Six Unexpected Surprises Make Australia a Bucket List Destination for Adventure Travel
What was supposed to be a four day layover has me wanting more Australian travel, much more!
As an American, I’m a bit ashamed to admit I had a very Hollywood picture of Australia in my mind. You know, kangaroos hopping along deserted red dusty streets, men looking like Hugh Jackman tumbling out of pubs with their fists in each others’ faces, and lunatics racing around in roofless Jeeps chasing after crocodiles. And, while I did see a couple of ‘roos and an overwhelming number of handsome well-built men with perfectly groomed beards, The Land Down Under held many unexpected and pleasant surprises. I always assumed Australian travel was both out of my budget and too similar to The States to justify spending my limited travel budget on. How wrong I was!
Surprise #1 – The Public Transportation is FUN!
I was visiting Alexa, founder of Still Stoked at her home in Manly, a suburb just north of Sydney. The first very pleasant surprise I encountered was the easy and convenient public transit. I jumped on the train which dropped me off right at the harbor where I boarded a ferry up to Manly. The boat ride was beautiful, right in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House with pristine views of the staggering city skyline. I love getting to know a city’s public transportation system, somehow it makes me feel empowered!
Surprise #2 – The Aussies are way ahead of the Americans in convenience at the counter.
I gotta say, when it comes to cash technology, Australia understands convenience. I was shocked when all I had to do was tap my card at the checkout and within two seconds a light flashed green and I was good to go – no pin, no signing, not even toxic receipt paper!
Surprise #3 – Healthy is everywhere.
The next pleasant surprise was the ease with which I could find healthy food. In fact, it was easier to find a juice bar then a burger joint and shops had bigger selections of health food bars than potato chips. From gas stations to street side cafes, healthy options were everywhere. And that being said, I seemed to notice that people’s health in general, was important to them. Being outdoors seemed to be preferred to indoors and movement superior to stagnation.
Surprise #4 – Active Outdoor Lifestyle
In Alexa’s house, she and her housemates had a room she called the “gear room” filled with snowboards, splitboards, surfboards, crampons, climbing gear, camping gear, photography gear, hiking packs, and anything else one might need for an outdoor adventure. Instead of going to dinner out for a friend’s going away party, Alexa and her friends had a picnic, at night, on a seaside cliff overlooking their home break. There is climbing, surfing, camping, snowboarding, skiing, hiking – all within a few hour’s drive.
Not familiar with splitboarding? Check it out!
Surprise #5 – It’s not all the hot dusty Outback!
The climate was the most unexpected and exciting part of all. I guess I was thinking Australian travel would require crossing hours of the uninhabited bush. Alexa took me on an adventure along the coast in search of surf. It seemed like we must have been at elevation in the cold August weather (about 55 Fahrenheit, 12 celsius). The rocky cliff faces and the evergreen trees tricked me into thinking I was in the mountains. Until we would turn down a dirt road and suddenly a gleaming, absolutely pristine beach would sprawl out in front of us. We rolled up one empty beach after another and watched as hundreds of waves went unridden. It had taken me 10 hours to fly to Sydney from Hawaii, but I might as well have been on a different planet. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. Truly the best of both worlds, the mountains and the beaches, all rolled up into one.
Surprise #6 – A superior quality of life makes for superior happiness.
Best of all was the way every person I interacted with, even for just a few seconds, seemed to be having their best day ever, over and over and over again. Perhaps it’s because their health care is completely paid for, the minimum wage is around $20/hr (Australian dollars), or that they don’t have religion and guilt forced upon them since childhood. Or the fact that they have no walls to keep people out. Or maybe it’s just their accent and how they truncate every noun and end it with an “o” that makes them sound like they are talking through a perma-smile. Either way, the joy factor is high.
In a funk? We’ve been there too. Here is one hack to live a happier life now.
One night, while staying at a friend’s “Surf Stables” – A stable converted into a cross between a mountain chateau, a hunting lodge, a beach shack and a hipster’s dream home. Alexa and I decided to go to the local “Bowl-o” for dinner. (That’s a bowling alley for all those who don’t speak Oz, and a must for an Australian travel adventure!. The sight of two out-of-towners made the whole joint stand still, you could have heard a pin drop as we walked in. Finally a very jolly bald headed man nicknamed “lips” broke the silence with the question on everyone’s mind, “Are you girls lost?”. He quickly followed this question with another, “What are you drinking? It’s on me!” Five minutes later we had a whole restaurant full of new friends and the best fish and chips of our lives!
Exotic Australian Travel
I’ve always dream about traveling to Australia, but I assumed it was too expensive. I have opted to keep my travel to what I considered to be more “exotic” or “off-the-beaten-path” destinations. I had no idea that Australia would be both! And while it is true that it can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Making some friends and being willing to share a bed or camp can really offset the cost. Now is a great time to travel as the US Dollar is quite strong against the Australian dollar (1.5:1) making food and fuel much more affordable. If you’ve ever wanted to check out Australia, quit waiting and book your trip. And if you haven’t given it much thought, maybe try making friends with those blond blokes with the nappy curly hair who are surfing circles around everyone else on your next surf trip. If you are as lucky as I am, you might just end up in their home one day on an Australian travel adventure of your own!
PS: If you want to join Alexa on a surfing adventure of your own to the Mentawais, we’ve got your opportunity coming October 2020!