Category Archives: Australia

3 Secrets To How I Traveled Australia on The Cheap

backpack australia cheap


For secrets on how I traveled Western Europe on the cheap, click here.

How was I able to visit Australia with very little planning and for relatively cheap?

I recently spent almost two months backpacking around Australia. I began in Brisbane on the East coast and ended in Perth on the West coast. In addition to those two cities, I visited areas surrounding Sydney, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, Rottnest Island, and even Tasmania.

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I visited the landmark Sydney Opera House, swam in tons of beaches, played with (and ate) kangaroos, visited the Blue Mountains, road-tripped along the Great Ocean Road, took selfies with smiling quokkas and so much more. Everything was on the whim and I didn’t spend nearly as much as one would think…

I had a tried and true formula for visiting an expensive country/continent like Australia.

The first secret to this strategy was to make a ton of Australian friends beforehand.

I’ll explain.

Like Western Europe, Australia was never on my radar of places to visit quite yet during my past ventures around the world. As I was backpacking much cheaper parts of the world like Southeast Asia and Central America, I naturally met other Australian backpackers in hostels or Australian volunteers in my placements. Fortunately for me (an American), Australians love to travel outside of their country. You can find them just about anywhere in the world.

These guys were great fun! I kept in touch with many of them over the years via social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I began to realize how many Aussie buddies I had and planned on a future trip to travel around Australia, visiting many of them in the process. When I announced to them that I was visiting their country, they were psyched for me to come and even offered me to come stay with them for awhile.

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I think it’s a thing where you are much more excited about people you met while traveling to come and visit because of the unique experience you shared in whatever random country you both were in.

I naturally made so many Aussie friends and luckily for me they were scattered all throughout the country and in the big major cities: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and everywhere in between. I even had a couple friends who invited me down to Tasmania, which was a quick and easy return flight from Melbourne.

Basically, I just had to figure out who lived where and when they were free. I gave them all a little heads up as to when I’d be near their home turf and many of them accommodated or met up with me perfectly and happily.

On this trip to Australia, I stayed with nine of my Aussie buddies, a free Airbnb, and three hostels.

I explain how I scored the free Airbnb here.

I could have gone through all of Australia without staying in a single hostel if I chose to, but there were times I wanted to explore on my own and meet new people while I was there. The first hostel was in Sydney. I wanted to meet up with other backpackers I met from Fiji who were staying in hostels. The second was an over-night hostel on the Gold Coast before I met up with two other friends the next day. The third hostel was in Melbourne and that was to see the city more. I had a friend who lived about 30-minutes outside of the city who said I could stay with him for as long as I wanted, but I have an unwritten rule for myself that I won’t stay with anyone for longer than a week. However, I broke that rule a few times on other trips much to their persistence. 🙂

How did I get around these places?

Flights, trains, public buses, boats, and rental cars. Flights between the major cities were relatively cheap and there were lots of deals going on. The most expensive flight was from Melbourne to Perth, flying from the East coast to the West coast. Australia is super easy to get around in.

I made a slight hiccup when reloading my public transportation card in Melbourne which I highlighted here. Learn from my mistakes!

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The second secret to this strategy was having plenty of disposable time.

How much time you have is essential for every trip. Even with all the time in the world, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see all of Australia in one go.

This is important. Try not to see too much in one trip. It’s impossible.

This is the one major mistake many newbie travelers make. Australia is huge as heck. You’ll be tempted to try and do everything, which equates to more traveling and more money spent. Try to be realistic.

Knowing that my friends were taking me in and showing me around, I planned to have plenty of time as to give them the freedom to plan for me accordingly. They were doing me a favor by hosting me; the least I could do was adjust my trip to their schedules. Most of them took off from work for my visit, which was awesome.

I never felt like I was rushing while traveling through the continent. I took my time and did whatever I wanted because of all the time I had to spare.

Time is key for any trip!

However. While I was in Australia, I discovered another key strategy that other backpackers, specifically from Europe, used–backpacking Australia while on a working holiday.

The third secret to this strategy was to apply for a working holiday visa.

I didn’t use this secret, as I discovered it while I was backpacking in Australia.

At the three hostels I stayed in, I met backpackers from Europe who were all in Australia on a working holiday.

What is a working holiday?

A working holiday is where a foreign citizen is granted a temporary visa for up to two years to work and live in Australia. Countries part of the Commonwealth are granted a two-year working holiday visa while others such as the USA are only granted a one-year working holiday visa. Although, to extend into that second year you must have proof that you’ve done some inland farm/regional work while in Australia for a minimum of about three months.

