Travelling Australia in 2018

How the heck did I manage to drive 36,043 kilometres (22,383 miles) around Australia in 2018?

The answer is – just one destination at a time!

When I set out in 2018 to travel north from the boarder between Queensland and New South Wales. I had no intension of travelling all the way round the coast line of Australia and crossing the boarders of each state and territory.

It took just over nine months and was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. For six of those months my daughter (Miss P) was my companion and carer. It’s not all glamour and Instagram worthy days, however we did have fun along side washing clothes and cooking most of our meals.

The trip would have not been possible without the support from my Step Dad, Greg who believed and supported me every step of the way. He even joined us on the trip for two weeks.

I owe this man a huge debt of gratitude and simply wouldn’t be the person I am today, nor had this amazing trip without his help.

When I realised that my only option was to use what money I could gather together and travel north, he encouraged to me follow this gut instinct even when it made no sense. He listened on the the phone while I had a two hour panic attack because I didn’t know how I could physically do it? I could barely walk four steps due to pain in my lower spine, it was an insane idea and many people told me that. However I followed that gut instinct and reassuring guidance that it would all be ok.

This is Miss P and I snubba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. When this photo was taken I was overwhelmed and just recovered from a panic attach under water. Both the scuba diving instructor and Miss P were guiding me down to the reef. I was literally frozen like a statue, however determined not to spoil this opportunity for Miss P and trusting the instructor to push me around and all I had to do was breath and keep my eyes open.

It was pure joy watching Miss P swimming around like a mermaid. She is a natural underwater and so comfortable, where I wasn’t. However I had made the promise to her, that I would make this trip interesting for her too and it wasn’t just be about my health recovery.

We ticked off many bucket list moments, like this one where we are standing at the most northernest point of main land Australia and the very tip of Cape York in my home state of Queensland.

We reconnected with family and friends along the way. It is true when they say we don’t get to choose our family. In our family none of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, we are all hard-working with deep roots in the bush. My family are proud ‘Bushies’ and I’m the country cousin who ended up in the big smoke (city)!

However we are all linked via DNA and at every opportunity I asked about our health history trying to find the link genetic link to rheumatoid arthritis and glaucoma. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find anyone who could confirm our health history, mainly because I come from a tough breed where no one liked to complains about their health, let alone go to a doctor and get a diagnosis.

By the time we arrived in Uluru, it was at a point in our travels that I was confident my medical specialist would require us to be back in the Big Smoke for my next treatment. My health was still very much up and down. When we drove into Uluru / Ayres Rock I was in so much pain, I didn’t get out of bed for a day. We flew back to Brisbane so I could under go further medical test, get new prescription glasses (I’m slowly loosing my eye sight) and attend the P!ink music concert (I had brought tickets over a year ago).

My Rheumatologist had been following my newly created Facebook page and was confident that I could continue travelling while taking methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug). I had strict instructions on how to take the medication/s, have regular blood tests, keep sending in email updates, don’t be out of mobile phone range and stay in populated areas where medical assistance could be easily accessed etc and just keep going…

Having permission to travel around Australia was amazing, however it was sad new for Miss P who just wanted to be back in the Big Smoke going to school. To be fair there were not many teenagers on the travellers road and living 24/7 with your Mum isn’t easy. We had our good days and bad days.

At each new location I would book in a guided tour so we could connect with the Traditional Owners/rangers to learn about the land on which we were temporary visitors.

There were long, lonely days on the road where Miss P would watch endless Netflix series while I drove.

When we arrived at Broom, Western Australia we were burnt out, and this is what I wrote on our Facebook page at that time:

Traveller burn out is real and hard to shake.

We have been on the road for 21 weeks and it has taken a toll. It took me a few weeks to figure it out and we are suffering from travellers burnout for a while. This topis wasn’t on the popular blogs, websites and Facebook pages, when researching our ‘big lap’ trip.

Yet time and again I see posts from travellers seeking support due to being cranky, and overwhelmed on the road. And, in turn become sceptical of the glamor photos that constantly fill our screens, exclaiming the next destination is amazing. This perplexed me because I too was feeling the same, until I realised what it meant. So let me set the record straight, everyone gets traveller burn out some posts/write about it and some don’t.

Recently I met a travelling family just starting out and their eyes are bright with adventure and busting with energy, I am just numb… and I asked myself ‘what has happened to me?’

