For years, the idea of a long road trip through Australia seemed like such an adventure.
In fact, for many Brits and Americans, Australia is talked about as an ultimate travel destination. For myself, the appeal was the size of the country. There’s so much to see, from the all the coastal cities to the huge outback.
So a couple years ago, I packed up a bag, hopped on a plane to Oz, and started traveling around in an old van with some friends. We worked on farms for funds, food, and boarding. This lasted for 6 months, and here’s an honest assessment of what my experience was like.
Let the journey begin!
The freedom is unbelievable.
Your life is mobile, so you can go anywhere, any time. You aren’t tied down to anything. Don’t like a job? You can leave the day you began. Or you can just pop to the beach or turn down a road because you see a sign for something interesting. You may find yourself becoming part of the community in a random cheese village called Bega, or maybe you’ll end up camping in the woods surrounded by kangaroos. Your only real possession is a van, the van has wheels, and Australia has many roads to drive them on.
There are some stunning places to drive to.
You’re never far from a place to stay or a grill to cook on.
In most ways, Australia is a very expensive country. Food is expensive. Hotels are expensive. Petrol is expensive. But if you’re up for some camping, you can always find free campsites that provide somewhere to park your van, set up your tent, get some free drinking water, grill up a meal, and take a shower. If you can afford a cheap kangaroo burger, you’ll always have a place to cook it and rest after.
The beaches are plentiful.
Most major Australian cities are on the coast. Wherever your road trip takes you, you’ll probably be pretty close to a beach. Because beaches are everywhere, they don’t get too crowded. I loved having stunning, empty beaches around every corner.
The country is made up of amazing beaches.
The Farm Work
If you want to stay in Australia for a second year, you have to complete 90 days of agricultural work. Admittedly, it’s probably a good idea by the Australian government. To earn another visa, you have to give something back to the country. But, good idea or not, it’s just torture for those of us on the farms.
I never even wanted a second year, but I also found that farms were the only jobs with short-term positions available. Unless you have specific professional skills or bar experience, then your opportunities are pretty limited.
Lots of people think three months on a farm will be easy and quick. They’ll just get it done, and then they’ll have their visa sorted. What they don’t account for is just how hard it is!
At first it was kind of refreshing. I had been teaching for a few years, and it was nice to have a break while I did a job that was so simple and mindless. But it wasn’t long before it became unbearable. The farms have you working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, rain or shine. They have you lifting heavy cabbages for three straight hours, and then hacking broccoli until your fingers nearly bleed. It’s monotonous, it’s boring and some of the farmers can be absolute pricks. We lasted 5 weeks on a vegetable farm in Bathurst before we told the farmer to shove it!
This photo is the definition of ‘let’s pretend I’m loving life on the farm for Facebook’
It’s a very expensive country! This is not the place for you if you are after a budget trip. Towards the end of the trip I decided to stay on another three weeks in a hostel in Melbourne. The idea was to sell the van during this time, but in the end I was spending money pointlessly in order to get the van money that wouldn’t even repay what I’d spent. Even when you’re making frugal decisions, you’ll feel like you’re bleeding money.
Australia is not the best travel destination for Brits or Americans who are looking for a different cultural experience. It’s basically the same as Britain, just a lot hotter and with more beaches.
The Strict Alcohol Laws
If you like a good party when you travel, Australia can be a bit of a struggle. While we had many cracking nights, this was usually because we were naked in campsite pools or crashing a Christmas party at a local pub. It was never because of the bars or the ease of getting alcohol. The bars close far too early, and Aussie bartenders or door staff will decide when you’re too drunk and cut you off. Now when I was 18 – 21, I needed to be told this many times, but by 25 I knew my own drinking limits.
The Van Repairs
Buying your own van is a risk, and we ended up with a right banger. Assume that it will break down a million times. Australia has a lot of middle-of-nowhere roads, so the cost of a breakdown lorry is expensive – not to mention the repairs. I’d also advise not getting too attached to your van. We did, and we ended up paying way more for repairs than the van was ever worth.
Our poor van!
A lot of people romanticize a van trip around Australia. Yes, it had many once-in-a-lifetime moments, but it also had a lot of struggles that I did not expect before I arrived. I hope this will give future Aussie explorers a more accurate idea of what their experience might be like.
Is there anything we’ve missed? Is there anything we’re wrong about? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
TRAVELERS OFTEN GET ASKED HOW WE’RE ABLE TO FIND THE MONEY, TIME, OR COURAGE TO GO ABROAD.
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