Reddit sleuths assist David Ryan discover proprietor of misplaced 20-year-old diary
“If you want to read this, damn it not! ‘
These were the first words David Ryan read when he opened a book on the back of a closet during the 2016 tenant inspection of his new Melbourne apartment.
“I opened it and my jaw just dropped,” he said.
“Sitting in an empty apartment where every note reverberates, I felt like I was supporting a horror movie.
“I could close the book and walk away, or read on and activate the curse, Jumanji, whatever.
“I read on.”
David had found a diary that had been written at least 15 years earlier.
There were at least 100 pages with all kinds of adventures from around the world. (Supplied: David Ryan)
The book itself looked his age, with a manky green cover that had been taped off and cut open again.
David said he wasn’t sure at first whether to read it, but he took the weird nature of the first page as an invitation.
“It feels like it should be there and be discovered.
“What should I do, just close the book and throw it in the trash?”
David was taken with the layout of the pages, which he searched for clues to the author’s identity.
On some pages, text is written in three narrow columns. others include foreign bills, cards, and elaborate illustrations.
“He’s hand-drawn all of these maps and cartoons, and there’s only one story after the other of his travels over this two-year journey.
“It must have been 100 pages of handwriting.”
The diary contained a number of detailed illustrations. (Supplied: David Ryan)
What David read inspired him to give it back to the person who wrote it.
“The first journal entry lamented the loss of an earlier journal,” he said.
“That made me want to give this diary back to its owner, who would certainly appreciate it again.”
David made a few different attempts but were unsuccessful.
But when he was packing his apartment to return to Brisbane earlier this month, he stumbled across the diary again and renewed his mission to find the owner.
This time, he was recruiting public help through Reddit by posting a series of photos from the diary in hopes of getting a head start.
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“I was really just hoping he would get over it,” said David.
“I didn’t really expect people looking at it to find the names in the text, but that’s exactly what happened.
“They were the noses that got to the bottom of it.”
Two names were extracted from the text that led David to a New Zealand band called Ziko, which played from 2008 to 2012.
“I contacted each member in different ways, but mostly I found names on social media,” he said.
“I must have sent about 20 or 30 messages and most of them were for people with the same name, but not the right person.”
Eventually the band’s singer saw the message and replied with just an email address and the words “try this”.
The diary also contained maps of some of the places Nick had traveled. (Supplied: David Ryan)
David sent an email and he sure had his husband: a New Zealander named Nick Boyle who now lives in Australia.
“The guy said, ‘Whoa, this is my diary,'” David said.
“He was just amazed.
“He was probably a little confused about how I got his email, but at the same time he was very grateful.”
“I feel like I know the guy.”
After reading the diary and even sharing parts of it with the world, David felt it was only right that he should share a little bit about himself with Nick.
“I’ve had this thing for years and have looked through it a few times just to feel like I know the guy a little,” he said.
“So I thought I’d return the favor and put a small handwritten note in the journal.
David provided Nick with a handwritten note when he mailed the diary. (Supplied: David Ryan)
“I gave him an outline of what would happen 30 minutes later – that is, I wanted to suggest something to my girlfriend.”
She said yes.
“I took the diary for one final adventure and then sent it from Apollo Bay,” said David.
David Ryan surprised his friend Krissy and her family when he proposed to her on the Aire River in Victoria. (Supplied: David Ryan)
He said the experience was fulfilled.
“I feel a little guilty that it took me so long to get in touch with this guy but I don’t think it really matters in the grand scheme of things, he’s just happy to get it back,” said he.
“And it really makes me want to keep a journal.”
David said he and his fiancée wanted to start a family and he hoped he could record the experience.
“God knows where a new father will find time to record,” he said.