Do 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.
Reflecting 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.
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.
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.
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.