We arrived late in the night, too excited to stop in Broome to sleep in the tent as planned. We’d already driven 4500kms in the past few days – what was the harm in another 700 tonight? We looked at each other; a reckless glint in our tired eyes. The setting sun cast warm orange rays over Kyle’s dusty skin. “Yep, let’s keep going.”
Wired on zero sleep, buzzing with the constant forward movement of the truck; we switched off the air-con and let the warm summer air flood in through the open windows. The red sun had now set; the country road-side was dry, yet bursting with life. I’d never seen such a thing. How can something so isolated, surrounded by silence and nothing but constant heat look so at peace?
Small pockets of wild fire burned in huge open paddocks; the red flames munching dry grass hungrily with a well-practiced crackle. Our headlights gave us just enough warning to spot the cows; their beady eyes glowing brilliantly in the middle of the highway. They knew what the deal was. We honked, they continued chewing; they owned the joint.
I’ll never forget when we first drove into town. The sign was right there, the turn-off from the Great Northern Highway to Port Hedland. After such a stretch of wilderness, the lights were mesmerising. They twinkled on the horizon for as far as you could see. Sprawled out along what we guessed was the coast; it was as though we’d taken a wrong turn. Had we discovered a lost city? What was this vast place specked with yellow lights, buzzing like an ant’s nest surrounded by balmy darkness.
We were exhausted, running on adrenalin. Our GPS directed us to the area called ‘Pretty Pool’, and we felt an odd sense of accomplishment as we pulled into the unfamiliar driveway.
Knocking on the front door, we were met by the friendly faces of our friends. Big tired hugs were shared in the strange kitchen in the silence of the night, a kitchen which became so very familiar. Our dog Quinn let himself right in without invitation and began sniffing the air-conditioned rooms one by one.
The first couple of months were exciting. We found adventure in everything. It was all new! So much to learn about the town and how things worked with the port. A new state, a new town; we were living in a remote place with so much history, so much culture; there was a lot to get our east-coast heads around. We’d never expected to make a new home town in our own country. What was this madness?
I cried a few times, especially in the first few months while I was trying to find my place. There were plenty of great times, so many; it was at sometimes overwhelming – this life we had stumbled across. I could feel big change in how I thought about things and it scared me a little. Under everything was a real sense of gratitude; we had discovered so much, had grown so much, we’d been given this amazing opportunity. Things had worked out too well. I felt as though I needed to pinch myself all the time. Did we really come here on a whim, and find so much? We were so lucky.
Fast-forward twelve months. I was in the local art gallery talking to a local, a friend – yep, I’d made some lovely friends – we were saying goodbye. “You cry twice when you come to Hedland”, she said. “Once when you get here, and again when you leave.”
The alarm woke us before the sun. Our housemate wandered out under the kitchen’s yellow light in her pyjamas, her eyes barely open to hug us goodbye reluctantly. The car was packed with our odd few possessions, Quinn was keen to hit the road.
I looked around the house; so many good times. Spilt wine here, cooked terrible dinners in there, watched massive dust storms rage across the ocean from out the front, palm trees threatening to snap in half from the wild west ‘breeze’. Orange sunsets over the ocean, 2am creek swims, 2pm nauseas chats the next day shaking my head and feeling blessed to have somehow survived a shark / crocodile / other ocean critter encounter in my recklessness. Kyle asking me to marry him in the lounge room one winter night with salty hair and sun-kissed skin. We were out in the wild north-west landscape every chance we got to satisfy our itchy feet; Quinn with his fat staffy head hanging out the window, eager to see where we ended up. Swimming in water of any temperature (because how good is this!), climbing gorges, finding dirt tracks, wearing fly nets, chasing waterfalls, getting annoyed with Quinn’s loud panting in the heat even though the air-con was blasting him in the face.
I crept into my housemate’s room in the darkness for one last hug, a big ball of excitement and sadness in my chest; and then we jumped in the car. That was it. We were off. I sobbed as we drove down the street, the first light of the new day hitting the vast blue ocean.
I’d felt something new – many new things. Unlike possessions, they stayed with me to be treasured for the rest of my life. The unknown awaited us yet again.
Twelve months later, we drove into a familiar driveway, this time we didn’t need to follow any signs. Palm trees swayed in the breeze. The red dirt had gotten into our blood just as they said it would, it was swirling around inside my veins along with the all the other colours that I’d so far collected. I was creating my own cocktail, making up the recipe as I went.
What were we doing back there? I didn’t know. What would we do next? I didn’t know that either. All I knew was that it felt right.
I’d find the next road when I was ready, and apparently – it wasn’t the right time just yet.
Oh, El Questro.
A genuine paradise in the rugged Australian outback. Red dust whirls on broad gravel roads. Open blue skies so vast that you forget about the world. Landscapes so ancient, it’s an absolute privilege to be a spec passing by in the outback wind.
El Questro Wilderness Park is a private property located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. If you’re around the northern WA town of Kununurra (near the NT & WA border), El Questro is just 110 kilometres west on mostly sealed roads. If you’re coming east after completing the Gibb River Rd (hooray for you!), El Questro is just 36kms down the road – and bliss awaits you. If you’re driving from Darwin, El Questro is just under 10 hours drive along sealed road.
The camping in El Questro includes beautiful scenery, clean amenities and pet friendly grounds (but always make sure to call ahead to double check). They also offer (amazing!!) luxury accomodation! The pub onsite had live music when we stayed and a range of meals, beers and a small shop for bits and pieces you might need.
El Questro is pockets of stunning rainforest in the outback. You can explore and enjoy thermal springs, multiple gorges, rivers, walk & hike trails, and complete peace to relax in. You can also book a guide to enjoy some places on your own private group outside of the public hours.
This pocket of the world, like all the incredible places on Earth – you could explore for months on end. Many travellers that we met had been planning their Gibb River adventure for years. Their 4wds were packed with the latest and greatest gadgets, and campsites were pimped out with full bush kitchens that smelt just like home on a summers night.
Three weeks from the moment Kyle had said: “Let’s do the Gibb River Road in three weeks time”, we started driving across the arid landscape towards the Northern Territory border. We only had five days to do our HUGE mini trip which would seem absolutely crazy to most people. “The Gibb? Are you serious?! We spent two whole months driving our way across that bloody rough road!” Yes, five days people. Be calm.
If we had of waited for the fabled perfect time for us to explore the Kimberley, we’d still be waiting. Like the saying says (one of my favourite ones): ‘There’s no time like the present’. While basing ourselves in Port Hedland Western Australia, we used every opportunity that we could to see and experience the vast outback tracks, tiny dusty towns and stunning blue coastline.
YES OKAY; WE LOVE DRIVING.
We drive long stretches in a day because we enjoy it. We rest at rest-stops and take turns driving to keep our minds fresh. We make sure our 4wd is loving the drive too at rest-stops by checking under the bonnet and topping up with fuel every chance we get (don’t forget to keep your jerry cans full too). We drink lots of water, use the air con in our patrol and have a range of 4wd recovery gear / radio / spare tyres in our patrol. I also send a text message to a few close friends / family every day so that they know where we are when we have mobile reception.