Also, you must be between the ages of 18 and 31 to apply for one of these bad boys.

(There is a legislation that has been passed that may increase the capped age at 35, but it’s been repealed. Who knows if things will change. Hopefully, it will!)

A proof of funds (I believe around $5,000 AUD or equivalent) is also required but this on a case by case basis.

Find out how to apply online here.

Many backpackers I met had a job and found them quite easily. One guy even got an easy interview at the Sydney Opera House as a dishwasher! Many became bartenders and others became construction workers or worked in hostels. They worked and saved up money for a few months while living in hostels or in a shared apartment and then traveled around Australia with the money they saved up.

If you are within the age limit and wanna try something new for a while, I highly recommend this strategy if you don’t have the time to go around the world making Aussie friends.

Other secrets and strategies to travel around Australia on the cheap?

Yes, I have the answers.

You can also try volunteering in Australia which can usually be free or for a minimal cost. The best way to go about this is by using Workaway or WOOFing (Working Weekends on Organic Farms). I highly recommend you try out Workaway as there is a variety of different jobs (teaching, gardening, babysitting, construction, hostel, etc) in exchange for housing and meals. This is a great way to meet locals as well.

I didn’t use Workaway while in Australia, but I did use it in Mozambique and I had a fantastic experience. I spent a month there and didn’t spend a dime. Just some money for a sim card and data.

If you don’t want to work and just travel cheaply, you could always try Couchsurfing, a friendly online community where gracious locals offer their living space to travelers for free. No strings attached.

Like I mentioned earlier, I used my points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card to rent a car and to use on some domestic flights. I also used this card for purchases, as there are no foreign transaction fees with this specific card. If you don’t already have a credit card with travel perks and is foreign transaction-free, then I would suggest applying for one.

For ATM’s I use my Fidelity debit card which only takes 1% of the fee and rebates you all the transaction fees back into your account at the end of every month. There is also Charles Schwabb Online banking that rebates all of your transaction fees.

How much did I spend in Australia?

Know that Sydney is one of the most expensive countries in the world and most of Australia has prices similar to other Western countries such as the USA. I spent most of my money on flights. I used my travel credit card points to rent a car for the weekend and for some of the domestic flights.

Nights out were the second biggest expense. Booze is truly a wallet drainer during travel and it ain’t cheap in the land down under.

I spent a total of approximately $1,700 USD in two months.

Sydney got me the most when I stayed in the hostel and ate out. But I also did everything I wanted to do with no worries of breaking the budget.

To sum it all up!

Get your feet wet and travel around much cheaper places first like Southeast Asia and Central America (they are stupid cheap), gain some useful travel experience, make some awesome friends (I guarantee you’ll meet a ton of Aussie travelers), create the time, don’t try to see the whole country at once and bada bing bada boom, your Australian adventure has suddenly become that much more of a reality, as opposed to some unreachable dream! Also, consider a holiday working visa to make some quick travel cash or volunteer for free if you really want to save some dough. 🙂

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-Any questions or comments? I encourage you to ask this koala or more conveniently, me.- 🙂

-Daniel “Adventure” Born-


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An Open Letter to Australia: You Are Amazing, Yet Odd At The Same Time

Dear Straya,

I should apologize.

Before I finally decided to visit you, I paid you no mind.

You were near the bottom of the short barrel of countries I hardly wanted to visit. Yet, I gave you a go and I must say, you’ve really impressed me. You’ve opened my eyes to just how fascinating and diverse of a country you truly are.

Though I have a newly lit fondness for you, there are some things I discovered that boggled my mind that we need to discuss right now.

I’ll just jump right into it.

I’ve accepted that you call our American Smarties, Rockets

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and what you call Smarties are nothing like my Smarties at all.

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I’ve accepted that.

I can even accept that you call Rice Krispies Cereal, this…

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Rice Bubbles makes sense, but I cannot wrap my head around this next one.

What. Is. This?

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Is this supposed to be what I would normally call Rice Krispies Treats? Why do you call it LCMs?

Upon further investigation, you came up with the name “LCMs” based on the best alphabet letters according to a popular vote by your Aussie children. If I were still a kid. I def would have chosen “x” or “z” for sure.

Now, for your so-called Rice Bubbles, we would normally put in milk. But apparently, your milk is “betta“.

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Also what the heck is this?