{sarcasm} Oh, that’s right, I’m on a once in a life time trip, trying to cram adventure into every second of the day and feeling guilty if I don’t.

We have made so many sacrifices to be here and at this point in time, I’m a little over walking through amazing rock formations to swim in pristine gorges and stunning waterfalls, there I said it! Traveller burn out is real and happens all the time, to everyday people on short or long trips.

Recently our travels brought us to the sunny Western Australia coast with beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets and our attitude was ‘meh, whatever’.

Traveller burnout hasn’t just crept up on us, we have been fighting it off for awhile. This last month we have had a constant cough. Our diagnosis by two different GPs two weeks apart was, ‘just a virus and it will pass’.

I have been super vigilant with our diet and eating whole foods, fresh veggies and fruit. Hydration, hydration and more hydration has been my constant nag with my teenager. I slowed down our travels and skipped any activity that involved long hikes. Yet last week we were on the verge of complete exhaustion. A virus and burn out had stopped us in our tracks.

So I have made a conscious decision to stay in our caravan and rest.. well almost, the boredom got to me and I booked an easy activity every other day, like a sunset camel ride and pearl farm tour.

However, I also gave us permission to not go out, just because we are in a beautiful location with loads of activities to do, we have stayed inside and hibernated. We have been in our caravan, air conditioner running, unlimited screen time and having long sleep ins.

For those that don’t know me, I love doing homely stuff like cooking, sewing, crochet and reading. So this down time has given me the chance to read books (Outlander series), finish a crochet blanket I started in Rockhampton and a small embroidery project which I packed – just in case I had hand sewing withdrawals. It’s not easy for me to be idle but I’m trying.

So if you’re suffering from traveller burn out to, may I suggest the following that has helped us:

  • stop travelling for awhile or travel at a slower pace
  • rest
  • eat healthy foods
  • drink plenty of water
  • do something familiar
  • sleep in

So when the wanderlust hits us again, it know it won’t have flush of first love, however I hope we embrace like old friends and enjoy the ride again.

We were hunting for dinosaur prints in the sandstone but I couldn’t stop taking photos of the sunsets in Broome.

Despite our burn out we were able to find out joy on the road again, however it was a slower pace, often skipping over ‘amazing’ opportunities and prioritising what was important to our needs. Here we are at Kalibarri National Park at one of the most iconic Instagram worthy location and I wasn’t going to drive past without getting this photo. Miss P wasn’t keen on lining up with hundreds of tourists however, she loved exploring all the rock formations, so we somehow found a new balance to our trip.

To see a baby white whale on the Ningaloo reef was a pinch me moment. We were simply in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately we didn’t get to swim with whale sharks that day but we did get to swim with humpback whales. And we spent another week, just resting up at a cattle station stay drinking tea and eating camp fire damper.

Our travels took us off the main roads and onto sandy beaches, rough outback roads, up and down sand dunes and we would paused to celebrate the smaller destinations that didn’t have the large bus load of tourist lined up for the Instagram photo.

Getting a selfie with a Quokka is a sort after photo, many major super stars have travelled to Rottnest Island just for a photo with one of these cute animals!

Once we reached the city of Perth which was the most furtherest distance from our home city of Brisbane, Miss P was so homesick, she simply couldn’t spend another day on the road. With heavy hearts, she flew back to our homebase and started school again. It was what she wanted and needed. She craved to be in a familiar place, with a steady routine and hang out with her friends.

It also was a steep learning curve for me to deal with all the physically challenges she took care of, which my pain riddled body simply couldn’t do. I learnt how to reverse my caravan into a parking spot without any assistance. I would have to ask strangers for help in unhitching / hitching the caravan. And I readjust to living on the road without any company. I made a promise to myself that I would speak with someone everyday and not just sit in the caravan feeling sorry for myself.

The above photo was taken just as the sun was setting and I hadn’t spoken to a soul all day. It was my medication (methotrexate / chemo) day and I wasn’t hydrated enough to minimise the effects of the drug, so was feeling very nauseated. As I walked down the beach, I came across one other lady, we struck up conversation and it was so lovely talking to her. The women worked as a nurse, had been on night shift and needed to stay awake a few more hours, so she decided on a beach walk. We chatted until it was dark and I will never forget this angel who appeared out of no where and kept me company for an hour or two on a lonely beach in southern Western Australia.

