Australia, a country that has it all. Davina has been an au pair in Australia and she was willing to answer some of the questions I had for her. Her answers are full of love for this country and makes you want to visit it straight away. Read about her awesome experiences and tips !
1. Why Australia and what did you do there ?
I wanted to see the world and wanted to go as far as possible. Down under is pretty far to me. Also, during the time when I was planning on doing some traveling it was really, really cold in Belgium. This was near the end of 2012, beginning of 2013. It was one of the coldest years since they started measuring temperatures. We even had a white Christmas! I can’t exactly tell you why, but I’m just not into snow. I was just sick of it. to me, going to Australia, was the perfect solution to avoid an other cold winter in Belgium. So I went to Australia in August.
I have to admit though, I actually was pretty surprised when I arrived in Australia that year. It was so damn cold! Spring started pretty late that year and when I arrived in Melbourne, the city experienced the worst storm in 30 years! Maybe these reasons sound a bit silly, but that’s often how my travel plans begin.
I went there for almost a year. During the first six months I worked as an au pair, or how they say it in Australia: as a (live in) nanny. The other months? Traveling through Australia.
2. What type of traveler are you? Backpacker, hotelfreak, partytraveler, the planner, ect.. ?
I’m definitely a planner, I really need to be in control the whole time. That’s why I decided to go as an au pair to Australia. SoI had to take care of two girls of 5 and 6 years old. But in return I got to live with the family, got food and some pocket money. Since I have a teachers degree the pocket money wasn’t to bad either! I saw it as a big advantage knowing that I immediately would have a place to live and work.
I remember meeting two German girls who just went on the go to Australia, with just enough money to survive their first few weeks. When people asked them what they wanted to do, they said that they wanted to work and travel. They were thinking about fruit picking. Normally you can easily find work in that sector as a backpacker. But had forgotten one thing: they were at the wrong place during the wrong time. Not a lot of fruit picking possible during winter…
So I was SO happy to have some work arranged before I even set foot in Australia. Work that I actually could easily combine with travel. During my work as an au pair there were only a few weekends that I didn’t went away and just stayed at home. Every other time I was out there, discovering Australia. Staying with an Australian family also gave me the advantage of really getting to know Australian people and its culture. But after six months (and saving up enough money) I took my backpack and left. I can’t say if I’m the typical backpacker. Yes, I stayed in a LOT of hostels, but once and a while, a girl needs some luxury for herself. So I also booked some hotels. When I did this, I really wanted to spoil myself and went all the way… I chose a nice boutique hotel with a big buffet breakfast and of course: a swimming pool!
As the planner I am, I booked everything quite in advance. Sometimes I booked a tour only a day or two in advance. But I often called beforehand to check if there still was place, how the itinerary looked, etc.. The only thing that I didn’t plan was how to visit a city or an island. I loved it to just walk around in a city and get lost, ending up in a pub and just asking a local where to go next. I have to admit, sometimes I missed a must do touristy thing by doing that. But the things you really REALLY have to see or do also came across me that way. Sometimes I wished I could stay somewhere longer or I felt like I was being to long in one place. But I felt relaxed knowing that I knew exactly where I was going. At least for a few weeks. I didn’t plan the whole trip in just one time, I did some weird detours because I wanted to see some old friends or because the weather was bad in a certain area (in Australia you can experience all types of natural problems like typhoons or bush fires.)
3. Did you have budget and was it easy to stick to your budget plan ?
I did have a budget plan. Every penny spent was noted down on my computer. Australia is quite expensive, so I really needed to be on top of this. I often had to turn my money around a few times and think creative to be able to go where I wanted to go. Wanting to see everything isn’t easy if you don’t have billions to spend. The 15 minutes during flight over Fraser Island was ridiculously expensive. But when was I ever going to do something like that again? Would I ever be able to go back there? Was it worth it?
YES! The view was amazing. And who can say that they did that? Who can say that they flew with a small airplane and landed on a small strip of sand? (The thought of it was pretty scary to me!)
