2016 was full of exciting adventures, meeting new and old friends, seeing incredible sights, and exploring life’s endless possibilities. However, the year didn’t start off too well for me.
How it all began…
The minute I arrived in Australia, I already hated it. I didn’t like the party hostel in St. Kilda I was staying at, the meaningless conversations most people around me had and how everything just seemed so superficial. I missed the vibrant, colourful and chaotic vibe of India, as well as the wonderful friends I made there. I thought everything would become better once I had my own place and a job in Melbourne. I was super excited when I found a shared room in the city centre. But not for long. My bed was in the middle of a noisy living room/ kitchen next to a loud snoring Chinese girl, only separated by some thin dividing walls. So as one can imagine, not much sleep and privacy at all. Also the job hunting prove more difficult than expected and all in all I just wasn’t in a good state during this time. Long story put short, my good friend Michael who I went to uni with, luckily was in Melbourne at the same time to rescue me, and everything became better from then on.
Hitchhiking to Phillip Island
As I was fed up with my living situation and needed new adventures in my life, I decided to travel with Michael for a bit. We planned on hitchhiking up the East Coast and looking for random jobs along the way. Our first stop was Phillip Island, famous for its large population of penguins. After we were dropped off by our last ride, we decided that we didn’t want to spend our hard-earned money on a hostel or campsite, and instead see if we could camp somewhere in the wild, or alternatively in someone’s backyard. Luckily we came at a good time, as a monthly market was on. After we enjoyed some food, listened to a band and relaxed on the beach, I went on a mission to find us a place to stay for the night. After asking around for a bit, I talked to a guy, about our age, who happily agreed on letting us camp in his backyard for the night. As things turned out, we didn’t have to sleep in our tent but instead both had our own room and all spent a fun evening together.
We ended up staying on Phillip Island much longer than planned. The following two nights were spent with a really cool Couchsurfing host who made the most delicious breakfasts for us, and showed us some fun board games. We even found a job in the local bar/ restaurant, working together with the best team ever, and moved into a hostel after all. So instead of hitchhiking up the East Coast, Michael and I stayed on the island and only hitchhiked when we had to get from the hostel to work.
Time to move on
However, after 2.5 months it was time to continue my travels. As so often before, I had itchy feet and wanted to see more of Australia. First stop on my way up the East Coast was Sydney. My good friend Jody took a week off from work and together we hitchhiked with a truck driver all the way to our final destination.
An afternoon at Palm Beach with new friends
One day we took the ferry to Manly to meet up with Louis, another great human I met in India the year before. Together with two of his friends, Tuya and Henry, we all took a beautiful drive to Palms Beach, a true hidden gem. Here we relaxed on the beach, had a big picnic, did some yoga, listened to Louis playing the guitar and talked about anything and everything. Definitely a fantastic day to remember!
One of my absolute highlights in Australia was Byron Bay. Oh, what a crazy, adventurous and relaxed time I had. I stayed in a little tent in the so called “jungle” at the well-known Arts Factory, full of interesting characters and like-minded people. Everyone here seemed to have a talent: either playing an instrument, singing, hula-hooping, juggling, drawing or whatever one can think of. It seemed like my new two Swedish friends and I were the only ones without any special skills. And that’s how I got inspired to buy a hula-hoop and start a fun new hobby.
Brisbane: love at first sight!
I don’t know what it was but I directly fell in love with this city! I was very lucky and could stay with two Aussie guys who I met hitchhiking in Switzerland the year before. They showed me around their city, took me fishing and to one of the small nearby islands, only accessible by boat. This all made a lasting impresion on me: I decided I had to come back at some point.
North Strandbroke Island
Everyone said, I couldn’t leave Brisbane without visiting North Stradbroke Island. It’s not a very common destination for most backpackers but all locals swear on it. I’m glad I followed their advice, discovering one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Turqoise shimmering water, beautiful beaches, stunning lookouts and great walking tracks.
Hitchhiking to Rainbow Beach
My best hitchhiking day so far? Mhhh probably the day my friend John and I hitchhiked from Noosa to Rainbow Beach. The first lift we were offered was in a white Holden station wagon from the 70s where we were offered a cold beer. After we were dropped off, we were advised by some locals to hitchhike along the beach instead of the highway. No sooner said than done, a few minutes later we were in a 4WD dropping us off on a beach from where we easily caught our last ride all the way to Rainbow Beach. Hitchhiking on a beach – how awesome is this please?! (Click here to read the full story.)
