Tuesday, July 23, 2024

An 87-hour bus trip made Australia feel like home for me – now I long to rediscover it

In 2000, when I was a young Briton on a working holiday visa and spent a year in Australia, I…

By Chan , in Travel , at April 1, 2024

In 2000, when I was a young Briton on a working holiday visa and spent a year in Australia, I took the bus from Broome all the way to Sydney. It took 87-hours.

We hurled across red earth to Katherine and plowed down the Stuart Highway until we reached Adelaide. While there, we dined with truckies while swooning at outback sunsets and listened to eccentric stories in quirky roadhouses. We sped east from Adelaide, honking at road trains along the way and knocking kangaroos.

In the mid-west of New South Wales, I fell into a deep sleep, being hypnotized by the highway. I woke up as we crossed the misty Blue Mountains and then descended into the coastal plains towards Sydney. We had made it.

After graduating from university, I was ready to embark on an adventure in Australia. I bought the plane ticket because of the promise of romance, but it was the ease of travel and the fact that Australia is so different from home that made me decide to stay.

In my first year of freedom, I wanted to experience its vastness, its emptiness, and its people. This was made possible by traveling at ground level, which was also cheaper.

I shared bunks with backpackers and casks of wine while picking grapes in wineries located in the southeast part of Western Australia. I graded potatoes while living on an Australian farm, where they hunted the emus who dug up the crops. (I will never forget their spindly legs dangling limp over the sink in the morning.

I crossed the Great Victoria Desert from Perth to Alice Springs. I slept in a swag and dug my toilet. I hiked around Uluru and swam beneath Kimberley Falls. I also snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef. I drove along the Great Ocean Road and then danced in a hot Womadelaide.

In 20 years, this land will no longer be my playground. It’ll become my home. My children are Australian, and I have a blue passport with an emu and a kangaroo on it. These animals represent a nation in motion because neither animal can go backward. My cross-country travels are now over.

They say that you always want the things you cannot have.

After nine months of pestilence and fire, businesses are desperate for tourist dollars. I want to explore this country once more.

It appears I’m not the only one. Despite the fact that many interstate border crossings have yet to be opened, 65% of Australians feel comfortable traveling within Australia. This is according to a Report on Travel and Tourism Trends commissioned and conducted by ACA Research. Only 4% of respondents said they felt comfortable “traveling broadly” abroad. In areas of Australia less affected by Covid-19, the numbers have fallen year-on-year. Still, a snapshot study by Tourism Research Australia has shown that domestic tourist spending on overnight stays has steadily increased every month between April and June.

Friends and colleagues of mine are planning to travel across the continent. One optimist even purchased an RV with the intention of homeschooling her children as they travel across the country. She says, “We won’t be able to go overseas for some time, so we will make the most out of our stay in Australia.”

It’s time. It’s about time.

Tourism Research Australia reports that the Northern Territory received one million interstate tourists each year before Covid-19. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we made 1.5 million trips to New Zealand last year.

Why are we less interested in our backyards?

Phillipa Harrison, Tourism Australia’s managing director, says that Australians are wanderlusts with a spirit for adventure.

As an island nation, we have always wanted to see the rest of the globe.

Tourism Australia reports that Australians spent $65bn on 11 million leisure trips overseas in 2019. According to a report from Tourism Research Australia, this spending is $26bn more than what international tourists spend in Australia.

We can provide some relief, even if we cannot compensate for the loss of foreign visitors for now. According to the Australian Tourism Industry Council, domestic travelers contribute approximately 70% of Australia’s nearly $150bn tourism industry.

Harrison says that there is an opportunity to keep tourism dollars in Australia.

Leaving the air behind is also more environmentally friendly and flexible. (And you’ll save some money).

For a time, travel will be a bit different. No matter what you decide to do, booking ahead is necessary so that venues can control the number of people. There are still social distancing laws in place everywhere. And there is always the risk that your plans, no matter how modest, might need to be changed.

It would still be worth it if you could travel. Never waste a crisis. This year, despite its troubles, it has given new Australians the chance to learn about their homeland and for native Australians to understand it better.

Before I became a resident, I was able to appreciate what I had seen of this beautiful country. As I gained a better understanding of Australia, my attachment grew.

The experiences we can have in Australia are limitless. Whether you want to paddle empty beaches or sip on world-class wines in South Australia. Or, see our bizarre wildlife and hear ancient stories of the oldest continuously living culture in the world.