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I’ve seen these pint-sized pickup trucks all over Australia. You refer to them as a ute. If I drove one of these around back home, I’d get made fun of.

I also understand that our popular jello gelatin is referred to as jelly here. Taking a jelly shot just doesn’t have the same ring to it as a jello shot does. But look at this!

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I’ve never heard of a wine flavored gelatin! I have a few good friends at home who might enjoy that.

I do love your Fairy Bread. That is something we should have in my fat American country. I also like the name “hundreds and thousands” over what I’d simply call “sprinkles”.

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And your delicious Weet-bix cereal curbed my cereal craving for a while. I eventually tried all of your flavors, except for the banana one. Who makes a banana flavored cereal?

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Also, your kangaroo meat is super lean, yet mighty tasty. I did feel a bit guilty about eating one especially after becoming pals with this one here…

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As a matter of fact, most of your food was nice, except for that vile Vegemite. How many times were you forced to eat that before you began to like it? And yes, I did do it the correct way -just a thin layer spread over toast with some butter. I tried it twice and decided and it was not nice.

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I even ate the best tea of my life. Yes, you read that correctly. I “ate” tea…because apparently Australia, sometimes you refer to “going out for a meal” as “going out for tea”. I took this literally. I was more confused than ever when I found this out.

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Speaking of being confused. I found myself lost quite a bit by the way you shorten all of your words and add your own spin to them.

Some words your inhabitants said to me that I needed translated into American English include the following:


Arvo – afternoon.

Someone said to me, “What are you up to in the arvo Dan?
Me: “…what?”

Ta – thank you.

“Ta ta back to ya.” I actually said that to someone. It’s wrong.

Footy – AFL (Australian Football League)

Nothing like the football league back home, the NFL.

Biccy – a biscuit, but in the States, we’d refer to their biscuits as a cookie. I still have no clue what they call an actual American biscuit.

Servo – a petrol station. I’d refer to it as a gas station.

Bottle-o – basically a bottle shop (liquor store)

Tradie – someone who works in the field of trade I suppose.

Cabbie – a taxi. I found myself adopting this word into my vocabulary.

Froth or Frothin’– really keen or amped about something. This is probably my favorite new word to use.

Yeah naw – No.

Naw yeah – Yes.


 

Moving along.

Australia, I remember casually bringing up cotton candy to one of your Sydneysiders and they had no clue what I was talking about. I had to google ‘cotton candy’ it in front of him. Come to find out, you refer to cotton candy as “fairy floss”. That’s a creative name actually.

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I was also baffled by why your Hungry Jacks (Burger King everywhere else) offered spiders on the menu. Is Australia so overrun with meaty spiders that you actually offer it restaurants? I googled that too…

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“Ohhh, you mean a float!” I said to an Aussie friend. “Like a root beer float.”

He then responded, “What the hell is a root beer?

Are you kidding me Australia? How is root beer not a thing for you? Apparently Dr. Pepper is not all that popular either. Root Beer is probably my personal favorite pop (soda, soft drink, fizzy drink). I grew up saying pop.

Instead you guys have soft drinks called Solo and Cascade. I tasted your Solo drink and wondered “Why the hell am I drinking sour mix?” This tastes like something you’d use to make a Long Island Iced Tea or a Whiskey Sour. Not something you just drink on your own. I could barely finish the bottle.

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I do love your chicken salt. As odd as it sounds, it tastes exactly what you’d expect it to taste like – salt that tastes like chicken. I devoured many of your chips (fries) dusted in chicken salt. (America, what are you doing? We need this.)

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Oh, and you have an ice cream shop called Cold Rock which is a blatant rip of our Cold Stone.

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I needed to restock on toiletries one day. I’ve come to terms that your deodorant is shaped in a funny container. But then I came across what looked strikingly similar to what I’d call Axe Body Spray. Oh, it is Axe but just a different name. But why?

 

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On the subject of different names, How dare you change the name of one of my favorite childhood characters.

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Who the f*ck is Wally?

His name is Waldo!

I was playing the Australian version of Cards Against Humanity with a bunch of your Tassies and was dealt this card…

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I was like, “What the heck is a fo…tus?

I found out it’s how you and the Brits spell the word “fetus”. So odd.

That same group of Tassies busted out a game of classic Uno.

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But they all pronounced it as “yoo-no”, not as the Spanish pronunciation of “ooo-no”. Not sure if this is an Aussie thing, but that whole dang Tassie group pronounced it as “yoo-no” as if nothing sounded weird about it.

