You read it right; if you ask me which trip I enjoyed more – Australia or Africa – my answer is 100% Australia. Surprising response from someone who has been dreaming of travelling Africa since age 4. Nannie and Pa brought home photos of their Africa trip in 96, and I was immediately transfixed by the powerful animals, giant waterfalls and nomadic tribes in the images. I think the biggest appeal was how different it looked – the culture, landscape and animals seemed to belong to another planet. By the time I was 10 years old my room was decked out in lion posters and animal print. My no.1 travel destination has always been Africa. So in 2016 James and I decided to make dreams reality. We graduated from 4 years of University study and it felt like ‘now or never’. James chose a lap around Australia, and I chose a safari in Africa; 10 months of adventure. Truth be told, I was shattered when we drove out of Pearcedale in December 2015 to embark upon the 7 month Oz lap. I thought we should’ve been spending more time and money on my Africa trip. I wasn’t all that interested in seeing my own country. I thought the lack of a different culture, food, language and a plane ticket meant it wasn’t a true adventure. And now here I am, justifying why adventuring Australia changed my life in ways that Africa could not.
Our itinerary in Africa was great – we spent 2 weeks on safari in the South; coming within arms-reach of lions, elephants and rhino. Then we flew to Nairobi, volunteered at Melon Mission school for 3 weeks and boarded a big yellow overland truck to tour with Tucan travel. The Tucan truck took us, and 4 others, through Uganda to trek with gorillas, Kenya to meet the maasai, and Tanzania to explore the Serengeti. From Tanzania we left Tucan and hiked Kilimanjaro’s sister mountain, Mt. Meru. The trip ended with a week sun-baking on the exotic island of Zanzibar. Sounds absolutely incredible right? And it absolutely was. But Zanzibar’s beaches were littered with plastic, the maasai are paid to take tourists into their village and safari vehicles circled wary cats, destroying their hunting opportunities. Our 7 months camping around Australia was a completely different adventure, and overall more fulfilling. It was in Australia that I finally felt complete.
Something was missing for me in Africa. I thought I would fall in love with the African continent, I thought I wanted to work and live there. But after the pristine environments of Australia – the deserted beaches, crystal clear waters and star-filled skies, Africa didn’t give me the same feeling of contentment. I never managed to find the head space to truly appreciate life in Africa. Places were crowded, itineraries were tight and the environment was tainted with pollution. It was the climbing through gorges and over rocks to a tranquil oasis surrounded by weeping gums, it was the view of tablelands from the top of a waterfall, the snorkeling with tropical fish and giant sea turtles, it was the rolling sand-dunes and dense bush, that stole my heart in Australia. It was having nowhere to be, but in the moment, no mobile connection, no plans, no worries. The chatter of life finally switched off. The fog of 5 years of stress, routines, lists and deadlines finally lifted. And what emerged was the realisation that all that really matters is to be healthy and happy, everything else works itself out. The aboriginal Australian’s have felt this for thousands of years – connection to country – I think it’s something we could all work on.
So yes, Africa was incredible. But when I see you next ask me about Australia. Ask me about camping for 7 months, driving for 210 days, swimming in waterfalls and hiking up mountains. Being completely free to do what we wanted, when we wanted. Ask me what I really got out of it – because it runs so much deeper than a good Instagram picture. It’s the feeling I had in those places, something that cannot be replicated for any other individual. I urge you to find a find a way to travel that enables you to take a step back, see life for what it is – discover the truth in it. Get off the beaten track and take the path less travelled by – it made all the difference.