Australia Musings Oceania

6 Months in Australia: What I Did Wrong and What I Did Right

Apr 01

oz42Do you ever feel like you’ve failed as a traveller after visiting a destination? Maybe you missed a “must-see” attraction, or the weather thwarted your plans to take that world-renowned hike, or you regret your decision to visit this place instead of that place?

I have a horrible habit of focusing on the mistakes I’ve made after visiting a destination, and I can’t help but obsess over the places and things that I missed. Even though I’m sure it’s nearly impossible to explore every country thoroughly enough to leave without regrets, I still tend to feel like I’ve failed as a traveller in some way after almost every trip I take.

But, I digress.

The reason I’m rambling about travel regrets is because there’s one country that I feel most guilty about: Australia.

ozgorReflecting on my trip to Australia is a mix of emotions: fondness and nostalgia and happy memories.. and regret. When I travelled to Australia with a Working Holiday Visa in 2010, I had never been backpacking before, I’d never read a travel blog, and I didn’t know anyone who had worked in Australia. Essentially I was slightly clueless and a bit naive.

And while backpacking Australia was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life, I can’t help but think back on my time in Oz and wonder how different it might have been had I not been so inexperienced when I visited. If I was a more seasoned traveller then, would I have been able to see more of the country? Would I have left without any regrets?

My Australia travel regrets not only had me thinking of the things I did wrong, but also the things I did right from my time in Oz. I’ve decided to lay them out in this post as a personal reminder that, even though I was a newbie traveller and spent the entire six months flying by the seat of my pants, I still manged to see and experience a fair amount of this vast country.

ozcarinsThe things I did right:

I worked and travelled in Western Australia

Finding a job in Melbourne proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be, so I started applying to positions all over the country, and eventually accepted a job offer in the slightly obscure city of Broome. Not only was I able to explore this unique and historic city, but it also allowed me to traverse the roughly 2,000 km stretch from Broome to Perth, and this quickly became my favourite part of the country. The West Coast boasts some of the most naturally beautiful scenery I’ve ever laid eyes on- with wild landscapes, striking beaches, and diverse wildlife aplenty.

I tried WWOOFing

Collecting cow poop on a farm in rural New South Wales isn’t something I imagined I’d be doing in Australia, but my three week WWOOFing experience was a highlight from my trip. The work was tiring and varied, and sometimes a bit laughable (read: chasing after a herd of cows when they escaped from their enclosure), but the hosts were so lovely and taught me an invaluable amount of information on a broad range of topics- from self-sufficient living to organic farming to the state of the global economy.

I snorkelled Ningaloo Reef

Ningaloo Reef was by far the biggest surprise from my time in Australia; I knew it was often referred to as one of the best natural attractions in Western Australia, but it still managed to exceed my expectations. Ningaloo Reef is, hands down, the most colourful, vibrant, and robust reef I’ve ever seen. It was so spectacular that I actually found the Great Barrier Reef to be disappointing in comparison.

I returned to Melbourne

I fell for Melbourne hard and fast, and I was heartbroken to leave after only one week when I consented to work in Broome. After travelling in Western Australia and Northern Territory, I planned to head to Sydney to make my way up the East Coast, but decided last minute to head back to Melbourne first. I loved the city even more the second time around, and spent my time aimlessly wandering the streets, admiring the world-renowned street art, and indulging at international restaurants. One week quickly turned into two before I finally left (reluctantly) for good.

I took advantage of cheap flights to New Zealand Fiji before returning home

At the end of my six months in Australia, I was dangerously close to being broke, but I threw caution to the wind and impulsively booked flights to New Zealand and Fiji before returning home. I got my adventure on in New Zealand and made my long-time dream of visiting a South Pacific Island a reality. Had I not taken advantage of their close proximity to Australia, I probably would have spent a small fortune trying to visit Fiji and New Zealand from North America- or I might not have visited at all.

oz11The things I did wrong:

I didn’t stay a full year

My visa was valid for one year, but I was tired after almost six months of non-stop travel around the country, I was running out of money, and I had a job offer waiting for me at home. At the time, I thought I was making the right choice by leaving, but I now sorely regret that decision. Just thinking about how much more of the country I could have seen in those six months pains me.

I didn’t go to Tasmania or the Kimberley

It wasn’t until I arrived in Broome that I became obsessed with the idea of visiting the Kimberley. The vast remoteness, the rugged and diverse terrain, and the untouched wilderness were calling to me, but I happened to be visiting in the midst of monsoon season, and travel in the region was prohibited.

I had vowed to visit Tasmania before I arrived, but it somehow eluded me. I’m not sure what my excuses were- perhaps because it required extra effort and money to visit- but now every time I see a picture of Tasmania’s breathtaking beaches and generally stunning scenery, I cry a little inside.