However, I think the one sole thing that bothered me the most about you is your abundance of flies. There were flies everywhere I went, especially near the beaches, flying all up in my face…in my mouth. I hated that. That was my only major gripe.

Contrary to what us Americans are fed in the media by the spoonfuls, I didn’t come across a single snake and rarely a spider (except for that spider that literally flew into my room in Brizzy) in all your states and territories that I visited.

Otherwise, Australia, like I mentioned above. I have a new found appreciation of you, even though you can be a bit odd sometimes. Your inhabitants, most particularly my Aussie friends, definitely made the trip extra special for me. Many thanks to them 🙂

I’ll be back again someday to experience more of your Aussie oddities!

 

Sincerely,

Daniel Adventure Born

(P.S. – The Quest to the Seven Continents continues in Asia, continent #3, beginning in Bali, Indonesia!)

 

The Charm of Rottnest Island and The Cute Quokkas Who Live There

As unscripted and spontaneous as this whole spectacular Australia trip has been thus far, the one thing I knew for certain that I needed to do since the beginning was to…

…get a selfie with one of these little guys.

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This is a quokka.

What is a quokka?

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was either until fairly recently. A quokka is a marsupial about the size of a domestic cat, native only to Western Australia, specifically on an island off the coast of Perth called Rottnest Island. They look like gophers except they hop on their hind legs similar to kangaroos and have long, thin tails. They are popularly known to be smiling especially while chewing on leaves.

You see? Food is the one constant thing in life that makes everyone, even furry little quokkas happy.

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Where is Rottnest Island?

Rottnest Island is an island situated off the coast of Western Australia just a few kilometers west of Fremantle, an area neighboring Perth.

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Fremantle is just 30 minutes drive from Western Australia’s most populous city, Perth. This is where my friend Luke comes into play. I met him while teaching English in Guatemala in January 2015. Together, we backpacked down Central America, making notable stops in El Salvador and Nicaragua, eventually down to Costa Rica where we parted ways. Luke would be the last Aussie friend I would see during this Australia portion of the quest. Fortunately for me, he lived conveniently close to the port which ferries people over to Rottnest Island.

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One of the lighthouses on Rottnest Island.

By the way, Rottnest gets it’s name from early Dutch explorers who thought the quokkas they spotted were giant rats. Thus the name Rattenest (Rat’s Nest) was given. It was modified to Rottsnest when it was realized that quokkas are in fact not rats at all.

Luke booked us a ferry on a Tuesday. Tuesday’s are usually discounted priced return tickets to Rottnest. We also hired bikes for the island in advance. If you ever go to Rottnest, bring your own bike or hire one in advance. The island is small enough to loop the entire island during a majority of the day. It really is the most economical and most convenient means of getting around while you’re there.

I assumed we would have to go deep into the center of the island to find a quokka, but they were actually spotted easier in the areas with more people. We spotted a few scouring near garbage bins and huddled under trees.

“I don’t care where we go or what we do,” I began to explain to the others with excitement. “As long as I get my quokka selfie, I’m fine with whatever we do after.”

They were on board. Luke wanted a selfie just as much as I did. As a matter of fact, taking selfies with quokkas only recently became a thing just a few years ago. As many times as Luke and his friend have been to Rottnest, it wasn’t a thing they thought they would do until I arrived with the plan.

Getting a quokka selfie was easier to get than I originally thought. They aren’t afraid of humans at all and will come up to you as long as you have leaves in your hand for them to eat. Again, LEAVES, not human food. It’s illegal to give them human food and could get them sick. The leaves the quokka’s wanted were hanging just above their heads beyond their little reach.

Daniel here to the rescue!

After playing and feeding the quokkas for a while, I discovered that the famous ‘smile’ occured more often while they were chewing on fresh crunchy green leaves. Not the brown and yellow leaves that already fell on the ground.

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This little guy is happily munchin’ on a delicious tree leaf…

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…until he discovers my phone camera…

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…and decided to stop eating for one second to pose for me!

I rarely use the word “adorable” as part of my vocabulary but these guys were absolutely super adorable whenever they smiled, chomping on their little tree leaves with their little paws. The way they hopped over to me, when they saw leaves in my hand added to the cuteness overload. Honestly, I could have stayed there all day just hanging out with them.

ATLAS UPDATED! (Selfie with a Quokka is task #36 of my Adventure Tasks List of Awesome Stuff)

My plan for coming to Rottnest was already complete. I was happy and content, but as the day went by, I was made an even happier man when Luke pointed out that this island had some really cool beaches to visit. I’ve been to many beaches over my travels, so I will admit, I am a tad difficult to impress in that regards. However, the first beach we rode our bikes to, The Basin, easily made its way into one of the sweetest beaches I’ve ever been to.

