It was summer 1974 around my 21st birthday and I met a girl on the beach at Surfer’s Paradise who would cause me to explore the world with new eyes. I don’t recall her name but in our few hours together we talked about travelling the world and a book she was reading, The Drifters by James Michener. When we parted she gave it to me and the next day I devoured that book.
The Drifters was about six people the same age as me and their travel through Europe. As protagonist, Michener plays a wise mentor, connected in some way to each of the six young people. His occasional interactions with them are lesson filled, and in one scene they discuss when they should go to university, get jobs, or be married, and all six agree this is best done while in their twenties. Michener provocatively disagrees and advises they live their lives now, and not worry about formal education, serious careers, or family until 30.
This had great impact on me and there on the beach I decided not to look for a serious job until I was 30. Within months I turned down a promotion, moved to London, then explored Europe in a van, lived on a Kibbutz and excavated an ancient tomb. In 1976 I returned to Canada and 1980 saw me back to Australia.
Just after my 30th birthday my first child was born and I started a new job that led to an executive career. I’d done what Michener advised and the girl on the beach started it all. I never saw her again to thank her, but her gift changed the course of my life.
in Gold Coast, Australia1,587