If you have more time up your sleeve than of course, make use of it! We like to show people that achieving their big travel dreams in a short amount of time is truly possible. Stop wishing, start doing. Here’s some inspiration for your own Gibb River / The Kimberley / El Questro journey…
Wednesday: after we clocked off work on Wednesday arvo we headed north from Port Hedland and slept in our roof top tent at the Goldwire 24HR rest-stop. Rest areas in these long stretches of road are true life savers. It’s easy to get sleepy when driving such straight quiet roads, especially in the heat (which is pretty much all year round up here). So please, use the rest stops. The 24 hours ones are a great spot to sleep and refresh (and the toilet blocks are actually pretty clean most days). Here’s a guide outlining where rest stops all are in WA.
Thursday: Goldwire 24HR rest-stop to the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park via Halls Creek (we loved camping here – dog friendly & great amenities). If you have more time than this, obviously make sure of it to stretch this drive out. We had already driven these roads before so we didn’t stop to see other towns / sights on the way.
Friday: Driving to / exploring the Bungle Bungles, arrived to El Questro late in the afternoon (camped on a powered site at the El Questro Station – the Station is beautiful. Great amenities, short drive to all the top spots in El Questro, pet friendly)
Saturday: Explored as much of El Questro as we could before heading off toward the Gibb River Road (camped at Manning Gorge – pay / book through the Mt Barnett roadhouse – this camp site is pet friendly too, and has an amazing swimming hole / river right next to the camp ground)
Sunday: Manning Gorge as the sun rose… Continued on the Gibb River Road (camped in the coastal town of Derby)
Monday: Drove through Derby, spent the morning in Broome and headed south again to arrive in Port Hedland late evening.
WHEN TO GO
Australian winter is the popular season to explore the Gibb River / the Kimberley region. This is because it’s the dry season in winter. The days are roughly 30 degrees with blue skies and rivers can be crossed safely from lack of rainfall.
We did meet locals on the Gibb River Road who told us amazing stories about the wet season up north. We have driven across far north QLD / NT / WA in December / January and experienced heavy rainfall every single afternoon (using sealed roads on the main highway). If you plan on visiting these regions outside of winter, be aware that there’s a very high chance of getting stranded in various towns / roadhouses while you wait for rushing rivers to calm down (which can be a really fun experience depending on how you look at things). This is obviously for only seriously confident 4-wheel drivers who have all the right gear and knowledge.. you’ll be driving in one of the most remote and challenging landscapes in Australia.
WHAT TO TAKE
Summer clothes (yes, even in winter days are around 28 – 30 degrees), shorts and shirts to explore in, swimmers, shoes to walk / hike / climb in. At night time the temperature will drop so bring a good warm jumper and some comfy long pants to warm up if needed at night.
Stock up your 4wd with recovery gear (our Nissan Patrol has a winch, solar panels to run our fridge/s, roof top tent, snatch snaps, spare ropes, max tracks, UHF radio, jerry cans for spare fuel, a couple of spare tyres, plenty of drinking water… feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions…)
Your usual camping gear – cookware, bug spray, fly face nets are handy up here sometimes, your hat, sunscreen
YES, CROCODILES LIVE HERE.
There are 2 types of crocs found in northern parts of Australia and in the Kimberley. Saltwater Crocodiles (“Salties”) or Freshwater Crocodiles (“Freshies”). If you don’t have crocs in your home town like us then it does take some getting used to. There are signs around Australia warning of crocodiles. Here’s what we learnt and practiced in remote northern areas.
Whenever we chatted to people in service stations, camp grounds or on the road we asked them if they knew of any crocs in the area. Sometimes there are Saltwater crocs spotted in odd areas so it’s best to ask before having a quick dip anywhere.
Never setup camp near a water source (no rivers, dams, or on the beach). Better yet, only camp in camping grounds.
If you’re travelling with your pet (our staffy Quinn travels with us), don’t let them wander off or swim in ANY water where people aren’t swimming. Carry spare water in the car instead to splash pets with and use your cars air con to avoid dogs needing a swim.
“Salties” are the aggressive crocs because they are territorial. If you see any signs warning of Crocodiles, stay clear or better yet keep on driving.
“Freshies” you don’t really need to worry about. They aren’t naturally aggressive. We learnt that if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. The locals still swim even if someone has spotted a Freshie around the place. Always best to ask the locals at a patrol station / roadhouse / camping ground first if you’re not sure.
It’s the age-old, travel tear-jerker… alright, only for some people: does the puppy come along for the trip, or does it stay at home? It’s a tough one. On one hand, you’ve got your little best friend who would be the happiest creature in the world to be by your side on your adventure; on the other, are you SURE you’re willing to share your travel time (constantly) with your pooch?
If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll have seen snaps of our beloved English Staffy Quinn a.k.a the adventure dog getting around the place. Like, all around the place. He’s a very well-travelled, four-legged critter.
It’s not easy being a gypsy who loves to move from place to place, as well as have a dog best mate. I’m sure some of you are reading this thinking ‘well, you shouldn’t own a dog if you’re going to travel’. The truth is though that travelling with your furry friends is much easier than you might think.
There are now companies all around the world who look after one specialised field of travel – pets. Companies like Jetpets and Travel Vets literally exist for one reason: to make travelling with your pet simple. It’s also more common than ever before for beloved dogs and cats to board common airlines such as Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin along with their owners to reach their shared destinations. While price may be an issue, the option to take your pet travelling with you is there.
So, you’ve got the means; maybe the cash and you can’t wait to take your dog with you… but why are you reading this?
Here’s a list of pros and cons about travelling with dogs:
PROS of travelling with dogs: (these are the obvious ones)
- They’re cute
- They make you happy
- They keep you company
- They make you smile and laugh
- You don’t have to face saying bye to your pet when you drive off into the sunset (and they get left at home)
I don’t think you need anymore pros. You know why you want to take your pet with you.
CONS of travelling with dogs:
- Cost: depending on what kind of travel you intend on doing, it can get expensive taking your dog with you. Flights aside, even if you’re on the road there’s still food supplies and potential vet bills to consider.
- Time: yes, it’ll be lovely to have them hanging out with you. But if your dog spends it’s time hanging out in a caravan park or tied to a tree all day every day by itself while you’re out doing tours or using public transport… honestly, would they be better off at home in their usual routine?
- Sacrifice: don’t worry, I’m not talking about that kind of sacrifice. Are you willing to potentially miss out on opportunities during your trip because you have your dog with you? National parks in Australia don’t allow dogs, and many camping grounds don’t either. Obviously you’ll be doing more free rein travelling than tours, because I don’t think the bus driver will be stoked to see you walking over with your furry friend next to you.
