Byron Bay is my favourite place in Australia. Who can blame me? Beautiful beaches, great weather, friendly locals, amazing diving and a laid back vibe. I usually visit Byron during Blues Fest, a popular music festival held over Easter. It has featured artists such as Bob Dylan and B.B King. This is also the busiest time of the year at Byron when all the spiritual daughters and sons of this beautiful place return to pay homage to its hippie, artsy, laid back heritage.
Last time I came to the Blues Fest was 2011, when I was in a different chapter in life. At that time, I was still in my corporate shackles, wrestling to unlock them and taking any opportunity to be as far from a corporate environment and all it represented as possible. Byron Bay and the Blues Fest provided the perfect opportunity. Nothing gives a stark enough contrast to the sea of suits endlessly parading the Sydney CBD discussing interest rates and property prices as Byron’s streets with buskers, dreadlocks, surfers and folk walking around barefoot. Back in those days, Byron represented to me individuality whereas Sydney was habituated by a flock of mortgage-paying sheep.
Fast-forward to 2017. I am back in Byron Bay for Blues Fest and times are different. It has been five years since I unshackled myself from my corporate life. I can’t remember the last time I paraded Sydney CBD wearing a tie. Something else has also changed, my perception of Byron and its flock of sheep. Don’t get me wrong, it is still beautiful, laid back and a great place to live, work and holiday, but to me, it is no longer a beacon of individuality and self-expression. Those folks that once were the anti-thesis of the corporate world now seem like sheep just from a different flock. In the attempt of coming across as creative, individualistic, free-spirited and hippy, I have just noticed how similar everyone in Byron actually looks. Girls walk around bare feet with nose rings in the same places, similar haircuts and accessories. Men sport similar tattoos, hairstyles and daggy clothes. Every one is trying way too hard to look different and the result is that they are all looking the same. This seems like an eccentric flock of sheep, but sheep nevertheless.
Don’t believe me? Walk around Byron and notice all the high-end fashion boutiques. Real, free-spirited hippies weren’t able to afford anything these shops offer. Sure, it is for tourists, but what is Byron Bay if not a tourist town?
My conclusion is that at the end of the day we are all sheep. Sheep of different flocks, but still sheep nevertheless. Whether these sheep are wearing tie-dye shirts and discussing the latest New Age trend or wearing ties and talking about the latest property trend; they are sheep following its flock and trying to fit in.
So no matter who you are, you can’t help but enjoy Byron’s idyllic beaches and a laid back vibe. You might also feel tempted to join, even if temporarily, its flock of eccentric sheep.
Here is what JP thinks of Byron Bay. Enjoy.