Last month, we (my friends from Sydney Uni and I) decided to tour up the East Coast of Australia from Sydney to Byron Bay, stopping off at Surfers Paradise, Brisbane and Cairns. I grew up in Austria, a country, which makes up 1% the area of Australia – pretty small right? No beaches, no big cities like Sydney or Brisbane and no backpacking culture compared to Australia. Culture shock and life-lessons guaranteed!
It was 10 days along the East Coast of Australia, 10 days of unforgettable impressions, crazy adventures and lifelong memories with new friends. I guess it pretty much sums up my spring break travels in Australia. So here are my top five key takeaways from my Australian East Coast trip:
1. Travel with a big group!
You might think I am crazy travelling with a group of 15 people, what a hassle! Of course, there are some disadvantages, longer waiting times for everyone, complications, etc. But the positive aspects definitely outweigh the negative ones: 15 people from at least 10 different countries, we couldn’t have counted a bigger variety of mentalities. No room for a minute of boredom, I haven’t laughed so much in a long time and we without a doubt strengthened our friendships. Everywhere we went, we literally invaded the hostels and at some point probably took it a little too far (this is my official and written apology to all the hostel managers and residents that had to deal with 15 crazy internationals on spring break).
2. Stay in hostels!
Number 1 leads me straight into number 2. Hostels are cheap, hostels are cool, in fact: stay in hostels! Throughout our travels we booked YHA Byron Bay, YHA Surfers Paradise and Gilligans in Cairns in advance. You meet so many other people from around the world and yes, you have to step out of your comfort zone a little. I went for the cheap options everywhere and opted for mixed dorms, snoring mates and gross bathrooms, but honestly, I loved it! One of my ultimate highlights in the category craziness was Gilligans Hostel in Cairns – the freakiest accommodation I have ever stayed at. I shared my pack of crackers with a German, sacrificed my second pillow to an Australian, shared a bathroom with six not so super tidy guys and didn’t care about my clothes spread across the room for a couple of days (if you read this mum, I promise I usually am a really tidy person). The local club is part of the hostel, the music invades your room and the bunk beds don’t stop shaking until 3 o’clock when they shut down the party. If you stay at Gilligans you’re guaranteed a great night out in Cairns without having to leave your hostel!
3. Explore secret places
One of my favourite parts of the trip was definitely getting away from touristy spots. Yes I travelled some obvious places like, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane and Cairns, but you can see so much more than just the basic hot spots! At one stage we got lost in the middle of nowhere an hour from Byron Bay, but discovered waterfalls in Whian Whian, fresh, clear water, rocks to jump off and friendly locals enjoying their Sunday away from annoying picture taking tourists – and so did we! Also our Daintree Forest Tour with Luke from Rainforest Spirit revealed so many unknown places across the Daintree Forest to us. I am confident that the reason why my phone wasn’t able to get reception was nature telling me it’s good to get away from civilization, snapchat filters, Instagram stories and just enjoy being in nature and detoxing from stress. Sometimes we are meant to be unavailable, Australia’s nature showed me how.
4. Appreciate nature!
Aspect Number 3 was a short taste of the following hint: appreciate nature. I did a lot of research on Australia before I came here, but seeing it in real life blew my mind. Especially when we toured around Cairns, I felt so close to nature that I was left speechless at some points (which is rare since I am a very talk-active and loud person). Here I have to highlight the Daintree Forest Tour, where our local tour guide Luke took us to stunning places across the oldest rainforest in the world: swimming in Mossman Gorge where you could drink the clear and fresh water out of the mountain river, cruising along Daintree river observing crocodiles, enjoying stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef meeting the Rainforest, relaxing on abandoned beaches and getting closer to Aboriginal Culture.
Also, my first time dive and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef rendered me speechless – not because I couldn’t speak under water anyways, but mostly because the damage of dead and grey corals is something which has been done by us and you don’t realise how terrible the situation is until you dive 12m towards the bottom of the ocean and all around you the once so bright corals are just black and grey! The ocean and nature itself is not like a car you can drop off at the garage to be repaired, you can’t just replace parts. Nature is not only water and trees, without exaggeration, it’s a whole new world and I can only recommend everyone to literally dive into it to understand.
5. Forget about sleep!
And last but not least, sleep is a scarce resource when road tripping. Although spring break is meant to be a holiday and time-period to recover from university, sleep is your last priority. The obsession to discover new places is stronger than the necessity of sleep and generally speaking: staying in hostels didn’t help with getting good sleep either. I was amazed how my travel spirit kept my energy level high enough to not be tired throughout the trip, but when boarding the last flight towards home, I immediately passed out. Travelling drives you, it fills you not only with joy, but also with energy. I guess the more you travel, the bigger your battery grows and the longer your endurance will last.