Don’t worry – it’s not all doom and gloom. These are just some things to consider. We’ve travelled around Australia with our dog and wouldn’t have it any other way. Quinn is used to travelling. He loves the car and he knows the general routine. We pullover every few hours and let him have a wander / toilet break. We keep a couple of toys in the car with us to play fetch and wear him out when we take breaks. He has a water bowl in the car which we offer him every hour or so for a good drink. We’ve always got food for him stowed away in the Engle incase we pass through places without servos / shops to buy more. Quinn’s lead and harness is easy to grab when we stop incase there’s traffic / people about. Always carry some plastic bags too for the fun times when you get to clean up after them.
When it comes to seeing the sights – most beaches and natural landmarks in Australia are dog friendly (not national parks) as long as they’re on a leash. The same goes for camp sites. At every ‘dog friendly’ camp site, there’s always a few other travellers who have their dogs with them. When it comes to national parks, we’ve learnt to wear him out with fetch or a big walk before going places and only ever leave him behind for a couple of hours at most with plenty of cold water and fresh air. He usually gets a drenching with water as well if it’s a warmer day and hangs out in a spot that goes to be shady for the whole time that we’re away.
If you want to take your dog with you, there’s not much stopping you really. We hope this info is useful to you when thinking about travelling with dogs, but at the end of the day it comes down to two questions. We ask ourselves: ‘will we by sacrificing the stuff we really want to do because we’ll have the dog with us?’ and ‘will our dog in all honesty, be better taken care of / loved / happier if it just stayed at home?’.
Most importantly, remember: they’ll still love you when you get back.
There’s always the risk of your valuable, lovely possessions being stolen. It sucks. Alas, it is apart of living in the big, wide world. Here’s what we’ve learned to keep our precious items safe when on the road:
- If you’re staying in a hostel or hotel, and don’t want to take your valuables with you: always, ALWAYS put your valuable items in the onsite locker before heading out. If you don’t have a locker, ask reception about what lockable, safe place they can offer you while you’re out. If you’re staying in super basic accomodation that doesn’t offer a locker: ask at the local train station that you’re leaving / coming back to, or the manager of the day trip that you’re heading to if they offer lockers. If you can travel really light, you can keep your valuables with you at all times in a backpack.
- If you’re heading out with your camera, laptop, tablet, phone or other thief-attracting items, put them at the very bottom of your handbag or backpack under other items. If someone manages to get their hands in your bag, at least make it a little more difficult for them. You’ll hopefully feel them digging around before they actually manage to close their fingers around something.
- Pull your bag around to the front of your body when passing through crowded public areas, and always keep your bag zips closed.
- Be suspicious of everyone. If you make new friends, don’t trust them with your precious belongings so easily. Make sure you’re getting some seriously honest vibes from people before asking them to watch your stuff. It is always a huge risk! You may never see them or your awesome camera again. Better yet, never let your belongings leave your sight. They’re yours, and the best way to keep things safe is to watch them at all times.
- Don’t tempt any criminals passing by: keep personal / valuable items out of sight. Keep your room, bag, car, bike – looking as boring as possible for on-lookers.
- If your outfit and behaviour scream ‘I’m a tourist’, prepare to be targeted. Keep things low-key and casual to avoid standing out.
- Email yourself and a couple of reliable loved ones a copy of your passport and other personal travel documents like your insurance policy. You will always have a copy accessible.
Suddenly our big exciting adventure was over. We were back to our familiar life in our home town. We would still hit the road on the weekends to get our kick of freedom, but in reality we were back into the routine of life at home. Working during the week to pay the bills. Dinner and movies and walks along the beach with our dog Quinn. Weekend nights with friends by the fire drinking wine and long days in bikinis. What a beautiful life, we were so blessed; but it just wasn’t enough.
The plan had been to be back home in Tweed Heads NSW for a short while, and then scoot back off overseas to live in a van and seek the unknown like wandering gypsies again. We knew we’d get there but as it happens, life at home had gotten in the way. Our savings account wasn’t ready to launch us back overseas just yet (like, nowhere near). I had started working for myself with my graphic design business and it would be a while before income started flowing well again. We were going to be in Australia for a long while yet. Life was good, but we weren’t ready for this life yet.
Something needed to happen.
A smart lady once told me that every journey in life needs a purpose to be fulfilling. It felt like I’d been hit over the head with truth. Without a general purpose in your journey, you lose direction and motivation. I’m not talking about the time you went to Bali for a week because you wanted to go Bali. Of course you did, how beautiful. No, I’m talking long-term change.
In this situation we knew our purpose was to feel free and to explore, while still having money coming in to get us back overseas. We wanted to be surrounded by new things and maintain an income. We wanted something to satisfy our craving in the meantime.
Sometimes things just fall into place. Other times, you simply want it to happen so badly that you make it happen. Yes, life throws some tough obstacles in your place sometimes – but truly, if you want something you can always make it happen. It just depends on what you’re willing to risk to achieve it. Are you willing to feel a little foolish if it doesn’t work out? Well, that’s about as bad as it’s going to get. And let’s be honest people – why do you care what other people will think?
Our change came upon us quite simply: Kyle noticed there was a good amount of work for him as a mechanic on the other side of the country in Western Australia; and I said okay, let’s do it.
We had friends living in a remote town in the north west of Western Australia is an industrial town called Port Hedland. This town had plenty of work, and was surrounded by incredible vast outback that many Australian’s never get the chance to see. One quick conversation later and we were invited to live with them. If that hadn’t of happened, a caravan park would’ve satisfied us just fine.
A few weeks later, our camping gear and belongings were packed into our $2000 Nissan Patrol that we had bought 2 weeks before. Our dog Quinn jumped excitedly into his back seat and we started driving. Kyle was unemployed. I had no work coming in as it was Christmas time. We had about 2 grand to our names. Worst case scenario – we’d end up eating sandwiches for every meal and sleeping in the tent for a few weeks until we had money coming in again. Let’s be honest, life can get a lot worse than hanging out in the sunshine all day with your dog and snuggling up in a tent under the stars at night.
We could just feel in our bones that we were doing the right thing. We didn’t need to have long discussions about it. It wasn’t a big deal. We were simply doing what we wanted to do. We were off again, driving into the unknown. And the air through the open windows of our old car smelt oh so good.
We hope we help you see that there are always options out there for you. If you’re unhappy, take a risk. Fight for the change and follow it through to wherever it leads. When I’m an old woman, I won’t be looking back thinking I wonder what would’ve happened if I changed something back then – I’ll be smiling about the time we had to change our tyre at 3am on a very cold dark night, laughing at the memory of almost being swept away in our tent from flash flooding in a huge tropical storm, and remembering the sound of rushing water falling over cliffs after heavy rain in the outback.
I’ll be filled with gratitude that I took the risk and made it work.
We visited New Zealand’s North Island in 2010. It left us feeling a dire need to get back. If you’re a nature / adventure junkie then this magical country is for you. It really has everything.
