Reflections on a year of full-time travel
I can’t believe we’ve been on the road for a whole year. The time has flown by and I know that in a blink we’ll be another year down the line and no longer in Australia! If there’s a cliche that’s never been truer, it’s this; travel changes you. It’s true. This post was originally going to be about life lessons and what travel has taught us but we’ve grown and learnt so much over this past year of travel that we didn’t know where to start! I also didn’t want it to be just another list of cliches. So instead, we’ve put together these 12 reflections on a year of travel.
I’m actually not a fussy eater!
Mushrooms, fish, cheese, milk, brussel sprouts, anything ‘weird’ looking/smelling/feeling… you name it, I wasn’t going near it.
One year of travel later and although I still won’t touch mushrooms (neither will Dec) or milk, I have tried crocodile, calamari, kangaroo, dragon fruit, red snapper and so many more weird and wonderful things.
Again I put this down to being in new places and having Dec by my side. He’s tried Scorpion, pigs eyes and a hand full of other super gross things that I just can’t do stomach but the fact I’m pushing my boundaries shows I’m not as fussy as I thought.
We’ll never get bored of sunsets
Never. I don’t think it’s possible to get bored of sunsets, or sunrises for that matter!! Even after 3 months on the Dairy farm, every night bought an even better sunset. The locals thought we were crazy; it’s just another sunset to them.
I think to us they’re symbolic of our new life. We never really saw a sunset in England. I was always working nights and Dec was usually inside winding down after a hard days work, there was no time for us to be looking at the sky.
Australia does the best snacks
TimTams. Enough said.
Ok no, seriously. When we were thinking about coming to Australia, my main concern (literally, no exaggeration here) was that the chocolate would be rubbish and I’d have to go a whole 2 years without. I’d heard they put all sorts into it to stop it melting and that it was completely different to European chocolate. I was dreading it.
I needn’t have worried. While it is different here, especially the galaxy, I’m certainly not spoilt for choice. In fact, there’s more choice here than I’ve ever seen anywhere. Ever. Cadbury’s and Lindt dominate the shops, with flavours I couldn’t even dream of; Pineapple centres, Lemonade and ice cream spiders… the list is endless.
They also have some really wild crisp flavours; garlic bread, meat pie and Peking duck just to name a few.
Aussie specific treats that we love are;
TimTams – A bit like penguin biscuits but nicer
Jaffas – an orange flavoured chocolate with a hard shell
Milo – a very chocolaty milkshake
Shapes – mini cheddars but better and in a lot of different flavours
Lamingtons – which is a sponge covered in chocolate and coconut
Basically, Australia is essentially a chocolate lovers heaven.
I’m stronger than I look.
I mean this both mentally and physically. In the past year, I’ve been tested in these ways a lot more than I was expecting.
To get our 2nd-year visa, we’ve had to do 88 days/3 months of farm work and I completely underestimated it. While Dec had it fairly easy with the working hostel, getting a cushy job on an almond farm driving tractors, I was passed from pillar to post contracted out to a different job each week. Not only was that tiring, but it was stressful not having a solid job and not knowing when my 88 days would be up. Here’s a selection of what of the jobs I did to gain my 2nd-year visa (in an Australian summer, remember!):
- Planted over 3000 orange trees
- Counted Almonds for ‘data collection’ ready for harvest – most pointless job ever
- Planted around 2000 baby grape vines
- Quality checked 1000’s of tonnes of garlic in a garlic factory
- Stood on a conveyor belt for 4 hours a day trimming Garlic roots
- Trimmed back 300+ overgrown grape vines
- Counted god knows how many grapes to predict the harvest
- Pegged out over 2000 spots ready for trees to be planted
And when we decided that wasn’t working for us… we moved to a dairy farm to milk over 2000 cows a day… yea… you read that correctly.
Yea sure, these jobs sound easy and most were. They’re also ‘pointless’ in the eyes of an outsider but apparently, somebody has to do them. If the job wasn’t physically demanding (like planting trees), it was mentally draining (like counting almonds) and some days had me questioning if I really wanted to stay in Australia this much. I often didn’t want to go, it was either too hot, too boring or I simply just didn’t want to. The only good thing about it was the money. Unlike a lot of backpackers who go to working hostels and fruit farms, we were actually getting paid ok and not being taken advantage of.
Now that I’ve done it and our 2nd-year application has been submitted, I actually look back on the work I’ve done and can’t believe I did it. More to the point, I can’t believe it didn’t break me. If you’d have told me a few years ago that I was physically capable of planting 3000 trees in 30’ heat without crying and actually enjoy doing it, I’d have laughed you out of the room. If you’d have said I could milk 200 cows in half an hour – on my own – I’d have thought you were crazy. Yet here we are. It’s showed me that when I want something enough, I really will do anything.
I’m going to do a more in-depth post about our time getting our 88 days but if you’re going through it right now and don’t know if it’s worth it; keep going. You can do it. It is worth it. Just remember what you’re worth and don’t get taken advantage of!
Christmas in July is a thing
Honestly, across the globe, it’s a running joke (and a well believed ‘fact’ to some people…) that Australians celebrate their Christmas in July. Afterall, that’s when their winter is, so it makes sense right. Obviously, they don’t celebrate Christmas in July really, but they do embrace the global misconception/joke. Which I think is cute and hilarious all in one.
