Road Trip Australia: 10 lessons you will learn

Zoe Fagan

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Road trip Australian outback - photo credit EladeManu (Flickr)
Road trip Australian outback – photo credit EladeManu (Flickr)

Nothing beats a road trip adventure with good friends and great music but let me tell you why, if you have four to six weeks to spare, you should chose Australia as your next road trip destination. I had only ever been on one road trip before Australia which was a zig-zag trip around the United States. Each road trip is an entirely different adventure; in the United States I lived like a junk-food-motel-queen while in Australia it was completely back to basics, as in primate basics. Every adventure offers new experiences and lessons that apply to every day life. These are ten reasons why you should chose Australia as your next getaway and why it is a trip that will change your life:

1. It’s all about the basic, no trouble

Drinking coffee in front of tent in Blue Mountains Australia
Back to basics, Blue Mountains, Australia – Photo credit Zoe Fagan

Your definition of luxury will constantly change. At first you will be pining for your comfy bed back home and perhaps, shed a little tear every night when your inflatable mattress farts out its last wisp of air and your derrière hits the ground. Internet becomes a nostalgic memory and you will become an electricity creep, swooning every time you see an available socket. Your route will be planned around shower facilities and I promise you, you will see more kangaroos than showers throughout your time in Australia. But, you will soon realise that life is best when it’s kept simple. Bliss is finding a flat piece of ground to set up camp, drinking coffee at 6 a.m. when the parrots (among other strange animals) wake you up, stumbling on a deserted beach that belongs to you for the entire day and, being the reigning champion in the card game you will play every night.

2. Embrace what lies ahead

Beach in sunny Australia
Just around the corner, Australia – Photo credit Zoe Fagan

One thing is for sure when you travel the Australian East Coast: you will never fail to be amazed by the places you stumble upon. Around every corner there is a new surprise awaiting and all it takes is getting lost or going off the beaten track to find them. The best part about Australian road trips is that you decide where you want to go and almost every day you will yourself to get lost and see what hidden gems wait in store. The greatest lesson you will learn from this trip is to take the road less travelled.

3. Beware of what lies beneath

Luxury facilities near Minyon Falls, Australia - Photo credit Espen Klem
Luxury facilities near Minyon Falls, Australia -Photo credit Espen Klem (Flickr)

This may seem like a reason NOT to travel around Australia but the terror of creepy crawlies will have you screaming with laughter. As a kid, did you ever have an absolute fear of going to the toilet during the night because a monster, or even the toilet itself, might jump out and eat you? This is a very real fear in Australia as it seems as though every critter is out to get you! My advice, assign toilet buddies. They may not save you but they will certainly scream, sprint and laugh off the terrors that lurk in the Australian wilderness. And, more than likely they will snap a photograph so that the terror, and humiliation, you experienced will never be forgotten. But, the best part about the man-eating animals (and trees) is that they will make you appreciate the fluffy, adorable animals  back home.

4. The best experiences are spontaneous

Swinging from a stick and rope over a lagoon in Australia
Hanging around, Nimbin Australia – Photo credit Zoe Fagan

We can’t help but daydream about upcoming holidays, about the places we will see, the things we’ll do and the people we’ll meet. We picture the warm days, the stunning beaches,  the tanned gods and goddesses, summer flings, finding Mr Right, beach wedding, tanned babies … Day-dreaming is dangerous as holidays are never what you expect them to be. But, you will be surprised at the stories that you tell most friends and family on your return! Often the most hilarious and poignant moments will take you completely by surprise. Embrace these moments when they happen, and seek them out along your journey! These experiences are what will make your overall road trip experience a story that you will be telling for years to come.

5. Silences are surprising

Sitting quietly in front of a lagoon in Nimbin, Australia
Silence is golden, Nimbin, Australia – Photo credit Zoe Fagan

Even though the conversations you will have on your road trip will be hilarious, enlightening, and thought-provoking, there will also be moments full of silence. Rather than being awkward, this silence offers you all time-out in the middle of your hectic adventure to reflect on the amazing experiences you have had so far. It’s not just time in the car that offers peaceful silence; camping out in the wilderness allows you time to the time you need to breath, close your eyes and hear the loud grunting and grumbling of koalas mating!