We flew into Christchurch, hired an awesome camper van from Mighty Campers and set out on the ultimate NZ South Island roady to see as much as we possibly could. Kyle and I always choose to drive ourselves around when travelling. You see so much more of the country (not just the cities that you fly into). You can stop at every single amazing spot that catches your eye! Endless possibilities AND cheap accommodation with 5 star window views every single day. With our usual map with a few rough dots on it, we set off to explore New Zealand’s winter playground!
So here it is – our Best of New Zealand’s South Island list.
Lake Tekapo is the second-largest of three roughly parallel glacial-fed lakes running north–south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand. On the shores of Lake Tekapo you’ll find the famous little stone Church of the Good Shepherd, which was build in 1935.
Lake Pukaki is the largest of the three parallel lakes in this area, covering a massive area of 178.7 km² at an elevation of about 530m above sea level. And yes, the water really is that blue in these lakes.
Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki / Mount Cook NP is a rugged landscape of rock and ice, housing the highest mountains and the largest glaciers in New Zealand with 19 peaks over 3000m including NZ’s highest mountain, Mt Cook. After a short steep climb, you’ll find yourself looking over the enormous Tasman Glacier which is melting at an extremely rapid pace due to climate change. You’ll also see icebergs of every size and shape drifting around in the lake below. With a small village at the base of the mountains and many stunning short / long walking tracks; you will simply feel dwarfed by the vast landscape and stunning beauty. Make sure to explore the many blue pools at the base of the mountains that are filled with beautiful glacial water (like every other lake in NZ!).
As the adrenalin capital of New Zealand – Queenstown has it all. Beautiful scenery, delicious food and every adventure junkie activity under the sun. We rented a luxury house on the lake with a group of friends and explored this delightful town for 5 days. Think speedboats, bungy-jumping, snowboarding, helicopter rides, white-water rafting… you name it, it’s in Queenstown. A separate blog post to come on this spot…
360 degrees of jaw-dropping mountain and water views. Basically, if you go to NZ – get to Milford Sound. Read more about our visit and see a heap of photos on this previous post about Milford Sound.
Visit the Lone Tree at Lake Wanaka
Another day in New Zealand, another breath-taking lake view. Visit the charming lake side town of Wanaka, stroll along the shores of the glassy lake and hunt down the infamous Lone Tree.
Drive the Haast Pass
This beautiful winding road will take you from the Wanaka region over to the west coast of the South Island, through mountain valleys and past a long list of rushing, crystal-clear rivers and waterfalls – and you’ll want to stop at every single one. The high cliff road can become a little hazardous at times so don’t drive this one tired. This is truly one special roady – make sure your camera battery is charged. This below photo is of the Blue Pools – just one of many stunning spots to visit on the drive.
While on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island – visit the towns of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier to gaze upon these incredible melting (enormous!) glaciers. You can do helicopter flights and tours to see them up close of course or you can simply use the free walking tracks to be overwhelmed by their size and the beauty of the valleys for no cost at all.
Explore the Wild West Coast
The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island has earned quite the reputation, often getting compared to Australia’s Great Ocean Road. Drive along a coastline of beautiful wild beaches, odd rock formations and rainforest and try to not to say ‘oh my gosh!’ every time you turn the corner.
It’s a nice waterfall, yes – but that’s not what makes this place special. This area north of Kaikoura is home to many seal colonies. You’ll literally spot hundreds of the beautiful sea creatures hanging out on the ocean’s edge as you drive this stretch of road. Take the short walk from the carpark to the falls to see wild baby seal pups playing around here while their mothers are out fishing in the sea. These seals are wild and this is a completely free experience; the private landowners and local council have worked hard to keep this place barely touched by human tourism trends. Read more about this place here to make sure you go at the right time of year.
There are more incredible places to be explored in New Zealand of course. We will be heading back in Summer next time to experience New Zealand’s beauty in a whole new light.
We arrived to Rainbow Beach, located on the Sunshine Coast of Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’ QLD to watch the spectacular sunrise over the sea. The streets of the small coastal town were calm and peaceful first thing in the morning – that is, until you reached the service station. Some 4WDs were squeaky clean, while others were coated in sand and salt; it wasn’t difficult to work out who was coming back from Fraser Island.
Although, if you were still somehow unsure, the vehicle occupant’s faces would be the next best clue. City folk departed with sun-kissed skin, heading back to reality unwillingly with tired smiles. Groups of excited foreigners were being directed onto tour buses. Blokes were letting down the pressure in their enormous mud tyres, ready to tackle the soft sand and rugged, endless adventures of Fraser Island.
At 7am, our Nissan Patrol was first off the barge, and our four days of island life bliss had begun. Four days might not sound like much, but you’ll soon realise that we fit a lot into our adventures.
An explorers paradise of spectacular beaches, fresh water creeks, fresh water lakes, stunning rainforest and sand dunes – Fraser Island is a heritage-listed island located along the southern coast of Queensland, Australia, approximately 200 kilometres north of Brisbane. The island is considered to be the largest sand island in the world at 1840 km². Its length is about 120 kilometres and its width is approximately 24 kilometres.
The sand island is covered with stunning plant life, due to the naturally occurring fungi present in the sand, which release nutrients in a form that can be absorbed by the plants. You’ll hear beautiful birds singing as you walk through the rainforest; see turtles swimming in the inland lakes and spot wild dingoes patrolling the islands silently, especially at dawn and dusk. There have even been rare sightings of saltwater crocodiles on the island.
I could waffle on about the 120kms of stunning white-sandy beaches that we explored back and forth, or the days we spent floating around in fresh water lakes and creeks, or the bumpy 4WD tracks we used inland to cross the island to discover hidden beauty… Instead, here is our ‘Best of Fraser Island’ list in photographs. We hope these images inspire you to get out there and explore this incredible place yourself. We shouldn’t have to tell you this – but, if you get the chance to visit Fraser Island, take it and you’ll be thankful for a very long time to come.
Fresh crystal-clear water surrounded by wild rainforest. Sprawl out on the white sandy beach under a tree and breathe in the silence. This spot gets really busy during the day. Get here early in the morning and have it all to yourself! We got here at 7am (don’t worry, it was still hot enough to swim) and there wasn’t another person in sight. The instant we walked onto the white sand, we fell completely in love with this place and felt overwhelmingly blessed to call Australia home.
Fraser Island has claimed many ships with twenty-three wrecks recorded in Fraser Island waters between 1856 and 1935, when the S.S. Maheno beached near The Pinnacles. The Maheno is the most famous of Fraser Island’s wrecks and has become a landmark attraction. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. When they reached Queensland Waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island’s ocean beach. The wreck is exposed differently during the day, depending on the ocean tides.
Driving The Beautiful 75 Mile Beach
75 Mile Beach runs along most of the east coast of Fraser Island. While it may not be the best place for swimming due to dangerous currents and plentiful Tiger sharks, it is extremely beautiful and has a number of excellent highlights such as Champagne Pools, Indian Head, the Maheno Wreck and Eli Creek. This unique stretch of beach is a National Highway as well as a landing strip for light aircraft. Driving along 75 Mile Beach is a must do.