Driving around in a 4WD on Fraser Island
Rainbow Beach was the gateway to get to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Here I took part in an organised tour, with two nights camping on the island. The whole group consisted of thirty-two people, split into four sub groups with one 4WD each. Most of us took turns in driving, challenged by the bumpy offroad tracks and the slippery sand beaches. I’m usually not a fan of organised tours at all but this one actually was a lot of fun. And how beautiful and diverse this island is!
Snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef
To be honest, my Whitsundays Sailing trip was s*. The sky was grey, it was raining, the boat wildly shaking and at least 70 percent of the people, including me, were very seasick. As it was too turbulent to sit on the deck, most of us lay in our little cabins, trying to weather the storm (pun intended). However, on the second day the sky had cleared up for a bit so that we were able to go on a snorkelling mission. Luckily this colourful underwater world really made up for the (mostly) miserable time on the boat.
Byron Bay reunion in Cairns
As many people I met were also slowly travelling up the East Coast, a lot of us who have met in Byron Bay weeks before, happened to be in Cairns at the same time. It was so good seeing so many familar faces again and being surrounded by the colourful, easy-going Byron vibes again.
Road Trip through the Outback
Four girls, two different relocation cars, and 5000km to cover. That’s the story how we spontaneously drove from Townsville all the way up to Darwin in only one week. As we were on a budget and had to deliver our relocation cars on time we literally had to rush through the Outback and drive long hours every day. Looking back, even though it was very stressful at times, I really enjoyed this road trip a lot. We fully experienced the vastness of this huge country, saw impressive sights, and learned a lot from each other. My personal highlight of this trip definitely was our hike at Kings Canyon. No matter where we turned, each view left us speechless. (Click here to read more about our road trip.)
Brisbane: a break from travelling
After travelling Australia for four months and sleeping at a different place almost every night, I really needed a break. It was time to “settle down” again for a while. So therefore, I decided to make my beloved Brisbane my base for the next four months. Here I directly found the perfect job taking care of some wonderful boys, made good friends, and settled into a flatshare close to the city centre. I really needed this time to recharge my batteries, travelling can leave you tired sometimes. Therefore, I practiced yoga and meditation as often as possible, read many books, strolled around markets most weekends, explored a great variety of second-hand shops and flea markets, chilled in the parks, had friends over and did some nice day trips. Brisbane is definitely my favourite city in Australia and I really could imagine living here one day.
Picnics, yoga and music in Perth
After staying at the East Coast for so long, it was about time to finally pay the West Coast a visit. I flew into Perth where I stayed with friends and met up with my better half Alexa, my housemate back in Cape Town. Here our days were mostly spent at the beach and in parks, having picnics, singing along to the guitar and practicing some yoga, or looking for a car for our upcoming road trip to Melbourne.
Random boat party on Rottnest Island
From Perth we did a day trip to Rottnest Island. Our plan was to go once around the island by bicycle and stop at all the beautiful beaches along the way. However, the first beach we stopped was also the last. A man on a stand up paddle board approached us to ask if we would like to comer over to have some drinks with him and his friends on their boat. We gladly accepted his offer. So instead of exploring the island, we spent the day partying on a random boat in the most gorgeous surroundings, drinking Corona and champagne.
Three nights camping in Cape Le Grand National Park
The whole road trip from Perth to Melbourne was a highlight which I will write about soon, but one stop along the way that really stood out was Cape Le Grand National Park. The beaches here were just stunning with white sand, crystal clear water, an occasional kangaroo jumping around and dolphins swimming in the water. Once again, our days were filled with doing yoga on the beach, hooping, reading, drinking wine, cooking delicious dinners and just enjoying life.
My first and last stop in Australia: Melbourne
When looking back, this year ended so much better than it had started. Whereas I truly disliked the typical backpacking culture in Australia in the beginning, I learned to love it over time, and in the end promised myself to come back one day, rather sooner than later. With all its ups and downs, this year has been such an enrichening experience. Once again, I met so many wonderful people along the way who I could share this all with. Therefore, I was truly happy that on my last day in Melbourne I had such great company and reunited with three friends who I all met at different stages of my travels. We had a mind-blowing lunch at Lentil as Anything, meditated together on a grass field and spontaneously got an appointment at a great tattoo studio. I couldn’t have wished for a better last day with more positive vibes. Australia, you’ll always be in my heart!