I can put my hand on my heart and honestly say to you that visiting Australia has changed the way I travel.
However, this sentiment goes deeper than the above sentence implies. It’s not just my travel plans that I am talking about. I attribute visiting Australia to the change in how I travel and how I honestly believe travel has become a way of life for me.
The Back Story
The date was May 2011 and I was sitting at my desk in some crappy temp in England. I had made some pretty momentous decisions in the previous few months that led me to that desk. Newly single, having quit my full-time job in another city, I had moved back home to live with my parents as I tried to save some money. Between answering the telephone, making coffee for other people and opening the office door for visitors I was anxiously planning a solo round the world trip.
Over the next few months I numbly planned as much as I could, secretly terrified of the decision that I had made but determined to carry through with it. Even though I was scared at the thought of going alone I knew that I couldn’t rely on anyone else coming with me.
This was my dream and going to be mine alone.
What Happened Next
I jetted off for the first time to Bangkok in September 2011. I spent the next couple of months really finding my feet as a fledgling backpacker. Travelling alone in South East Asia had its ups and downs and those first few weeks were quite the rollercoaster of emotion. I travelled through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, mostly completely unplanned.
I’m not going to lie to you; there were tears, there were mosquito bites and swollen ankles due to the heat. There were journeys that felt like they lasted for days and several meals eaten awkwardly alone.
But despite all of this, I met some fantastic people and couldn’t help but feel pride bubbling away beneath my surface. I managed to travel around South East Asia with no mishaps, minus falling off a curb in Vietnam (sober, I might add!) and twisting my ankle.
By the time I boarded my flight to Australia I was definitely at the stage most first time backpackers go through: when you start to believe that actually you can do this backpacking solo lark.
How Visiting Australia Has Changed The Way I Travel
I’d say a large percentage of travellers in Australia will be able to relate to what I say next. I fell in love. Not with a person – although I’ve met tons of fantastic people along the way – but with a country.
I arrived in Australia and we actually got off to a rocky start in the first couple of weeks.
I couldn’t get my phone working, I had difficulty accessing money and, my goodness, wasn’t Australia expensive?! As an inexperienced backpacker on a budget, this all felt a little overwhelming. However, I gradually fell into my rhythm and, bolstered by the relative ease of travelling in Australia (minus the expense), I soon felt more confident than ever before.
I was beginning to realise why this was all beginning to feel so right to me. I was starting to understand how visiting Australia was going to change my travel plans forever.
The Feeling Of Going With The Flow
Perhaps you could say I am a drifter. Maybe I’m someone who is covering her aimless tracks under a veil of travel. Whether or not you think this, I’ve certainly sat myself down on more than one occasion to have a stern word.
But it does no good.
I don’t heed my own admonishments because here I am still travelling, still drifting.
The thing is, since I began travelling in Australia I realised how much going with the flow has become a recognisable part of who I am. I try to plan my travels (and my life, to a larger extent!), I really do, but I always end up in the same last minute push to get flights, accommodation and plans sorted. I even wrote a blog post about when I make a plan to visit somewhere, I just want to go now.
I don’t actually want to plan. I just want to get there.
Cruising down the East Coast of Australia made me appreciate how much I enjoyed going with the flow. I booked a Greyhound bus pass and hopped-on-hopped-off along the coast, calling in at small towns, beaches and big cities. I let factors such as weather, activities, friends and my general mood dictate how long I spent at each place.
I felt totally happy living in each moment.
I felt in control of my situation. I could pick and choose how I wanted to spend my days. This reliance on myself felt incredible.
Going with the flow has been my motto for travel going forward. Do I want to go on a road trip in a couple of weeks’ time? Yes please! Do I need to put on the brakes for a while, find a job and earn some money? Yep, that needs to be my priority.
Broken down like this and focused on myself, the decisions I make are ones that suit me. It all sounds terribly selfish, doesn’t it? But believe me, this kind of intense self-focus on how I’m feeling has given me so much more confidence in myself over the years.