Walk to Lake Wabby
We saw the sign for Lake Wabby while driving down 75 Mile Beach and jumped out in our swimmers ready for a swim in more of Fraser’s fresh water bliss. However, in our usual ‘let’s go right this instant’ excitement, we didn’t realise there was a bit of a walk ahead of us. The round trip walk from 75 Mile Beach is probably only 3 or 4 kms – BUT, be ready for rough rainforest tracks, plenty of soft sand and high sand dunes. On a hot day, the sand dunes will burn your feet so be sure to wear shoes and carry water with you as you’ll be dreaming of chugging down a jug of cold water by the end. Once you reach the lake, you will forget the walk that got you there. This stunning fresh water lake hides on the other side of a sand dune desert – what will look like a perfect mirage, is actually real-life.
Float Down Eli Creek
We swam in Eli Creek every day while on Fraser Island. I also enjoyed myself so much that I actually forgot to take many photos… so you’ll have to take our word on this instead. Eli Creek is a fast flowing, fresh water creek that flows through rainforest and winds its way across the beach to the ocean. There is an amazing boardwalk that you can walk along to see the creek in all it’s beauty which will take you to stairs that you can use to climb down into the creek. Float down the creek, surrounded by a mass of trees and green lush grasses onto the mouth of the creek. Bring a gazebo, some cold drinks and spend the day lounging around. Get here early to grab a good spot as like all beautiful places, Eli Creek gets busy later in the day.
Indian Head is a headland lookout along 75 Mile Beach that offers 360 degree views! Walk to the top, take in the views and spot a couple of turtles catching waves below (or larger, less playful sea creatures). The below pictures speak 1000 words.
Explore Central Station
If you have a reliable 4WD, put driving the inland tracks of Fraser Island on your bucket list. A maze of 4WD tracks ranging in bumpiness can be explored on the island. The most popular of which, is to Central Station. Central Station is a large dingo-fenced camping area in the centre of the island that is surrounded by dense rainforest. Walk along the boardwalk over the fresh water stream, have a picnic in the grassy park area or drive your 4WD around the area to enjoy the beautiful surrounds. We also camped in Central Station and highly recommend a night here to anyone visiting the island.
The West Coast
We decided to take some of the roads less travelled on Fraser Island to reach the west coast of the island. The island is only 20 odd kms wide but due to rough sandy / forest tracks, it will take you about an hour to reach the other side. There are only a few towns on the west coast of the island and it is practically silent compared to the east coast. Make sure to fill up your car with fuel while still on the east coast as you won’t see any fuel again for some time. The drive across the island was beautiful. You’ll travel through a range of vegetation and past a variety of lakes. We drove south along the west coast, enjoying the beaches and spotted a few wild dingoes searching for lunch. Depending on the weather and tides, you may find yourself meeting a couple of creek crossings.
How Do I Get To Fraser Island?
There are a number of tours operating that take tourists over to the island from the coast – simply type ‘Fraser Island QLD Tours’ into Google and you’ll be overwhelmed with options. However, if you wish to explore the island on your own, you will need a capable 4WD. We took our Nissan Patrol over to the island using the Manta Ray Barge at Rainbow Beach. If you want to take your own vehicle over to the island, here’s what you’ll need:
1. A ticket for the barge from the mainland over to the island (4WD $110 return from Inskip Point). You can either catch the barge from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach (this is what we have done) or from River Heads south of Harvey Bay. You can book this online; we bought our ticket from the service station in Rainbow Beach 2 hours before catching the barge.
2. A vehicle Access Permit to be allowed to drive your vehicle on the beaches and through the Great Sandy National Park (one month or less = $45.10). You can book this online or give them a call using the details on this website.
3. A camping permit or other accommodation booking if you don’t wish to camp. We didn’t book any camping before we got to the island because we didn’t know where we would end up each day. Obviously in peak season it’s best to book ahead. There are a range of camping spots on the island which are clearly marked as you drive along the popular east coast beach. Some camping spots have no amenities, while others offer showers, toilets and fenced dingo-free zones.
Our memory of visiting Milford Sound will always be one of complete and utter awe. The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound was incredible in itself: a winding long road through beautiful coastal towns, that carves through wild mountains, past fast-flowing crystal clear rivers, and into vast stunning valleys.
We arrived at Milford Sound. The chilly winter air fresh on our faces. Early morning light flickered through surrounding branches. Standing on the waters edge, turning on the spot to see 360 degrees of stunning mountains like diamonds sticking out from the sea. The snowy tops glistened in the winter sun. The only sound came from an enormous waterfall; water rushing over the edge of a nearby mountain into the glassy sea below.
We stepped over the pebbles and sticks that covered the sea shore; stunned by Milford Sound’s natural (ridiculous) beauty with every turn we took. We ended up sitting on the shore, simply looking out across the bay, soaking up the silence and breathing in the beauty.
Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor) and holds the proud title of New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. Milford Sound has in the past been called the eighth Wonder of the World. It’s not difficult to see why.
A simple Google search will direct you to a variety of ways to enjoy the scenery and divine surrounds. Boats also regularly make their way into the stunning bay to treat their guests to natures wonder here. If you’re heading to New Zealand – please, please, put this natural masterpiece on your list.
Many things in life are important to me. Sometimes I know exactly how I feel about something, but don’t know how to explain myself in words. But why should I feel like someone else needs to understand what I believe in?
Every time that I have spoken out loud about things I want to do or places I want to see, there is always someone who doubts it. An individual who doesn’t understand why I want to do something or feels the need to tell me that it’s a bad idea without having any experience in the matter. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m always open to hear advice from other people. I believe listening to other people’s opinions is a very important trait for a human being. However, as a young person who is passionate about seeing the world and having adventures as often as possible, I have to admit, I get fed up with people making me feel bad about what is important to me.
In this modern world where we are ‘free’ to do as we please, there are still certain expectations from the people around us to follow the ‘normal’ path. This is complete nonsense. You must do what suits you, and what makes you happy!
Recently, I decided to talk openly with someone who I expected from previous experience not to be happy with my on-going travel plans. Without naming names, this person is older than me and is very important to me. Every time that I have told them where I’m off to, I cop a bit of a lecture about various things. I get really worked up over it usually, because this person means so much to me but they just don’t understand me at all. I find myself disappointed with their reaction and my mood is often saddened after I share my ideas with them.
I am very fortunate that in my life I share my passion with the most important person to me. Kyle understands how I feel because he feels the same. We share this passion without the need of explanation or justification. The older I get, the more I see that this is a precious gift in any relationship. I can wake up and say ‘let’s do this today’ and I know that no matter how far the destination or how ridiculous it is, if we can, we will find a way. To me, this is important.