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The Basin was not an ordinary sandy beach. Yes, it had the sand and the ocean tide, but it was more of a lagoon paradise than just a beach. The sand gently transformed into a smooth stone shelf that hedged into a natural pool of a topaz blue. Stepping into the cool water was like dipping into the cove of a private five-star resort. The lagoon extended into coral, dark marine flora, and small marine life perfectly suited for snorkeling.

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Just look at how clear and blue this water is!

If the day couldn’t have gotten any better, an Aussie girl who was swimming near me offered me her snorkel gear. She had a bit of a fear of snorkeling towards deep waters. I gladly accepted her offer and snorkeled my way around the Basin. Even without flippers, I floated like a buoy the whole way on the surface.

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The Aussie girl told us that there were even better beaches on the opposite side of the island, even better for snorkeling. It’s a bit of a bike ride away but totally worth it.

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We had the time and if that beach was anywhere near as great as this one, I HAD to see it. We donned our helmets and rode our bikes to the southern coast of the island!

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The bike ride was enjoyably scenic but it wasn’t the easiest ride. The paved road was hilly which turned our holiday cycle into a slightly strenuous workout. I could feel it in my calves! But it felt good.

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Along the way as we cycled through Rottnest’s south coast, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the bay from a high elevation. Just like the mainland of Australia, the air in Rottnest felt dry. We approached signs warning us to stay out of the vegetation because of the venomous snakes that habitat the area. Still the weather was perfect and the island’s landscape proved to be strikingly impressive everywhere we looked.

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The beach we were searching for, Salmon Bay, was just in reach and it was just as cool as the Aussie girl described.

Salmon Bay is a lot bigger than the Basin, and the water felt a little colder. May have just been the time of day. There was visibly more coral and fish here than the north part of the island we visited. If I’d known Rottnest was full of prime snorkeling spots, I would have bought snorkel gear just for this portion of the trip!

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We biked back towards the north coast and returned to the Basin. Along the way I stopped and hung out with a few more quokkas.

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A quokka should be beloved as much as the spotlight hogging kangaroo and koala, as the iconic animals of Australia, but oddly they aren’t. But maybe it’s a good thing otherwise the small island would be overrun of tourists.

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Rottnest Island was a genuine surprise for me. I knew about the quokkas, but those beaches and that bike ride were the sprinkles and the cherry to an already delicious dessert.

This was also the perfect end cap to a perfect trip in Australia.

We returned to Perth where I hung out with Luke for the remainder of the week. Thanks for having me Luke!

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Perth at night.

The Quest to the Seven Continents shall continue…

Down Along The Great Ocean Road!

The Great Ocean Road…

The name of it alone sounds like something I needed to see!

My Australian friend Alison is the key reason why I’m able to experience a photographer’s dream known as the Great Ocean Road. I met her while backpacking in Laos, completely fascinated by how many countries she’s traveled to and how she’s able to work all over the world. Interesting fact, Alison is the one who taught me how to ride a motor pad for the very first time ever! We managed to get out of a little trouble then, thanks to her quick thinking. She’s unfortunately away in Dubai on business but still she kindly offered her home to me over the weekend in Torquay. Her house is large enough to have just a handful of guests, so I invited a few notables to come along with me, much to their delight. I used some of my points from my travel credit card (I have tons of points to spare) to rent an SUV to drive along the road. Luca and Mahid would join us using their camper van.

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I picked up Mychaela, a fellow Michigander, from her au pair job in Melbourne along with a couple of others and off we went! The drive down to Torquay was about an hour and a half south of our hostel. Once we pulled up, we were floored by just how spacious the place was! Alison’s mom met us there to welcome us and gave a brief tour of the house.

“If you need anything, I live just ten minutes away,” she said. “Plus, you have my number.”

Upon entering, I told my comrades, “Everything needs to look like we weren’t even here when we leave on Sunday night.”

My friends were amazingly respectful. I knew they would be, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought them along.

Now, as far as food is concerned, the whole plan was to buy groceries and cook our meals at the house. As a group, we all went to the nearest Coles to stock up. Grocery shopping for a large group at once was not as easy as I thought. Everyone had different ideas and had different tastes. I already knew I wasn’t going to cook anything, so I let the others choose. Mychaela is a huge fan of tacos (as am I) so we got stuff to make those. Luca had a pasta dish he saw from tasty.com that he wanted to prepare for everyone. I was happy that I had a few good cooks among the group because the world knows that I can’t cook without a YouTube tutorial at hand. Even then, it’s risky.