Now I feel like I’ve truly begun to know myself.
Confidence In My Choices
There’s a certain euphoria I feel when I’m in a particular moment, which I’m sure you can relate to. You know when you’re surveying a beautiful view, maybe by the ocean, over tree tops or under a million stars in the night’s sky? In that moment you’ve got that ‘pinch me, I’m dreaming’ feeling. Life feels so good.
The beauty of our planet never ceases to amaze me.
In those moments I feel on top of the world. All the decisions I’ve made up to this point feel like they’ve been the right ones. All the worries I’ve had in the past melt away. All of the concerns I have for my future, immediate or otherwise, fade into the background.
I know that travelling makes me happy and I choose to prioritise these experiences over other elements in my life. I don’t have a car, a mortgage or a career. My possessions fit into a backpack and I’m on the move every few weeks or months. Money has to be counted and budget dictates a lot of what I can do, but that has no detrimental effect on my travels whatsoever.
I realised that visiting Australia has changed the way I travel.
My choices on the road are now based on my gut feeling. Am I happy here? I stay a while longer. Am I feeling uninspired by my current location? I make plans to move on and change my scenery. Following my gut feeling is an instinct that I’ve developed over the past five years of travel (along with many other things).
Allowing My Journey To Be Influenced By Great Places…
My decisions are based on great places as well as people. I fell in love with the city when I lived and worked in Melbourne for six months on my first year working holiday visa.
At that stage I couldn’t picture my life going forward without Melbourne playing a major role. I loved the trams, the river, the beaches, the café culture and the bars that had me dancing all night long. Every weekend friends and I would try new places for brunch, check out museums, the cool graffiti covered lanes, the parks and sporting venues.
I was so certain that I wanted to extend my time in Melbourne. I left the bright lights of the big city to spend three months completing regional work so I could qualify for a second year working holiday visa.
…And Great People
I don’t want to come across as sounding like a total loner in my blogs. I know I champion solo travel, but the reality of travel is that you’re often not alone if you choose to be. And sometimes, the people you meet are so fantastic, you wonder how on earth your life was ever as good without them in it.
I definitely credit one or two people for playing an integral part in the development of my journey.
In the New South Wales countryside I made a fabulous friend in a girl also from the UK. She wanted to visit New Zealand and work for a ski season. Even though my heart had been previously set on rushing straight back to Melbourne, my eyes lit up at this opportunity. I had always wanted to work a ski season and visit New Zealand.
Over a beer we shook hands and in that moment agreed to travel to NZ together after our first year in Australia.
In those happy, carefree moments I made a split decision that couldn’t epitomise any more how Australia has changed the way I travel.
I allowed my heart to overrule my head and it felt fantastic.
Travelling As A Way Of Life
You may not realise this but I started travelling in 2011 on a round the world ticket.
I made it through South East Asia but stopped in my tracks in Australia. All of my best laid plans, made from the comfort of my parent’s sofa, soon fell by the wayside. I gained confidence, navigated new horizons, tested the edges of my comfort zone and emerged from my pre-travel shell.
I got refunds on all of my onward travel and committed to spending a full year in Australia. That then spun out into two years, plus another two in New Zealand.
It has become clear to me now that visiting Australia has changed the way I travel.
Not just content to spend a couple of weeks holidaying a year, travel has become my way of life. Just last year I was having a conversation with a friend who made the observation that my life had become less about the straight forward travel and more about the living abroad. I had to stop and muse on that for a while and it inspired a blog post about how I believe I’ve fallen into the slow travel category.
Travel After Australia
For me, life post Australia is currently a blank page. I’ve just touched down in Bali, Indonesia a few days ago after my second year visa for Australia expired. After two years in Australia it’s been incredibly emotional to have left.
It’s going to be my goal to fill that unknown space with a whole lot more travel.
Have you ever visited a place and left irrevocably changed? Did a particular place or country get under your skin and alter your ongoing travel plans? Have you been to Australia? How did you feel when leaving?
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