Two years ago my partner and I traveled to Australia for the first time and I fell in love with the country almost instantly. So when another opportunity arose to visit the Land Down Under, I knew I couldn’t say no. Australia is massive, huge really, and I knew before we left that this trip wouldn’t be quite like the first. I was curious to see if that instant love affair would hold true, whether or not Australia was a one-night travel stand or the continuation of a beautiful long-distance relationship.
Australia is a shockingly large country. I say shockingly because for some reason non-Australians just don’t expect it. Maybe it’s a trick of the maps, but Australia just doesn’t look that big at first glance. Add to that the fact that many of the cities are all clumped together on the East Coast; the country seems nearly manageable for a short trip. It’s not. What looks like a short hop on a map is in fact an incredible distance, many times longer than it takes to drive through most countries in Europe. But that’s not a bad thing, it’s a very good quality actually. Australia rekindles in visitors I believe a certain sense of wonder and awe, of exploration and adventure unlike any other place in the world. Sure, America and Australia are about the same size, but we in the US don’t have the huge swaths of NOTHING that exists in Australia. The state I spent the most time in, Western Australia, is four times the size of Texas, the 2nd largest state in the United States. And yet the population of Western Australia is a mere 2.1 million compared to the seemingly overrun 26 million in Texas. There is just so very much of Australia, and I love the fact that it would take a lifetime to explore the country properly. I also like the fact that there are undoubtedly spots in the country where man has never stepped foot, or at least not for a very long time. Few places can say that in 2014, and it’s a surprisingly encouraging statistic.
This comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever had the luck to meet an Australian, but as a citizenry they are amongst the most gregarious and friendly in the world. I have yet to meet an Australian who isn’t ready at a moment’s notice to talk about anything, from the war in Afghanistan to the latest drama surrounding a popular cricket team. They make traveling through their country a joy in itself, their unique mastery of engaging small talk knows no rival and makes driving through huge areas a pleasure, as long as the promise of that backslapping good humor lies at the end of the road.
During my visit to Australia I spent a few days in Sharks Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Western Australia. While on a 4×4 drive through a national park, I found several gorgeous, pristine beaches without even the faintest whiff of civilization. Had these beaches been placed anywhere else in the world, I have no doubt they’d not just be world famous, but littered with resorts and surf shops. Australia has countless examples of these beautiful, nearly unknown places that would shock us all to learn about. Case in point, the beautiful Bungle Bungle range in Western Australia was discovered in 1983. Australians don’t even know what they have yet! Yet Australians take it humbly in stride, responding with a simple, “Yeah it’s not too bad” if asked. Rather than self-effacing, I think they just want to keep these treasures to themselves.
My second trip was far different from my first, as my posts over the coming weeks will I hope show. From the red desert of Monkey Mia to the lush Margaret River over to Adelaide and eventually Melbourne, the travel experience was unique for me in nearly every way. Most importantly, it proved that I do indeed have a deep affinity for Australia, for her people and every quirky bit of pop culture that makes it unique. I can’t say what it is exactly, whether watching a sunset from the Indian-Pacific train or enjoying a meal in the laneways of Melbourne, but whatever the reason I can’t wait to continue building what I now know is a very long-term relationship.