[blockquote]I’d rather look back and laugh saying ‘I can’t believe we did that!’ than wonder what could’ve been.[/blockquote]
My recent encounter got me thinking: what about the amazing people in the world who have incredible dreams but have them flattened by the people who surround them? There are people out there who think differently, and it breaks my heart to think that they are told that they can’t do what they want to do. If this sounds like you, I have something to tell you and I really want you to remember this:
This is your one life. It is a special gift that no one else needs to understand or approve of. You can dream as big as your heart lets you, and you can achieve these dreams because the only one person in life who has true power to stop you, is yourself. Know that there are always people out there who share your dreams. Don’t let the small group of people around you, dictate what your life will be because that’s what makes them happy. Find what is important to you, and live for it. If it’s going to cost money to reach your goal, then get out there and work your arse off in whatever way you can to make that money. There are always going to be people out there who don’t understand how you feel about your goals. Stay focused and remind yourself why it is important to you and no one else. We are given little time on this Earth, make every second count. Perhaps you are surrounded with people who don’t understand you now, but once you get out there in the world, you will find that there are many people who feel the same as you.
The Wanderlust Mantra:
I am my own person. I can live my life how I want to and I can feel good about that. I am responsible for my own happiness, and nobody elses.
If you have big travel ideas, but feel like you have no one to enjoy them with – please feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear about and support your great ideas!
Big love, Louise
We woke up on Saturday morning with itchy feet, and half an hour later had decided a rough destination (South Coast, NSW). We hit the road with our favourite travel companion, our dog Quinn.
We’re constantly jumping in the car and going on random drives (often, long drives) to amazing places, without plans. It is second nature to us now. We can’t get enough of the freedom. All we need is each other, somewhere to sleep and a change of clothes. We freedom camp majority of the time thanks to awesome apps like Wikicamps, so the only costs are fuel and food. We see so much, yet spend so little.
We had three days. Let’s get to it. Keen! Here’s what we got up to:
Urunga: There are so many beautiful spots along the East Coast of Australia that we haven’t yet explored. Urunga is one of those places. A quiet little beach town with pretty beaches and a small main street with a couple of great cafes. It was a windy day, but we happily grabbed some delicious burgers from the Boardwalk Cafe and took the 4wd beach access track onto Hungry Head beach to eat.
Sydney: We drove through the city late on Saturday night to reach the South Coast of NSW. The traffic was quite light being 10pm so we drove around and checked out a few places in the beautiful city light such as Rose Bay and Bondi. The drive over the Harbour Bridge is spectacular at night time when the traffic’s quiet.
Royal National Park: This park is so beautiful, and we highly recommend that you explore it during the day so you can actually see it. Established in 1879, it’s the world’s second oldest national park. We drove through at night to reach the South Coast before we went to sleep. If you’re based in Sydney or close by, make sure you get here at some point! It’s really close to the city and will refresh you completely.
Stanwell Park: Surrounded by bushland, this beach town is the perfect getaway for Sydney folk. An easy daytrip which rewards you with beautiful scenery. Picnic on the grassy headland which looks over the South Coast or have a surf at Stanwell Park Beach. We slept next to the beach in our camper.
Stanwell Park: Catch the sunrise if you can at Stanwell Park, the view from the lookout is stunning at first light.
Sea-Cliff Bridge: This 665m bridge is a highlight of Grand Pacific Drive. Starting at Stanwell Park, the bridge makes an incredible drive and has great walking access for beautiful views.
Kiama: Kyle lived here for a couple of years when he was younger so it was a fond trip for him to remember his favourite beaches and hang-outs. The surrounding areas and townships in the Wollongong region are all well-worth visiting. These towns have a small-town beach vibe, great cafes and stunning views. A couple of our favourite spots in Kiama include the Blowhole and the Bone Yard. There are a couple of man-made ocean pools around the harbour of Kiama for a swim, or check out Surf Beach around the corner for a popular sandy beach. It is amazing to think that these places are only a couple of hours from the city.
Macquarie Pass National Park: As soon as you drive into this park, you feel completely surrounded by wilderness. The drive is only short (approx 9kms from top to bottom) and takes you up a steep winding path of rainforest and before you know it, you are very high up with a view of the entire South Coast. Again – an easy day trip from Sydney. Get in your car and explore Sydney-siders!
Thirlmere Lakes National Park: We drove via Bowral to reach this region. The landscape is very different from the coast and is a great spot to breathe in some fresh air and have some ‘country’ experiences. The national park has 5 lakes so pack your swimmers and your country boots for some peace and quiet in the bush.
Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains National Park: I hadn’t visited the Blue Mountains before so I was really excited to see something new in my own country. The drive was amazing! The Blue Mountains in parts takes you about 1050m above sea-level, so as you can imagine, the views are ridiculously good. Wentworth Falls is a beautiful waterfall with a really far drop which you can view from lookouts above the falls or you can get up close and personal to the falls by walking down using one of the many (short or long) tracks. The view surrounding the falls is also amazing, miles and miles of bush and mountain ridges – pack your camera.
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains National Park: Park your car at Echo Point to lookout over the stunning Jamison Valley and The Three Sisters. This area was fortunately untouched by the October 2013 bush fires, and the views are spectacular. The Three Sisters is basically three unusual rock formations which sit in the large Jamison Valley. Aboriginal legend says that three sisters were turned to stone to be protected from a tribal battle, but the witchdoctor who turned them was killed before he could turn them back, so they have remained as stone for many generations. The rocks are lit up until 11pm each night for amazing views. The sunset over the mountains is amazing if you are able to catch it; the colours in the rocks are very pretty as the sun sets over them.
The Blue Mountains has many camping spots. We came across a nice spot on the drive down the mountain that allowed free camping and had toilets – there are a few of these about in the national park, so keep your eye out for ‘rest stops’ with camping icons.
Grey Gum Cafe: This country cafe is situated on Putty Road with Wollemi National Park on one side and Yengo National Park on the other. Even though you’re only a few hours from the coast line, the feel in these parts is quite ‘outback’. Dusty dirt roads and public fire trail roads make for great 4wding. We came across Grey Gum Cafe in perfect timing for breakfast and were very happy with the service. They also offer 48 hours free camping on their property, with toilet amenities and showers ($5 charge for shower). This was a great spot for a break to grab some food and a coffee.
Crowdy Head: By driving the back roads and through National Parks, we bypassed Sydney traffic completely (yes!). We travelled north up the highway to head home, and pulled off the highway near Taree to a small beach town called Crowdy Head. There is a large stretch of beach here with 4wd access which we were keen to try out. Crowdy Head itself is a cute little town with some great camping spots in the area. We got onto the beach from Crowdy Head and exited at Kylie’s Beach. If you have a 4wd, get onto this beach and find your own spot. We stopped in a few places for a swim and had hundreds of metres of beach to ourselves. Perfect for fishing, reading a book or a beautiful swim! Our dog Quinn happily lost his mind running around this beach without his leash.
