I anticipated that my trip to Australia would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I mean, it looks like a paradise! I’m almost certain that everyone in the United Kingdom has at some point fantasized about living in Australia.
The truth is, however, that I made numerous errors during my journey.
SO. MANY MISTAKES.
And as someone whose trip planning tends to border on the obsessive, I have no freaking idea what was going through my mind as I “planned” this trip (air quotes because, as you’ll soon discover, this trip did not involve much actual planning). Usually, I am able to recite 200 years of a country’s history and know my way around their public transportation networks before I land.
I may be slightly exaggerating, but you understand my point.
But Australia? I was completely clueless upon arrival in Australia. I was going to wing it, as I had barely made any preparations.
I could attribute my lack of preparation to the suffocating levels of work-related stress I endured prior to the trip. I could say that my anxiety over the 25-hour flight rendered me oblivious to the entirety of the journey. I could even attribute it to pure sloth.
In the end, however, it makes no difference. Mistakes were made.
However, there is no reason for me to conceal the errors I made on my first trip to Australia. On my two-week trip to Australia, I committed the following errors: I made these mistakes so that you don’t have to, and I picked up a ton of useful backpacking tips for Australia along the way!
I didn’t budget properly
Oh, we’re back again. This is the section where I remind everyone that I am a travel cheapskate and that I regret being so frugal on my trip.
Here is the unvarnished truth. Traveling in Australia is not prohibitively expensive. You can survive with the bare minimum, just as you can anywhere else in the world. However, nobody wants to travel halfway around the world to sit in a hostel eating instant noodles every night and visit only free attractions.
So, how can you maximize your time in Australia? You require a substantial sum of money.
Let’s preface this with the fact that I spent only two weeks in Australia. Yes, I flew 25 hours from London to the East Coast of Australia, spent two weeks there, and then flew 25 hours back.
I couldn’t take any more time off from work, and I didn’t want to put off visiting Australia until retirement, when I would have “enough time” to do so. So I just took the plunge!
But I should have planned my budget better and allowed myself to splurge on worthwhile activities.
$400 Fraser Island tour? Nah.
Do you snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef? Certainly not.
A trip to Uluru? I am not a wealthy person!
If you’re traveling in Australia for a year, you have all the time in the world to eat instant noodles in your hostel and visit all of Australia’s must-see attractions, and I’m incredibly envious.
But if you’re visiting Australia for only two weeks (or eight days, like one absolute lunatic I met there), you must spend money to make the trip worthwhile.
Approximately one week into my trip, I realized that my cheapskate mentality was ruining it. I ultimately changed my plans (and lost money on pre-booked hostels) in order to take that pricey Fraser Island tour.
Guess what, however? This tour of Fraser Island was, without question, THE BEST THING I DID IN AUSTRALIA!
If you’re going to travel all the way there, make the most of it! I guarantee you will not regret it. This is one of my most important backpacking tips for Australia: don’t be afraid to splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Delay the trip a few extra months so that you can afford some of the items on your bucket list. Your travel budget should be realistic. Do you wish to undertake such an arduous journey for mediocre activities? NO!
I travelled solo
A contentious issue here.
So many “best countries for solo travelers” lists include Australia, but I must disagree. I’ve traveled alone in seven countries, and Australia was by far the most challenging.
I do not believe I am necessarily correct. If you’re going to Australia for a year, I’m sure solo travel will be far more enjoyable than traveling with friends. Australia is teeming with long-term visitors, and it appears to be quite simple to form a community.
Visiting Australia for only two weeks, however?
When I’m only going to be away for two weeks, I make sure to bring enough money to go out for dinner, drinks, brunch, etc. I want to enjoy myself. I have the means to have a good time (within reason, of course! ), and I wish to meet fellow travelers with whom to do so.
The vast majority of backpackers I met in Australia were long-term travelers, so every dollar counts. I only managed to find people who wanted to go out for dinner or drinks THREE out of the fourteen nights I spent in Australia.