Often on this leg of my trip crossing from the west coast to the east coat of Australia, I would visit a beach and strike up a conversation with fellow tourist or I would book into a wine tour in the region I was visiting. I was determined to make a concerted effort to keep my own promise to speak with a stranger every day.

The above photo is of taken on the Great Ocean Road and I found it physically challenging to walk on the deep sand, so I just sat down on the beach and breathed in the ocean spray wind, soaking up the magic of this place. It was at this point that I decided my road trip around Australia was going to include spending 14 days in Tasmania. I didn’t have enough funds to cover the cost of transporting the caravan with me on the 12 hour ferry ride, however I would find a way on a very strict budget to include all the states and territories of Australia in my travels.

After impulse buying a return ticket to Tasmania, I had to wait over a week before my ferry ride, which offered me the opportunity to wander aimlessly around the state of Victoria. I would wake up each day and decided where I visit, drive to my destination and explore.

My casual attention to my itinerary often surprised me and I would just follow the instinct of what I was drawn to and go and explore. If there was no caravan park accommodation available, I would find a free camp and park up for the night. This is in stark contrast to when I left home and had a set itinerary for the the next four weeks, knowing where I was staying, often booking our caravan park locations weeks in advance. By now I was just a gypsy blown about on each days whim.

For the first couple of days in Tasmania, I booked ahead my accommodation and regretted the inflexibility of having to stay in a location, when I wanted to move on. Also, I quickly learn after the first night of sleeping in a canvas sway that my body would not be able to roll it up on my own. This was something Miss P and I would complete together and my physical limitations had not improved enough for me to do it on my own. It took me nearly an hour on that first morning to roll the heavy wet canvas and I vowed to stay in cheap backpacker-type accommodation and eat cheaper meals, than go through that again.

Thankfully my car fridge was packed full with the food I had purchased from the Adelaide markets and the back seat was full of wine I had precured from all those wine tours. My budget was $100 per day for accommodation and food, so my stash was going to help cover the costs. Each morning I would make a coffee on my camp stove and eat a muslie bar for breakfast. Lunch would consist of a large meal I could purchase cheaply at a cafe eg fish and chips or pizza. Dinner would be a ploughmans platter I would assemble from the ingredient in my car fridge.

My accommodation was usually booked while I was eating lunch and my choice of locations was on via reviews on Trip Advisor and I would google the name of the accommodation or I would find another place on a Bookings website, however refused to pay via the third party and would just call the proprietor on the phone and ask for the cheapest room at a standby rate. The only exception to this was my accommodation in Hobart, which I booked via Airbnb. It meant I stayed at the most wonderful places for a fraction of the costs, mainly because it wasn’t peek tourist season and the ‘cherry picker’ backpackers who swarm into the region had not fill up the ‘cheap’ places. I spent a night in a t-pee on the side of a mountain, two tiny houses, room over a pub, small room at the back of a garage, and a pod hotel.

What transpired was a very enjoyable trip, from the top of Tasmania to the most southernly part I could reach by road.

From this little blue house by the sea I started my way home, back to my children Mister B and Miss P. I sat on the beach over looking the little bay and contemplated what the next chapter of my life would be. My health had improved from only being able to walk (shuffle) four steps at a time, to being able to get up and down from a seated position on the beach. I was convinced I could start transitioning back to full time work, find a new rental property we could call home and close the door on ‘Mum’s gap year’.

Arriving back in Brisbane in my home state of Queensland:

  • I had travelled 36,043 kilometres (22,383 miles) around Australia.
  • I had sent postcards from each state and territory back to Mum who was living in a nursing home and my ex-colleagues at the last place of employment.
  • I had visited the most northern, western, southern and eastern parts of Australia.
  • I had visited and taken a photo at every state and territory sign post.
  • I had spent time with loved ones, extended family, friends and new friends made on the road.
  • I had regained strength and endurance.
  • I had been able to manage my pain for the last month with just pandadol.
  • I was and still amazed this painful health setback had gifted me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel around Australia

I also felt that God or a Higher Power (which ever you prefer) had sent me a quest, I had faithfully followed this nudge / gut instinct and by just taking it one day at a time managed to travel all around Australia.

Mission Accomplished!


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