6. Weird people are everywhere

Mardi Gras parade Nimbin
Mardi Gras in Nimbin, Australia – Photo Credit mardi_grass_2010 (Flickr)

No matter where you are travelling in the world, you are guaranteed to meet some memorable characters. On a road trip, these strange yet incredibly interesting people may even be in your car. But while in Australia, it is always the locals who teach you the most, whether it is the “high on life” locals from Nimbin, a small town where you are sure to find plenty of one thing … marijuana, or the country folk wanting to join you for dinner.

As well as giving you a true insight into Australian life they also tell the best stories or say things that will have you in stitches laughing. Take for example our encounter with a camp-site owner’s kid. There were a lot of animals in the fields around the camp-site but no horses. One of us asked, “Hey kid, do you have any horses?” To which he replied, “Yeah we do but he went on a holidays. That was a few months ago… actually, he’s been gone a really long time!” Another thing you will learn is how to make a child realise their horse is dead.

7. Plans are optional, maps are essential

Buzz Lightyear shows the way, Australia - Photo Credit Pen Waggener Flickr
Buzz Lightyear shows the way, Australia – Photo Credit Pen Waggener (Flickr)

Some of the adventures on a road trip come from the inevitable moment when you realise you’re lost but,  the adventure can take a turn for the worse when you find yourself hundreds of miles from civilisation without any petrol, water or food. If you’re from a tiny country like Ireland where ALL the roads are shown on a single map you may tend to get lost quite a lot, i.e. every day, in Australia. Make sure your road trip DJ also acts as  a navigation buddy but if, and only if, they know how to read a map. A mobile phone with GPS can help but it’s pretty useless in a no-network zone like the outback. Having guidance readily available is important for your Australian road trip but also for all of life’s twists and turns.

8.  Mother Nature is bi-polar

Girl wearing raincoat, running from rain while guy walks around in swimming trunk
Summer in the Rainforest, Australia – Photo credit Zoe Fagan

Don’t be fooled by all the glorious sunny pictures you see of Australia! While driving around Australia you will begin to feel like Mother Nature is having a laugh on your behalf; driving through the various territories you will experience all four seasons in a single day. One thing you will definitely learn is to always carry sun-cream, a raincoat, a jumper and flip-flops (or thongs as they call them in the wonderful land of oz).

There’s no need to lose any sleep though because Mother Nature has her generous days too. On top of the sublime hot days, there is ample opportunity to indulge in endless coconuts and mangos provided by Dame Nature. The best part is that they’re free, as long as you know how to climb! Not to mention, if you’re super lucky, she could offer you a get out of jail card in the form of bird poo. Weeks of driving dirt roads is guaranteed to do some damage to the rental car so the greatest lesson you’ll learn while in Australia is, if you want to avoid a heavy fine for scratching the car, pray a bird will crap on the right spot.

9. You may be the centre of attention

White girl on top of human pyramid of tanned people
“Its physically impossible not to tan” they say – Photo credit Zoe Fagan

Again, this could be a deterrent for choosing Australia as your next road trip adventure. If you’ve got the “unluck of the Irish” and pasty white skin like moi then holidaying in one of the hottest countries, with a gigantic hole in the ozone layer hovering above, is a challenge. I might as well have paper-mâchéd my body with Australian dollars as the hourly sun-cream ritual really took a toll on my holiday funds. But, if you’re going to lather yourself in sun-cream there’s nowhere better to do it than Australia because they sell sun-cream in 2.5 litre bottles, something I never dreamed possible. And although despair may kick in after the 50th or so person gawks and you says ” but it’s impossible NOT to tan”, you know that sometimes any attention is better than none.

10. Life is  the journey

Road sign "Lookout" beside road in Australia
Open your eyes, Australia – Photo credit David KcKelvey (Flickr)

So the destination is the reason that you originally began the road trip but,over the course of the seemingly endless days you spend driving, you will find yourself wishing time would go slower; you wish you could just slow down and enjoy the knowledge you’ve acquired, the people you have met, the opportunities you have been afforded and the places you have seen.

Looking back on your road trip, the happiest memories will be of the journey, not your destination! Road trips teach us that anything is possible and that is why it is one of the best ways to see the world.

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Zoe Fagan