I met Sam Gardner in Melbourne; he is another member of the Victoria Hotel family. Sam has an outer shell you have to break through in order to get to know him. It isn’t too thick, but it’s definitely there. Honestly, I didn’t know what to think of Sam at first. He seemed like a decent guy, but he was a bit off-putting initially.
Now I know that’s because I didn’t quite grasp his sense of humor or have much of an understanding of who he is. After a year of friendship, I’ve certainly gotten to know him better. Sam won’t really hold back if you ask him direct questions, but he also doesn’t just offer up information about himself without being prompted. He’s sarcastic and cynical, but he cares deeply and is ultimately hopeful. He’s also nerdy and hilarious. Sam cracks me up and is a delight to be around.
And he is really creative. Sam started writing a book series, Soul Tides, as a teenager, and he’s recently been working on editing and developing the stories. He’s been the bassist in three bands: As It Were, a pop punk/emo band; Mutant Zombie Foetus, a hardcore punk band; and Kujo, a post hardcore/post rock band. He studied film at university and has worked on editing videos for various projects.
But I know there’s still a lot more to him yet.
Sam is: caring, generous, guarded
Sam, 28, was born in Hillingdon, England a few days late, but with no complications. He said he had a pretty typical childhood with a very close and loving family. Sam’s immediate family includes his father, Steve, mother, Teri, and younger sister, Faye. Sam said he and his mother like the same things and have similar opinions, but he got his sense of humor from his dad.
Sam said he appreciates that his parents gave him a lot of freedom to discover his own interests and become the person he is. “Not a lot of things were pushed on me, so I was able to make up my own mind,” he said.
As he grew up, he got into nerd culture and really enjoyed playing video games and watching television and movies. Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon were what initiated his interest in nerdom. Over time he got more into it, enjoying Anime and comic books, especially Japanese publications.
Perhaps the most impactful interest for Sam is Final Fantasy. He started with Final Fantasy VIII and identified with the main character Squall, who is a miserable, broody teenager. “It caught me at the exact right age, and I played the exact right game at the exact right time,” he said.
But more than that, the games have shaped his writing style. Sam appreciates the storytelling of the games and the rich complexity of the characters. He likes the way the worlds develop over time and seeing the worlds from the different perspectives of the characters.
The influence of Final Fantasy is even physically evident; Sam has six tattoos so far, and four of them are Final Fantasy themed. The four are on his left arm, which he plans to cover with a sleeve of Final Fantasy related tattoos.
The other two tattoos are on his right arm. One is a star, which he got in Chicago because it is a classically punk tattoo from a classically punk city. The other, which was his first tattoo, is of the two swords of his character Drale from his book series.
Though his interests have played a big role in shaping who he is, Sam has also been greatly influenced by his nan, Glenys. His whole family lived with his nan for about six months while they transitioned from one neighborhood to another. Sam was 11 years old then and said the experience had a profound impact on his development. His grandmother was very doting and protective. Sam said he was definitely her favorite grandchild.
Glenys died in early 2014 after being in and out of hospital for a bad lung infection. “We all expected it, but it was still sudden,” Sam said. She died not long after returning home from another hospital stay. Sam said she got up to clean her house, sat down in a chair and passed shortly after. “That’s literally how she wanted to go, and how we knew she would go,” he said.
His nan continued to have a profound impact on his life after she was gone. She left no will, so her possessions had to go into receivership for about 6 months until they could be properly allocated to family. Sam lived in his nan’s flat, a different home than the one his family lived in when he was a boy, during that time.
Sam was able to gain a sense of independence living on his own. And once his nan’s possessions were distributed, he received some money, which he used to travel around the world and then move to Australia. He said that his nan would have loved that he moved abroad and would want to read all about his travels.
He left England in June 2014, visiting Chicago, Lake Michigan, Las Vegas and LA in the USA. Then he headed to Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia before finally flying to Sydney. He was in Sydney for about three weeks while he searched for farm work in Australia.
Sam ended up in Innisfail to work on a banana farm, but he didn’t actually start working until four weeks after arriving at the farm. He said it was an awful 6 months working at the farm. After he escaped, he moved to Melbourne, where he has lived since. Sam first worked for a sales company, then stripping billboards and then landed a job as a porter at Novotel on Collins. He worked at Novotel for about 11 months and is now working a similar position at the Swanston Hotel.
Sam said he has made meaningful relationships during his travels. He befriended some of his hostel mates in Da Nang, Vietnam. They were French students interning at a nearby hospital, and they knew the significance of his Final Fantasy tattoos. He bonded with a lot of people on the banana farm as well, since they shared the tough experience working on the farm. And when he arrived at the Victoria Hotel in Melbourne, he was included in the work and holiday visa group, which kept us in that rundown hostel. “The Vic was a shit hole, but we had a family,” he said.
He said forming attachments with people has been the best part of his traveling and is what makes being in another country worthwhile. And it’s allowed him to meet people he’d never have known otherwise. Though it is difficult to stay in touch with people after you part ways, Sam said. But he said social media is helpful to stay abreast of what people are up to.
Sam said the best way to make friends while traveling is sharing experiences. Finding common interests and participating in activities bonds people, especially if alcohol is involved, Sam said. “It cements people together, because you’re able to say things that you probably weren’t able to before,” he said.
And you don’t have to wait for other people to initiate a friendship. “Don’t be afraid to make the first move,” Sam said. Just be yourself and be open to talking with the people around you. And don’t feel like you have to change what you like or do things you don’t enjoy. “Do whatever makes you happy even if other people think it’s weird and don’t understand it,” Sam said. “It makes you who you are.”
Finally, Sam describes himself in three words: kind of funny.