I get it – travel in Australia is expensive, and if you plan to stay there for an extended period, you can’t afford to splurge!
I suppose I expected hostels to be populated by more travelers as opposed to those residing there for a few months during their working holiday.
It was very difficult to make friends in hostels, and it was nearly impossible to find anyone who wanted to explore during the day because everyone was working!
If you are not planning to travel Australia for an extended period of time, I believe you should travel with someone else. And as a solo travel enthusiast, I doubt you’ll ever hear me say that again!
I was, in fact, lonely in Australia. Especially during the day, when the fellow travelers I had befriended were at work.
Add to that the insane time difference back in the UK, and I didn’t speak to anyone from 10am to 6pm every day. Not optimal!
I moved too slowly.
I am aware, I am aware. Every travel blogger in the world advises us to slow down, embrace slow travel, and truly experience a destination.
I do not wish to be singled out, but I believe that my trip is the exception to the rule. I traveled 10,000 miles to Australia knowing I had only two weeks to see and experience as much of the country as possible because I had no idea when I would return.
Why travel slowly when you have ample time? Absolutely. Why travel slowly when you can return at any time? Heck yes!
Slow travel on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime journey? From my perspective? No!
I wish I had packed my itinerary as tightly as possible and returned home even more exhausted than I already was. Because I would have had significantly more Australian experiences than I did.
I planned numerous beach days into my itinerary. I adore beaches. Who doesn’t? As I sat on the beach for the second day in a row (again, by myself) and realized I should have moved on to the next destination, I already wished I could give myself a swift kick.
My inability to relax is a fun fact about myself. I’m likely a nightmare to live with because I must always be doing something. Relaxing is stressful for me. Three days alone on the beach with only my own thoughts was less than ideal.
I believe that short trips over long distances are the perfect exception to the slow travel rule – take your itinerary and pack every moment with incredible activities.
I returned to work the day after returning home.
Yeah. This was a classic example of self-sabotage.
But it felt like such a waste to use a vacation day to sleep off jet lag and recover from my arduous trip home (which was around 32 hours door-to-door). I didn’t want to waste a day I could have spent in Australia at home!
But do you know what I did on my final day in Australia?
I dreaded the fact that I would have to go to work almost immediately upon returning home, and invariably after very little sleep. I landed at 5:00 p.m., returned home at 6:00 p.m., and reported to work the following morning at 9:00 a.m.
The work week in question was unbearable.
I was sick for an entire week. I was exhausted, disoriented from jet lag, unmotivated, and probably my least productive self ever. When I explained why I was so exhausted, people thought I was insane. Who would do that to themselves?!
I am aware of the temptation to give yourself as much time at your destination as possible, even if it means sacrificing sleep, health, and sanity.
I thought so as well.
But let my mistake be a lesson – don’t do it!
If I had a day at home to recover from my trip, I would have returned to work well-rested, would have been able to enjoy my final day in Australia without stress, and would have had time to reflect on all the incredible experiences I had in Australia before going back to the office!
Instead, I struggled to stay awake each day and had no time to even consider my trip.
Do you want to work 12-hour days and then spend your evenings tackling the mountain of laundry after your trip? Me either. It was one of the dumbest decisions I made on my first trip to Australia and a surefire way to develop post-trip depression.
The most important of all my backpacking tips for Australia is to give yourself time to recover after your return flight!
I didn’t do enough research.
Surfers Paradise? Who wouldn’t want to visit a place with such a romantic moniker?
The majority of individuals, it turns out.
In my mind, Surfers Paradise equals excellent surfing. Right? Right?? Is it reasonable to assume that?
If I had spent more than two seconds researching this portion of my trip before adding two days there, I would have realized that, on paper, Surfers Paradise sounds like my personal hell.
It turns out that the surf in Surfers Paradise is not particularly good. Like at all. No one visits Surfers Paradise in order to surf.
Unbeknownst to me, Surfers Paradise is Australia’s version of Blackpool or Cancun during spring break.