I moved around too much

Living in a city for an extended period of time and experiencing it like a local was one of my goals before arriving, but my incessant need to see as much of the country as possible drove me to travel almost non-stop. I did experience Broome like a local to a certain extent, but the city often felt eerily empty, and I didn’t have much of a social life as I spent almost every waking hour working.

I stayed in hostels almost exclusively

Staying in hostels allowed me to make friends with people from all over the world, but I rarely connected with locals. At the time, I wasn’t aware of alternative accommodation options like Couchsurfing, Airbnb, or Homestay, and I would definitely take advantage of these websites if I were ever to return.

ozrottnest The Takeaway

I should probably say the mistakes I made in Australia serve as a learning experience and helped me to become a better traveller. But in actuality, travel regrets are the bane of my existence- especially my Australia travel regrets, mainly because I don’t know when (or if) I’ll ever return. If Australia wasn’t so darn far, and so ridiculously expensive, I’d probably hop on the next flight to Melbourne.

If you’re heading to Australia for an extended period of time, I can leave you with these few morsels of advice: go on a road trip, don’t skip Western Australia, stay in the country as long as you possibly can, and for God’s sake, go to Tasmania.

What are your biggest travel regrets? Do you obsess over them as much as I do?

15 Comments

  • Reply Kelly | The Wandering Blonde Apr 01 at 1:41 pm

    I get what you mean about not wanting to accept this as a “learning experience” because you’re still so bummed about it, but you totally should! You’re pretty much guaranteed to never make these same mistakes in another country, so at least you’ve got that!

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 01 at 5:47 pm

      That’s very true! At least I hope I won’t make these same mistakes again, ha ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply veraisworking Apr 01 at 2:57 pm

    Wow! Thank you so much for these post. I will be going to Australia these summer and all these tips are insanely useful. And by the way, one of my dream places to go are the Kimberley. They must be really stunning. Have a nice day,
    Vera

    The Flash Window | Bloglovin

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 01 at 5:59 pm

      I’m so glad you found this post useful, Vera! Have a great time in Australia, and I hope you make it to the Kimberley- it looks like such an incredible place!

  • Reply unfinishedtravel Apr 02 at 3:28 pm

    It sounds like you did a lot of things right! It’s hard not to feel like you’ve missed out, but you’ve probably seen more of the country than most people. I always tell myself there will always be something left unexplored, so I might as well not worry about trying to see everything.

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 03 at 11:03 am

      You are absolutely right, and I’m so grateful I was able to see as much of Australia as I did! I just need to accept the fact that I can’t see and do it all!

  • Reply sarahkilbourne4 Apr 08 at 3:30 am

    I get what you mean. I feel like I wasted half of my visa in Brisbane, a city that I don’t really care for. Good thing is though I still have 5 months left on my visa and my next stop is Western Australia! The way you described WA makes me even more excited to explore it.

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 08 at 11:58 am

      I’m glad you can relate, Sarah! That’s so exciting that you’re heading to Western Australia! It’s an incredible place, and I’m sure you will love it!

  • Reply Eden Apr 10 at 1:39 pm

    It sounds like you did a lot more “right” than “wrong”. And even your wrong points are not that wrong, they just reflect some learning experiences you’ve gained. I’ve never been to Australia, but have always wanted to visit. Definitely going to take some of your tips into consideration. Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    http://www.mintnotion.com

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 10 at 3:55 pm

      I’m glad you found some useful tips in this post, Eden! As much as my mistakes bother me, I’ve definitely learned from them!

  • Reply Renuka Apr 14 at 12:28 am

    Nice to know your honest review on your Australian sojourn. I think you should not have missed out on Tasmania or the Kimberley. But, it’s not a mistake. It’s a good excuse to go there again. I don’t have any travel regrets as such. I believe no trip is perfect, no traveler is perfect. I guess we all make some mistakes. Thus, I don’t put any pressure on my mind about it. I just take things as they come.

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 14 at 11:45 am

      I agree that Tasmania and the Kimberley are two good reasons to revisit Australia! You have a great mindset about travelling Renuka, and I agree that no trip is ever perfect. I need to learn to put less pressure on myself when travelling!

  • Reply susansolo Apr 16 at 2:44 pm

    Fantastic article! As an outsider looking in, it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong to me. You can always go back. Visiting Australia is a dream of mine and I’m jealous of your opportunity to spend such a lengthy amount of time there!

    • Reply ashleywanders Apr 17 at 10:07 am

      Thank you, Susan! I’m grateful that I spent six months in Australia, but it still seemed to fly by far too quickly! I hope you make it to Oz soon!

  • Reply ashleywanders Apr 17 at 10:13 am

    I loved the East Coast as well, and I agree that road tripping is the best way to see it! Thanks for the driveforfree tip- I’ll keep it in mind ๐Ÿ™‚

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