of our friendship is over, as this town has been an integral part of our relationship.
A year ago I went to see her in Ontario, and together with another friend we braved the near freezing conditions of the midnight Halloween Haunt at a Toronto theme park.
Turns out queuing for hours at night surrounded by screaming children and skulking teenagers for poorly haunted houses and roller coasters wasn’t as good as she remembered, and sure as shit wasn’t a good first experience for me.
But she had allowed me to join her in her visit home to meet her family and drink with her Dad and see her friends, and despite our friendship having faltered in the past year, I’m grateful to her for that.
Next year I will spend time with her and her boyfriend in Western Australia and we will drink scotch and fish and become sentimental.
I arrived in Revelstoke with very little idea of what I was getting myself into.
At 24 I had quit my job, sold my car and left my girlfriend to go travelling.
Not a quarter life crisis so much as a long-gestating dream I brought to fruition during a time when I had all the makings of a happy, traditional life.
One which I had never dreamed of.
I ended up in British Columbia after four months travelling the US and South America looking to spend a winter snowboarding, and had been encouraged to head for Revelstoke by a dude named Tom I had met at a music festival some years prior.
He had lived in town for around a year at this point, and met me at the Greyhound bus station on a grey and rainy October day.
I crashed on the couch in his home downtown for a few nights before I found my own place to live, and in that time he helped secure me a bartending job and introduced me to his local crew of friends.
Amongst them, to my absolute surprise, was a couple who I had also met at that same music festival back in Australia.
We had all heard about Revelstoke through different sources, and the likelihood that we would all move to such a small town on the other side of the world from home was, by my guess, infinitesimal.
It was an early sign that this town would go on to become somewhere I would call home forever, at least emotionally if not physically.
And I owe that largely to Tom, John and Lauren.
In two weeks I will travel from Revelstoke to Mexico City, and after ten days of travel south from Mexico into Guatemala I will meet with a friend from home.
If my memory is not too biased, we were inseparable throughout primary school and in the afternoons we would ride our BMX bikes around his neighbourhood and play video games.
He had an obsession with space and flight from a young age, and in the years we have lived apart he has become an aerospace engineer and now is involved with helicopter design.
He is flying from Australia to meet me, and it is the first time we will spend more than a day together in at least five years.
In fact the only time we have spent together in that time was about 24 hours earlier this year, during which the laughter and conversation flowed as freely as if we had never been apart.
His father died recently, and in May next year he will marry the woman he loves, so I feel incredibly lucky to be able to travel with him in such a critical time in his life.
But after our travel through Central America I will not return, at least not anytime soon, to Revelstoke.
And that is a bizarre concept to me; as I have made more of a life here in the last three years than I had made anywhere prior.
To not be within a five minute bike ride of the cafe my housemates have made an essential part of my daily routine in the past year.
To not be able to call Meg up to take her dog out for a hike to the alpine of some local hill.
To not be able to get on my mountain bike in my yard and within thirty minutes be biking world class trail.
To not be bartending at the Craft Bierhaus and watching friends and randoms struggle to stand up straight after three pints of 7 per cent IPA.
To not be able to swing by Simon’s workshop and borrow some tools as he builds his ambulance monster truck and espouses some wisdom.
To not live in a town that can host an art festival to which the whole town will turn out to dance and smile and support each other.
To not be able to go snowboarding solo on a powder day mid-winter and find a dozen friends to ride with by lunchtime purely by recognition of outerwear and riding style.
As Johnny said last night as he looked across the lounge at me through a wine-drunk and weed-smoke haze, where am I going to live?
What am I going to do?
Will I send him photos of the real world?
And although I don’t have answers to those questions just yet, I have no misgivings, just an appreciation that I have managed to surround myself with beautiful people in my life.
Though when we’re running out of the drugs
And the conversation’s winding away
I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision
For another five years of life
LCD Soundsystem – ‘All My Friends’
One thought on “All My Friends”
We will miss you a lot, Sandy. It’s been such a treat, but adventures await. Xoxo.