Aside from the conventional appeals the wondrous nation of Australia has, like having perfect weather, beautiful beaches and an abundance of national parks, I have comprised a list of alternative reasons you might consider it to be the perfect holiday (and permanent residency) destination, from the little perks that made my trip extra-special and memorable:
In Queensland and South Australia you can HUG koalas
You can get paid double what you would get in the UK for hospitality and customer service jobs
Australians are by and large very friendly, generous and welcoming people (although coming from London, the cynical capital of the world, I’d probably think that about anyone)
Since they are a relatively new country, they don’t have ridiculous traditions that are always the cause of debate. A few examples of British tradition that I don’t understand: fox hunting, Guy Fawkes, the Royal Family, morris dancing, maypole etc…
Australia is home to one of the top 5 beaches in the world (see cover photo)
Their boat trips consist of partying till the early hours while sailing alongside dolphins around white-sand islands, then waking up and snorkelling with turtles
Everything is trying to kill you and when your life is at a constant risk you enjoy yourself much more
They have this alcohol called goon, which costs £3.50 for 4 litres. For the really thrifty traveller, the empty goon sack can be blown up as a travel pillow.
Their marijuana laws appear to very lax, so places like Nimbin exist; a haven for hippies and herb-lovers.
You can visit the set of Finding Nemo
I saved the best till last:
12) Dominos is only $5. That’s £2.50 for a delicious circle of heaven.
It is impossible to know what going home will be like until it happens. I had a lot of anxiety about going home. I had nightmares for weeks about returning home and no-one knowing who I was anymore. I pictured a party planned out by my mother that no one attended, like those kids you see in films who have no friends turn up to their birthdays.
What’s hardest to come to terms with is that while you’ve been away, life at home has kept going. People have moved on. Friendships you hoped could stand the test of time have faded.
People don’t want to hear about your year abroad. And that is completely understandable, but hard for me, because I want so much to share my stories and adventures with the world. Which is the perfect reason to start a blog. My friends and family can follow it if they want to, ignore it if they don’t, and neither of us feel guilty about it.
Here’s a list of post-travel symptoms I suffered:
I feel like a stranger in London, the city I used to call home. I mentioned before how it’s easy to forget that life keeps going while you are away. This is most extreme in a city like London, where the landscape is ever-changing, people constantly moving. The turnover is so fast, that places that used to be full of familiar faces have been replaced by strangers. It’s not the kind of place where you can visit your old workplace and expect to be recognised. While this can be daunting at first, it’s also exciting. It’s the perfect city for fresh starts. Clean slates.
My fondness for Australia grew stronger when I left. Such is life. I have quickly realised there is nothing keeping me in England besides my family and a handful of friends. The culture and lifestyle of Australia is one I identify more with. I’ve never been patriotic, or felt that strong sense of British-pride. My parents moved me around a lot as a child, and I think that has played a big part in my lack of patriotism. I always find the question ‘Where are you from?’ so hard to answer, despite it being such a simple question. I’m from many places, I haven’t lived in one place long enough to call it home. I understand now the reason I’m not patriotic is because I’m not meant to stay here. I found myself cheering on the Aussies in Wimbledon, despite Andy Murray being one of proudest British achievements in sport. My new 5 year plan:
Call Australia home. Visit England as a holiday.
My family have stayed exactly the same, and that is so important. That is the grounding I needed when the initial shock of being home was overwhelming. No matter what, my family will love and support me, and I am so fortunate to have that. I cherish them more than ever.
I really do not need most of my belongings. I’m a hoarder, so I’m very good at accumulating mountains of ‘stuff’ that I have attached value to. Living out of a backpack has taught me that I do not need any of the things I left behind, so I have decided to sell it all*. With the money I make I will probably go out and buy more unnecessary ‘stuff’. The other day I was about to buy a shark ornament made out of recycled paper, but fortunately my dad was there to stop me. I still think about that shark all the time. It’s a problem. Anyway I hope the money will go into savings. I can’t say I’ve ever had savings, and that is not something I am proud to admit.
Even though it feels like you will never be able to go back, you can. Whenever you choose. Make it a goal. [reread 5 year plan]
Some friendships have been lost, but many have been made, grown stronger, and stood the test of time. They are the ones that matter.
The friends I lived with and travelled with know me better than most of my friend from home. Relationships made when travelling are more intense than those of regular working life, things move faster, emotions are heightened and such a close bond is formed in such a small amount of time. This is true for friendships and relationships alike. Even though we are in three different countries now, I speak to those friends more often than anyone else in my life. I hope to never lose that.
I spent a long time doubting my character when I realised some people were not interested in me anymore. Which is important, of course. To measure yourself. To always question your convictions. But I remembered how wonderful the friends I made when travelling are, how many friends I made, and how meaningful the friendships were. The kind of solid, honest friendships that you always aspire towards, and remember forever. Then I realised, perhaps it is not all me. It is me, but it is also time. Keeping in touch is hard. There are always new friends to make, new places to visit, new adventures to be had. So we beat on.
*I still have not sold a single item, and I wrote this article a month ago. Send help.
As a naturally indecisive person, making the decision to spend a year in Australia and committing to it took courage, time and lot of pros-and-cons lists. Once I had found the flight I wanted, it took me three days to actually book it. I called my friends for reassurance, as if asking for permission to follow my dreams. Let me explain my uncertainty. Imagine there are two doors, the first is marked ‘Life as It Is’ and the second is marked ‘An Adventure’. I am comfortable with the first door, because I know exactly what to expect. No surprises. The second door contains infinite possibilities, but is shrouded in mystery. So fear of the unknown was holding me back. I was terrified that I was making a big mistake. The truth is, with decisions like these, there are no mistakes. Does anyone actually take a year out of mundane routine to travel the remarkable land and seascapes of Australia and regret it? And even if I arrived in Australia and didn’t like it, my decision to go would not have been a mistake, because I would have learned something invaluable about myself and what makes me happy. I could never have found that out by staying in the comfort zone.
Finally my mother sat me in front of the computer and told me to stop thinking about it so much and just go for it. It is a big problem of mine; overthinking. Over thinkers spend so much time writing the defence without ever coming to a verdict. When you do too much weighing up, you lose sight of why you wanted to do it in the first place. I’ve learnt to trust my instincts. I’ve learnt that if I want to pursue something that will make me happy at that time, I shouldn’t need to sell it to myself. I get far too hung up on practicalities. An important thing that my Australia trip has taught me is that forward-planning is not necessary all the time; to be spontaneous is to be free.
Dear future me: spend more time doing what you love, rather than persuading yourself it’s a good idea.
I’ve decided to document my Australian odyssey online, in retrospect, using notes from a journal and souvenirs from the road. Hopefully this will shed some light on what I’ve been doing for the past year (except having the time of my life!) for those who are interested.
I’ll also include tips on how to travel on a SERIOUS budget, since I’ve found most budget travel tips and recommendations are aimed at middle-class gap-yah rahs with a trust fund to fall back on, and do not accommodate truly struggling backpackers.