Huge clubs, nonstop drinking, tacky souvenir shops… You have the concept. The ideal location for a woman who dislikes nightclubs.
Finally, Surfers Paradise was simply… not paradise. It was unclean. The beach was subpar. Actually, there were no tourist attractions.
Why then, why why? WHAT was I thinking?! Me, the girl who typically revises her itinerary a hundred times? Why did I choose Australian towns at random and decide to wing it?!
So many unanswered questions.
Surprisingly, I had a great time in Surfers Paradise, and I made the most of it in my own way (mostly thanks to my awesome hostel! ), but it was not a particularly efficient use of my limited time in Australia. It was a prime illustration of poor planning.
I underestimated how big Sydney is
Um, which Sydney neighborhood should I choose?
Oh, let’s visit Bondi! I’ve heard the surfing is excellent and there are numerous activities available. I’ll have direct access to the beach! Perfect.
Yep. That was essentially my thought process when deciding which Sydney neighborhood to call home for four days. And I loved Bondi. The only difficulty was navigating into central Sydney from Bondi.
It required nearly an hour to reach the Opera House! And please do not remind me of my journey back from Manly beach. I wasted all of my valuable sightseeing time on public transportation.
I wish I had conducted more research (I’m sensing a pattern here…) and realized Sydney’s size. If I had known, I would have still stayed in Bondi for a couple of nights because it was so much fun, but I would have then moved to a more central hostel to do some sightseeing.
My anticipations were so damned lofty
Australia. The land promised. A tropical paradise.
I fell prey to my own expectations. Australia provided me with some of the best travel experiences of my life. It is truly beautiful, I fell in love with its coffee (Australians take coffee VERY seriously), and I know I’ll return to complete the activities on my bucket list that I didn’t get to the first time around.
My expectations were so high that it was impossible for Australia to ever meet them.
I believed that being in Australia was sufficient. That simply wandering around the city would be life-altering, that taking the Greyhound bus would be incredible, and that I would return home desperate to quit my job and obtain a Working Holiday visa.
Do you get my meaning? How could catching a bus possibly be amazing?
But, I was so convinced that I would want to live there that when I left Australia, I swore I would never, ever apply for a Working Holiday Visa again (for countless reasons).
The most surprising aspect was that Australia didn’t feel all that different from the United Kingdom. Even though it was sunny and the accents were different, I expected to feel ten thousand miles from home.
All of my most memorable moments in Australia occurred when I escaped the cities and explored its breathtaking natural beauty. The cities themselves were indistinguishable from other cities.
It was only after venturing out into nature that I felt like I was in the Australia of my imagination.
I spent excessive time in urban areas.
As I’ve just mentioned, I discovered that Australia’s nature is out-of-this-world, whereas its cities left me feeling a bit… indifferent. If I had known this before planning my trip, the outcome would have been entirely different!
Reading through my Australia travel guide, I thought to myself, “Huh. It appears there is virtually nothing to do in Brisbane?! Surely they must be mistaken…”
They did not.
Australia’s cities are fantastic jumping-off points for tours of the country’s breathtaking nature, but (in my opinion) they are not worth traveling 10,000 miles for.
This may sound as though I dislike Australian cities, but I assure you I do not (with the exception of Brisbane. God, it was dull there! Sydney was fantastic. I even liked the Gold Coast, in a manner of speaking.
With extremely rare exceptions, I doubt that there are many cities in the world that are worth traveling 10,000 miles for on their own.
I’m so happy I escaped to the wilderness and wish I had done it more often. Leaving the cities is one of my most important recommendations for backpacking in Australia.
If I travelled all that way and just spent my time city-hopping I would have been SO disappointed!
I hope you enjoyed this and learned some tips for making your Australia backpacking trip as epic as possible!
Despite making eight fairly significant errors, I had an incredible time in Australia and can’t wait to return – hopefully without making any errors next time!
Topic: 8 Mistakes I Made on My First Trip to Australia
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