4. Did it turn out as you expected it to be ?
Not at all, it turned out to be so much more! I got overwhelmed by it all. Australia is such a beautiful country and so diverse. It is just impossible that anyone would say: I don’t like Australia. Everyone can be happy there. The city tripper can visit cool cities like Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. People who are sportive and love water can get there kicks out of surfing and snorkeling. Nature lovers can do bush walks (WITH aboriginals) or be amazed by the red centre and do a lot of climbing when they discover Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta or Uluru. Even people who love snow can go to Australia. Did you know that there falls more snow in the Australian Alps then in the Swiss Alps?
5. Looking back on it, what was the most awesome thing you have experienced while being there?
Tough question! So many many things! I sunbathed on the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen: Whitsunday Beach. The name says it all with sand whiter and brighter then the sun. I saw an amazing world under water (Great Barrier Reef, via Cairns). The Red Centre… The Twelve Apostels along the Great Ocean Road via Melbourne. And I just hired a car and cruised around in Tasmania (that’s actually something you should do in a lot of places in Australia: cruise around and enjoy the view!) And don’t let me start on the wildlife in Australia. Shaking hands with kangaroos, see little fairy penguins, cuddling a koala, talking to cockatoos, trying not to be eaten by giant crocodiles or ugly big spiders and snakes. Swimming next to dolphins and starfishes, enjoying the sun with some sea lions on a beach on Kangaroo Island, …. Just to much to mention!
6. What would you recommend visiting ?
It depends on what you like: cities, nature, adventure, … But I’m pretty sure you will find your thing in Australia! My trip went down like this:
- I stayed for six months in Melbourne (visited the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island.)
- Then I went up north to visit some friends in Kuranda. Which is this cute hippie town with beautiful nature, close to the rainforest. So in summer this was pretty humid and tough weather.
- While being there I went further up to Port Douglas (very fancy place) and did a bush walk with an aboriginal in the Daintree forest.
- Then I want back down south. First stop was Cairns where I went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
- After that I went to Magnetic Island. Which is well known to go and cuddle some koalas or do a horse ride along the beach. If you want to go to the Whitsundays, you’ll have to start in party town Airlie Beach where you can take a boat to the islands.
- I did a crazy stop in Town of 1770/ Agnes Water. Not much to do or see there, but that was just the cool thing about it. It is supposed to be a good place to learn how to surf though.
- From Hervey Bay I went to Fraser Island: an island completely out of sand! This is a real must do! It’s world heritage!
- If you want to do something mondain… Then go to Noosa. A pretty fancy place between the big Noosa river and the ocean. Just water everywhere! An other ‘water city’ is Brisbane. Such a cool city to visit! Especially by night, loved the lights of the buildings reflected on the water.
- And from all Australian cities, you just HAVE to go to Sydney. From there you can also visit the Blue Mountains!
- After Sydney I did a quick stop in Bali (it was only 37 Australian dollars for a flight over there.)
- Then I went back to Australia and I started up north again in Darwin. Lots of World War II heritage there. Beautiful nature and some great national parks like Litchfield with tons of waterfalls. I even met some crocodiles in Darwin! Only disadvantage is the humidity in Darwin. I needed to shower three times a day while staying there. I also went to Kakadu National Park where you could find a lot of aboriginal art.
- After that I went south and stopped in Alice Springs to discover the Red Centre. Over there I did the ‘Rock Tour’. It was a short tour of 3 wonderful days in the Red Center to see Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kins Canyon. I slept in a swag under the stars and for the first time in my life I saw the milky way. This was absolutely one of my best experiences down under.
- Then I went further down south to Adelaide. Cute little city. Lots to do there! Also a starting point when you want to go to Kangaroo Island. Tons of wildlife there and also nice rock formations.
- After that I went to ‘Tassie’/Tasmania. Australians draw it always like a hart on a map (like we draw a boot for Italy). They really love it. It’s like their own little New Zealand. Stunning nature and cool vibe! And after that? I
- went back home (with a detour in Singapore.) So, sorry for the long list, but I would recommend it all! I missed a few stops on the East coast (Sunshine Coast, Gold coast, Byron Bay, …) and I didn’t do the West coast of Australia. All I can say is: I wish I had more time to do it all.
7. Do you have a secret tip ?
Just talk. Not only with your fellow backpackers, but also with the old lady waiting for the tram to arrive or the waiter in a pub, children playing at a playground, the bus driver, … Australians love it! They want to hear all about your country, but they’re also very proud at theirs. They love to show you around or give you tips to visit things. It’s the locals who have the best tips !!