Walking the streets of Melbourne in our first few weeks in Australia we were treated to Christmas decorations, Christmas jumpers and even carols playing in the bars and shops. It was bonkers and amazing. The closer it got to July 25th the more festive the city became. We even saw local businesses having their staff Christmas parties out in the town. What must have started off as a gimmick for the tourists has now become part of the culture for urban Australians and you know what, I love it. So much so, I was disappointed to find this gimmick doesn’t reach as far as rural NSW and I spent July 25th 2018 as if it was just any other midwinters day. How boring!
Everything we want is on the other side of fear
This is a quote from Angie, from Boots on the ground, and she is so right.
I’ve learnt to harness fear, turn it into courage and let it push me through the tough times. I know now that if I’m scared, I’m on the right track… I just make sure that Dec is very close by. If I’d stopped because I was scared of something there’s a lot I wouldn’t have done in the past 12 months. Like going up Eureka Sky Deck in Melbourne and stepping out onto their 88th floor balcony to get incredible views of the city, snorkelling off the coast of Gili Air which lead to swimming with real wild turtles or crossing a river in Bali with just a bamboo bridge tied together with rope that lead to a secluded waterfall… I wouldn’t have experienced any of that if I’d just accepted fear and turned around.
What scares you? Take hold of it and make it your own! Don’t let it hold you down.
Leave the directions to Dec
As the ‘co-pilot’, it should be my duty to provide accurate directions, hand fed snacks and a good playlist, right? Not in our van! I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten us ‘lost’ because I can’t tell my 1st exits from my 3rds on a roundabout or because when I said take the next left, I actually meant the one after that.
It’s caused the odd tiff now and then, especially when we’re urban driving but after a year of travelling full time we’ve adapted to having a third person in our relationship, she’s called google maps. She provides the directions and I’m free to feed snacks and switch tunes without having to worry about boring things like road signs and if we’re heading in the right direction… I bet you can guess who doesn’t have a driving licence eh!
We don’t need much to be happy
Have we ever mentioned that we left the UK with nothing but a backpack each? We went from a 3 bedroom house in a small English village to just two small backpacks. Then we moved into our home on wheels and we realised just how little we can live off of. New clothes every week no longer makes us happy. What really makes our souls happy is being out in nature. Exploring new places and meeting new people. Put us in a rural area and we’ll thrive on making an adventure out of it.
Amber from the great Ambini has a great post about minimalist packing if you need a little help!
We have a lot to see… just in Australia.
We knew Australia was big, but I think we underestimated just how big it really is. After a year of travelling around Australia, we feel like we’ve seen a lot. Yet when you zoom out on the map, we’ve seen just a tiny little speck of the country. Not even a fraction that’s worth colouring in. As the days go by our lists and itineraries grow massively. This amazing country is so vast and differs from state to state that I know just one more year there won’t be enough. You could be in Australia for 5 years and still not see it all.
Our next road trip will be up the east coast. Sydney – Brisbane, Brisbane – Cairns and everything in between. We’ve learnt a lot within the year we’ve been living in the van so fingers crossed we manage to see a lot over the next few months, even if it’s not close to a quarter of what Oz has to offer.
Thinking of exploring Australia for a short time but not sure what to budget? We found the perfect one-month backpacking budget guide here!
Don’t get absorbed in taking photos
We made this mistake in our first year and have very little left to show. We put our hearts into capturing the moment on our cameras so that we had something to look back on… and then lost our hard drive. Moments that we should have been living in the moment for we instead lived through the lens. We’ve made a promise to ourselves to not make the same mistake in year two, but don’t worry! We’ll still be bringing you some amazing photos!! We’ll just be scheduling in more ‘us’ time away from the technology.
We’re so grateful
Being able to do what we do, see what we’ve seen and met the people that we have has made us beyond grateful for the life we live. It made those 6 months of penny-pinching, overtime at work and living back with our parents worth it. Every sacrifice and compromise we made during late 2016/early 2017 was all for this. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve had from family, friends, readers. For all the interactions we’ve had with locals in China, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, that have made our experiences unique. To be able to look back one year on and realise we did it, we’re living the life we dreamt of, with its ups and its downs, we’re so grateful for it all.
It comes with highs AND lows.
We’re all guilty of falling into the trap of looking on Instagram at all the beautifully curated photos of island paradises, perfect beaches and days on end of just having fun. Sure, travelling can be like that but not 24/7. If it was we’d soon burn out pretty quickly that’s for sure. Travelling is rawer than that, it isn’t perfect but I wouldn’t want it to be.
It’s the tears when you’re flights been delayed or your visa isn’t granted straight away. It’s the little arguments when you’re both overtired and hungry. The days you turn up to a destination and it isn’t quite what you’re expecting, or it’s shut for renovations. The frustrations when your accommodation or taxi cancels on you last minute… and it’s almost midnight. The homesickness that hits you unexpectedly at 1am while you’re sat in a bar having ‘an amazing night’. It’s dealing with bad wifi when all you want to do is call home.
It’s also the secluded beaches you find and have all to yourself. The road trips that take you through rural towns where you meet proper local people. The buzz of trying something new, be it new food or a new experience. Travel is the rush of not knowing what’s next. Who you’ll meet next. It’s the little messages from home that come through when you finally get some signal. Or the excitement when a wild native animal walks right past you, without fear or worry.
Travel comes with its highs and it’s low. They come hand in hand, often balancing each other out or complementing one another. If you’re debating if long term travel is for you, consider if you can fully embrace the ups and the downs. That’ll either make or break your experiences while on the road.
We’ve really enjoyed reflecting over our first year of travel. Seeing how much we’ve achieved as made us all the more excited for what the next 12 months have in store for us. What are you most proud of over your past year? Have you achieved any big life goals? We’d love to hear about them!!
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