I can’t believe it was almost four years ago that I left the UK on my own and flew to Australia with no return date in mind. Even now I can feel the intense panic I felt bubbling in my chest as I forced myself through security and into the waiting lounge. My flight was in the evening which made my anxiety all the more terrible because, as everyone knows, everything is worse at night. It might not seem like a big deal to many, I know a few friends who get awfully eye-rolly whenever I mention my escapade (i’m looking at you Ruby) but it was the single bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’m really proud of myself for going alone and I’m really pleased with the person I turned out to be thanks to that single adventure. Just ask the few friends I have who knew me before.
Having never even driven more than an hour away from home without company, planning and executing a backpacking trip across the other side of the globe did not come without it’s challenges and hindsight, as ever, has 20/20 vision so there are many things I would love to change about my approach, my behaviour and my plans if I had my time again.
Stop spending money
This is probably my biggest regret. I left England with a 40L backpack and came home with the same backpack plus a large, heavy-duty suitcase. About half way up the east coast I was struggling to fit my belongings into one small space because I just could not stop buying souvenirs and, worst of all, clothes. I remember Byron Bay and Noosa being absolute torture for me, these beautiful quaint little seaside towns with so many shops and restaurants. It was hard for me to move out of the ‘beach holiday’ mindset and into the ‘Apryl, you’re here for the long haul, rein it in’ mindset.
These days i’m much better at saving rather than spending and I think this is mostly down to my interest in buying quality products over quantity. I used to need a new outfit for every occasion and I’d buy cheap clothing by the bucket load and this is where I struggled in Australia – I felt like I needed new outfits to impress without really considering my audience (other bloody backpackers)
Be more social
I continue to struggle with this now, it’s just not in my nature to be particularly outgoing in social circles (unless i’ve had 4 rum and cokes), even my superiors at work have always said my weakness is ‘getting in front of the business’ and this really carried over into my backpacking journey which is an inherently social activity.
In my first week in Sydney I somehow managed to meet a girl who was happy to travel across the East Coast with me and little did I know that she was an absolute social butterfly. We’ve never really discussed it but I imagine she found me difficult to travel with because for a good three or four weeks I refused to get involved in any general social activity outside of the things I had signed up for and was actually organised, I was quite miserable if i’m completely honest. It took a long time for me to relax into the culture, to enjoy being around different types of people and I can’t tell you how much better my experience became when I did. My best memories of the East Coast were the last few stops.
This point may link into the first and my bad habit of spending money on frivolous things. Once I’d finished the East Coast, I returned to Sydney and then settled in Brisbane for about 6 months, I got a job and, for the last couple of months I moved into an apartment. I’d made so many plans to do weekend trips to different beaches, to fly to further south for shorter trips and to eventually do the Great Ocean Road journey and visit Alice Springs. Alas, I didn’t do any of it.
Perhaps the fact that i’d started working hindered my ability to travel as much as I would have liked but unfortunately the world moves around money and I can’t do one without the other, but if I had my time again I’d spend every weekend travelling to a different beach, and once a month to a different city.
My subsequent permanent return to England was unforeseen. I booked a 3 week holiday to go home for Christmas, with a return ticket to Australia and every intention to accept the sponsorship my employer was offering. But once I was home, I was home and couldn’t bring myself to leave again. I left an apartment full of stuff with my room mate, embarrassingly quit my job over an email and, I may not have ever regretted my decision for rather personal reasons but I miss Australia every day and wish i’d just bloody well gone to Alice Springs. And Melbourne. And Perth.