I was in Darwin, the capital city in the Northern Territory in Australia, and I needed to get to the east coast. After my car died on me just outside of Broome, I signed up for a ten-day adventure tour that took me from Broome to Darwin. Rental cars were still costly, and if I didn’t return it to Darwin, there would be a significant fee. I knew that I needed to get to the east coast, where most of Australia’s population lives. The prices for a rental car were much more reasonable there. However, Cairns, the Northeast’s closest city, was still 2,710 kilometers (1,684 miles) away.
I searched on a website called Imoova and found a relocation campervan that I could take to Cairns, but I couldn’t pick it up for a few more days. I needed to check out of my Airbnb, so I booked a hotel room in downtown Darwin. While I was grateful for the kindness of my hosts, I needed some alone time. Plus, I wanted to be downtown, so I was within walking distance to most things.
I left my luggage at the hotel until I could check-in and walked around downtown. I stopped into a phone repair shop to repair my cracked screen, but the guy said their glass screen wouldn’t be as good as iPhone because they weren’t an authorized iPhone repair shop. It wasn’t much cheaper than going to an Apple store, so I decided not to repair it there. The closest Apple store was thousands of kilometers away, so it would have to wait.
I walked back to the huge hotel and checked-in to my room. The hotel was beautiful and had a pool and a gym. My room had a small kitchenette and a living space.
Once I set my bags down, I walked along the waterfront on top of a cliff that overlooked the ocean. The landscaping was beautifully done with green grass and palm trees.
I spent the evening writing on my blog. The next morning, I laid out by the pool, soaking up the sun. I needed some relaxing time. Then I spent the afternoon writing some more.
That evening, I met up with my friend, Austin. We met in Los Angeles when I hired him at the last place that I worked. We had both been Executive Team Leaders at Target (but at different times), and then I hired him at an industrial supply company where I was the Recruiting Manager. Austin only worked there for about two years and received his MBA while working. Just before graduating, Austin quit so that he could travel the world for a year.
Like most people who travel long-term realize, a year goes by very fast. I had the chance to meet up with Austin when we were both in Hanoi, Vietnam. When we met for breakfast in Vietnam, Austin had been traveling for almost a year. He told me then that he planned to travel for another year, but his money was running out, so he planned on getting a working holiday visa in Australia to earn money while traveling.
Austin’s sister lived in Perth, so he began his Australia trip there. After spending several weeks in Perth and unable to find work, he joined a caravan and road tripped through the outback to Darwin. He heard there were more jobs in Darwin because it’s more remote. Austin got his first gig working as a bartender at the Darwin horse races a few days earlier. He was lucky, and they put him in the executive suites where there was air-conditioning. It was Austin’s first time being a bartender, but it was just serving beer and wine. Because the main races were on a Sunday, he earned double-time, making around $50 an hour.
I was so excited to see Austin again in person. It had been five months since I had seen him in Vietnam. I was following his travels on Instagram, and he was one to two weeks ahead of me while I was traveling from Perth to Darwin. His posts helped me know which places to stop and see.
I met Austin at an indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant, and we ordered drinks and hot wings. Austin was an upbeat and smart guy in his mid-20s. He looked like my ex-husband, except he was only around 5’8” tall.
Austin and I talked about the last five months and how much we both enjoyed the Australian outback. It’s such a special place because of the remoteness, the like-minded people, and the joy of camping under the stars. Austin joined a car with a few other people, and that car met up with another vehicle or two. In the last section, through the Kimberley region, Austin had some fantastic stories. The vehicle they were driving in blew out two tires. At one point, they were rescued by a man who took them in for a few days. They all ended up on his boat cruising around a lake with crocodiles. They even grabbed a few baby crocs from the water!
We both had such a fun time in the outback because people were always so friendly and helpful. Austin made some great friends, some of whom were in Darwin with him. He was staying at a hostel and still looking for a job. A week after I left, he got a job as a bartender at a local bar. Austin stayed there for a few weeks but then flew to Los Angeles for a wedding. When he returned to Australia, he bounced between Darwin and Melbourne before returning to Los Angeles a few months later. He ended up traveling for almost two years.
Austin’s friend, Jon, joined us at the bar. He was around 24-years-old and was from Minnesota, USA. He had been traveling for a while and had a working holiday visa in Australia. Jon had a job in Darwin at a bar and was enjoying his time. I really admired these young people who took advantage of the working holiday visa. In most countries that offer it, you have to be under 31-years-old.
Jon had left Minnesota and arrived in Australia almost two years earlier. He had seen most of the country, working along the way. He had an incredible singing voice and played the guitar. Jon was easy to get along with because he was so friendly.
We could all relate because we were ambitious people who worked hard in school and worked our way into promotions, but something was missing. We had all been traveling for more than a year, so we understood what we were experiencing. None of us were sure what our future held, but we knew how special it was to be in a situation where we enjoyed every moment of our lives.
Our travels were a little different. Austin was in his mid-20s, so he stayed at hostels partying with other young people from around the world. He often ended up traveling with other people that he met at hostels. I tended to stay in Airbnbs and hotels, often meeting locals. Most of the time, I traveled alone. Austin had traveled to many countries in Europe and then went to India, Egypt, Southeast Asia, and Australia. I had driven to Alaska and spent time in Canada. Then I flew overseas to Thailand to Vietnam and finally to Australia. I had spent a lot of time road-tripping and driving, while Austin spent a lot of time flying worldwide.
That’s the thing about long-term travel – there is no “right way” to do it. People are in different phases of their life and might prefer different ways of travel. People have different things they’re willing to compromise on and different budgets. The point is to get out there and do it the way that you’re most comfortable with (while still respecting other cultures).
Even though I was almost 15 years older than Austin and Jon, and our travel methods weren’t always the same, we understood each other. We understood that we were all on an extraordinary journey of life and self-discovery.
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