While in Rome, we did some research and decided to head to Albania in our van/house. Ferries cross the ocean to Durres in Albania departing from Bari on the south-east coast of Italy. We booked our tickets online to take ourselves and our beloved van across to Albania. The rough plan was to drive through Albania to get to Greece.
We didn’t know anyone who had been to Albania, and to be honest we’d heard next to no information ever about the country besides some basic research we did ourselves online.
We stocked up on groceries in the port town of Bari while waiting for the time to pass, and headed to the port area late in the afternoon. As the cars lined up ready to board the ferry, we noticed many men standing around in dress pants yelling about insurance and waving their clipboards at drivers. The thing is, you get to a certain point when roughing it in your van where you simply don’t trust people. You see so many people out there scamming well-dressed travellers that you tend not to believe anything random people on the street shout at you. We did not purchase any ‘insurance’ from these men as we figured the full-time ticket booth worker would have mentioned it if we needed to buy it. When it doubt: Google it.
A couple of tips:
- if you do need to use the toilet on any public transport, use it as soon as you get on board. The smell and state of the facilities will shock and disgust you once every Bob, Joe, Mary, and Jane get in there.
- Always have a jumper or a large scarf with you; useful to cover yourself up from prying eyes, or get cold during the journey.
We were hoping that you could stay in your car on the journey (as you can on some ferries) so we intended on sleeping in our lovely beds in the van. However, we were told to get out and stay in the sitting area of the ferry until the morning when we would reach Albania. Lucky we’re so casual about this sort of thing. We found a booth in the corner of the bar area after eating food from the diner. Kyle slept on the carpet against a bag with our valuables in it. I slept with my handbag wrapped under my body. There were men on the ferry who liked to stare, so I was thankful for my jumper and scarf to cover myself up with. I had pants and a shirt on but I felt like some men had x-ray vision. Small comforts can make a huge difference. I’ve roughed it many a time, but I have to admit – this was one rough night. When that sky began to lighten, I was ready for it.
We drove off the ferry onto the port at first light the next morning. There was some drama with waiting for the cars to line up nicely to leave the port. Albania is not apart of the EU so there is a passport check and things are done, let’s say, a little differently. As we drove out of the port, there were men in dress pants (again!) waving clipboards. There were huge numbers of these men. Hello English number plates… one second we were gaining speed and then were literally surrounded by men yelling ‘insurance!’. You can read more about this part of the adventure on our post about Albania.
It was an interesting way to enter a country that we’d barely heard of before. However, overall the ferry trip from Italy to Albania was well-priced, the food and amenities on board were fine (just book a room if sleeping on seats will be an issue for you). The memory of driving from the port into the town will stay with us forever.
The drive from Monte Carlo, Monaco to Cuneo, Italy is truly beautiful. We discovered it on a whim while we headed toward Switzerland. We did this drive in early April and were blessed with warmth and sunshine in Monaco, crystal clear mountain rivers in France and snow-capped mountains in Italy. Yes, all in one day. We started the day in shorts and singlets feeling summer calling early, and ended the day snuggled in thick jumpers and cosy scarves.
Passes through: Monaco – Italy – France – Italy
Time: Drive can be done in roughly 2 hours, but allow at least one whole day to enjoy the scenery and to make some stops in the amazing little villages along the way.
Distance: Approx. 113kms
Starting in the oceanside luxurious city of Monte Carlo, this drive leads you into the mountains of Italy before venturing along a winding mountain road of France past countless hidden cliff-side villages. This trip ends in the interesting, historical Italian town of Cuneo.
Follow the D6007 road from Monte Carlo which will lead you along the stunning coastline into Italy. Take the SS20 road north into the mountains to head toward the Italian town of Airole. This road will continue until you pass the turn-off for a village called Fanghetto, taking you across the border into France. While you will be on the same SS20 road, the road name will change to D6204 once you enter France. Shortly after, you will be taken through the small breath-taking village of Breil-Sur-Roya, the road will take you through the centre of the town and past the lake. You will then pass some beautiful landscapes and towns – you will have the choice to take a small detour (road D38) to visit the town of Saorge. If you choose not to take the turn off, continue on the D6204 to pass through the town of Fontan. The next villages that the road will take you through are Saint-Dalmas-De-Tende and another village called Tende. When you reach the ‘Tunnel De Tende’, you will be 1800metres above sea-level. The old tunnel is 3.2kms long and will take you straight through a mountain; when you reach the other side you will be back in Italy. The road name will again change to ‘SS20’ as you are back on Italian soil. You will be back in civilisation now – though it is still quite remote and very beautiful. You will pass through many villages as you continue on the SS20. Stay on this road until you reach the end of this drive in the town of Cuneo where you will find many options for restaurants and hotels.
If you are after a hotel in Cuneo for the night, we recommend the Best Western Hotel Principe which is located in the historical and commercial city centre. We were given great service from the staff, including a tour of different priced rooms to choose from and treated ourselves to a great night of hotel bliss. A free continental style breakfast is included with your stay in this elegant 4-star hotel and a king-bed room will set you back roughly 100 Euro. You will also find a selection of restaurants within short walking distance of the hotel, including delicious Italian pizza of course!
Looking for a little inspiration to walk out your front door, either with your car keys or luggage to do something different? Here are 10 reasons why you should travel. But seriously, come on man, do you even need 10?
1. It’ll Broaden Your Mind. When you live in a life of routine, it is easy to lose perspective on your ‘problems’. You forgot to buy that new vanilla body scrub while you were at the shops and you feel frustrated. The power blacked out and you missed your favourite tv show and the world might as well end. When you travel you are surrounded by people of different cultures who have their own lifestyles. You experience situations that really make you feel something; whether it be overwhelming excitement and complete relaxation in a five-star resort or sympathy, shock and amazement in a 3rd-world country village. Traveling the various places of the world reminds you of the ‘bigger picture’ and puts your forgotten body wash into the ‘who even cares’ pile.
2. Challenge Yourself. In your comfortable life back home, you know your safety zone. You have a favourite restaurant where the curry spice is perfect and the drive to the cinemas gives you just the right amount of time to listen to two songs on your playlist, even with a red light. These habits that we learn and love are only human, but when was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? When you travel you often need to make quick decisions – which train to board, what foreign food that you can’t pronounce to pick from the menu, how to say hello to the nice person smiling at you in their own language. These challenges are generally an everyday occurrence when travelling abroad and they build a confidence in you that you may never had known existed. When you rush to make the train, pick some odd looking food that tastes incredible and make a memorable acquintance in the smiling stranger; you grow more able to deal with tough situations in everyday life. Dare to challenge yourself with the unknown and who knows what amazing courage you can find within yourself. It’s always been there, you’ve just never had to use it.
3. Because Watching A Documentary Isn’t The Same Thing. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good doco. David Attenborough is one of my favourite humans. You can learn a lot of facts from watching a documentary. You can learn that Hadrian’s Wall ran 73 miles from sea to sea across some of the wildest and most dramatic country in England. But a dvd doesn’t let you feel the rough, ancient brick ruins with your fingertips. You don’t get the blast of fresh country air on your face and if you get down on the ground and smell your tv, it does not smell like two-thousand year old stone and moss (though if it does, you should probably buy a new tv). When you travel, all of those amazing things that you felt go with you as a memory. When you watch a dvd, you go to bed that night and remember a couple of good facts the next day. Documentaries and educational films are a great source of knowledge and by all means enjoy them. I just hope that one day you get to see the real thing with your own eyes.
4. Delight Your Senses. There are so many incredible things in the world to experience. Have you ever strolled through a food market? The delicious smells get up your nose and make your stomach grumble. The sizzle of fresh marinated meat and the perfect colours of fine deserts surround you. How do you feel about sunshine and crystal-clear water? Your skin is so clean and refreshed after soaking in the water and sun rays. Have you ever stood on a mountain and had clean white snow fall around your shoulders? Laid on your back in the snow and have looked up to a perfect blue sky? Boarded down a mountain at full speed with the world on display like lego-houses far below? Travelling is the ultimate wake up call to your senses.
5. Realise Your Passions. Traveling exposes you to all sorts of new experiences and knowledge. You meet people who work in careers that you never knew existed and who spend their weekends creating, living and inspiring. There are things happening out there right now, amazing, exciting things, that you don’t know about. If you are trying to work out what you want to do with your life or would like to find something new to excite you – then seeing the world will help you find it.
6. Make Life-Long Friends. Sleeping in hostel dorms and sharing a cupboard-sized shower with a group of strangers (not at the same time) can be interesting for reasons that you might not instantly realise. When you’re travelling, you’re usually the most true version of yourself. You’re generally not stressed from work and everyday you are being inspired. You’re happy, alive and excited about life. Interesting conversations come up quickly when ten strangers are crammed into a small room. There are people from all over the world in one room who share one definite interest – travelling. If you’re a shy person, asking a couple of basic questions will get the conversation going: ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where are you off to next?’. These strangers love the same thing as you do and are probably more than willing to share their ideas with you. Travelling creates a certain bond in humans. Spending large amounts of time with a person allows you to see every side of them – the good and the bad. Before you know it, you’ve found a friend that you won’t easily forget. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, hostel, resort or, sleeping in a van… you will meet people that you’ll share stories of and with for years to come.
7. Because You Need A Break. Sometimes life can get really hard. Everyday we are surrounded by negativity from either the media or people in our communities. We study hard, we work hard and we get dealt a bad hand from time-to-time. When you’re coming home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and unhappy then it may be time to make a change. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to reconsider your lifestyle and what it is that is making you feel this way in the first place or maybe you know what it is that’s making you unhappy and you simply need to get away. Working is important of course, it funds our lifestyles and our health; but even your perfect job can wear you out over time. Book a holiday, whether it be a weekend away or a long life-changing trip. Take a break, have an adventure, rest, relax and remember what it feels like to be you again.
8.Because You Can. When Kyle and I chat about our next adventure, there is always a moment when we take a step back and think about how lucky we are. Yes, we work hard to save the money to do the trip, but the fact that we live in a country where it is that simple is pretty amazing. It is just a matter of working to save money and booking flights. What a blessing that simple truth is. Sometimes it is hard to believe the unfairness of the world, that there are people who do not have the health or money to get out and see the world. Some people don’t like thinking about disadvantaged humans because it’s too terrible to imagine, but I find it an incredible motivation to live my own life well. We are so lucky, and I cherish that everyday.
9. Support The Global Community. We come from different places. We look different and speak different languages but in the end, we’re all the same because we call the same planet home. We breathe the same air, and need food and water to survive. When you buy a meal at a small family-run cafe here, and pay for accommodation at a private hostel there, you are usually directly funding that town. You are helping pay people’s wages. You are feeding their children and giving meaning to their lifestyle. You are helping other humans and their communities.
10. Because… Well, Why Not? Sometimes I find that instead of asking myself ‘why’ I want to do something, I ask ‘why not’. Each person has their own individual goals and desires. If you know that you would like to do something but you’re still not 100% sure, try asking yourself why you shouldn’t do it. You’ll know if the reasons are important enough to hold you back. For Kyle and I, seeing the world just makes sense. We can’t always explain the feeling we have about it. It’s simply important to us for all the above reasons and many more. If you feel that way about something in life, it is an amazing thing. You have found something that is special to you and in the end, that is what makes life so great.
The ferry ride was over. We peeled ourselves from our make shift sleeping arrangements: the carpeted floor and bar booth seating – overwhelmingly happy to see the sun finally shining through the deck windows. Our van once again joined the slow procession of vehicles leeching their way into the port. The variety of “authority” figures spun at the first sniff of fresh foreign meat, their tired eyes brightening at the sight of our English number plate.
Fighting our way through the paper waving crowd, I was pleased to be seated safely between the boys as a collection of voices began shouting of “insurance” to travellers in broken English through our regrettably open windows. Our escape was approaching: a gated exit harbouring empty space and constant vehicle speed. As a swarm of sweaty men in dress pants and long sleeved shirts surrounded us, Kyle hit the accelerator. The man was faster than expected with his crutches in hand, suddenly he bounded purposefully to block our way. Kyle swerved, I swore loudly, we exited the port and did not intend to stop our vehicle any time soon.
Welcome to Albania.
The first thing we noticed is that Albania is travelling at a different pace. The naturally dry, sandy landscape was littered with uncompleted structures. Stuffed children’s toys and teddy bears were strung by the neck from aged exposed rafters to rid of evil over decaying sites. Pre 1990, Albania was sans cars. Many roads are still in the making, the art form of which has not yet quite been ‘perfected’. Highways are full of unexpected encounters.
The immense difference in lifestyle and environment from surrounding countries was shocking to my eyes, ears and nose; I was so intrigued with the every day normalities going on around us.
Piles of human-used goods littered the streets; covering the sand to the very edge of the clear blue ocean. Children wore torn clothing over their stained tan skin. Countless citizens took part in the national past time by standing roadside and staring as we passed in our English van along the coastline. Fresh meat hung in the form of various farm animals from hooks roadside, the butcher putting the garden hose to good use. Unfinished chunks of motorway sat suspended in time above the highway. Staircases were long forgotten and lead their climber to no where in particular. In the city of Vlore, palm trees swayed oceanside; the busy traffic slowed by high heeled women weaving between vehicles.
Eventually, highway turned to dusty dirt roads; the enormous mountains calling us over to explore. With our useful GPS apparently unfamiliar with the country, we headed south along the coastline through towns and across highways. The striking contrast between the ancient, mountainous environment and the modern, concrete jungle was highlighted by the warm rays of sunlight.
We had no idea of the incredible beauty that awaited us in the south of Albania. No matter how different the culture to what I had expected, my memories of the landscape and the gleam in their stares are intensely fond. It was the first time in my life that I was seriously well and truly cut off from the world, lost with no form of contact, no other outcasts in sight.
It was just brilliant.