It was Friday. We planned on feasting and hanging out at the house and setting off early the next day down the Great Ocean Road.

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Chef Luca hard at work on his pasta dish…

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With Tara helping out. I was glad I had a crew full of capable cooks.

I invited another traveler I met in Vietnam a few years ago to drive with us down the Ocean Road. Her name is Tara and she lived just 20 minutes away from where we were staying. Nicolas hopped in her car and they followed us as we made the driving journey.

The road is twisty and curvy as all heck, but absolutely stunning. We had the Pacific Ocean to our left and rain forests along thundering mountains that towered above us directly to our right. We had plenty of good music at hand. To describe the feel as a driver, it was hard not to keep looking at everything. This had to be one of the most scenic routes in the world.

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We stopped in Lorne upon Tara’s suggestion because she knew of a place with a few cool waterfalls. We easy trailed to Sheoak Falls, the first of a few waterfalls in the region.

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Upon arrival to the second waterfall, Luca and Mahid’s camper van began to smoke from underneath. They bought the van over near Perth on the Western Coast and drove all the way along the south. Maintenance issues were bound to happen but they were able to fix it…I think?

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Luca and Mahid aren’t mechanics, but they were sure they could solve the problem.

The second waterfall led us along a trail into the forest. The girls stayed behind while the guys trekked deeper until we eventually decided to go back as not to keep the girls waiting all day.

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That night, Tara left back home to visit a friend but Debbie came to join us for the next days drive to the Twelve Apostles.

As a group, the nights back in the house were quite entertaining. We played random games where both Mychaela and Luca both lost to my bets and had to suffer the consequences. Mychaela had to take in a spoonful of Vegemite while Luca had to take a shot of Sriracha sauce.

Video evidence below.

 

I introduced a few other social games I play with friends back home in which they all enjoyed.

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Tarek and I were full of dabbing attacks.

The plan for the next day was to drive all the way down to the Twelve Apostles further down the Ocean Road.

The Twelve Apostles is a group of  limestone formations off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park. Currently there are eight apostles left, the ninth stack having collapsed in July 2005. The name remains significant and spectacular especially in the Australian tourism industry. (Wikipedia)

We took a shortcut through the backwoods instead of going along the coast to cut our driving time in half.

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IMG_0170.jpgL to R: Myself, Debbie, Mychaela, Nicolas, Tarek.

Further down the coast, we dropped of Nicolas in Warnanbool, where he volunteered over the week. Later on we returned to the house in Torquay, spruced up, packed our belongings, and drove up back to Melbourne.

As great as the weekend was, this would be my last night with all of my Melbourne cohorts. Mychaela would stay in Melbourne for several more months continuing her au pair job. I’m sure I’ll see her back in Michigan seeing as how she lives ten minutes away from my mom. Debbie and Tara both returned to their respective jobs, while the backpackers I spent so much time with the past week all continued to look for jobs for their working visa. Luca, Mahid, Tarek, and Jules all landed farming jobs together the day after I left them. Good luck guys!

This is what they sent me a few weeks later.

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As for me? Where was I going? I had an early flight the following morning all the way to the west coast of Australia in a place called Perth.

There I met a friend who took me to one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to…along with the happiest animals on Earth!

You Can Never Have Too Many German Freunds

One of the most common questions I get in regards to my traveling is:

“Daniel, how do you have friends that live all over the world?”

It’s simple. I meet them while I’m traveling. In trains, airports, buses, through volunteering, excursions, etc. One of the most frequent means is while backpacking and staying in a variety of hostels with other solo backpackers.

Meeting new people while traveling occurs totally naturally and usually with a lack of effort.

Even here in Melbourne, I’m technically backpacking visiting loads of Aussie’s I met through previous travels and still I’m meeting loads of new people along the way.

But for some reason, a good majority of them strangely are always from Germany.

And all the German backpackers are all here in Australia. Everyone I meet. German. German. German. German. French. German. German.

It’s def not a bad thing though.

If I were to guess, I’d say my German friends now outnumber my regular friends back home. It’s true. After my week in Melbourne, that scale has tipped even further by a hesitant decision I made on my first night back in the city.

I flew into Melbourne from Launceston fairly late in the evening. I landed around 9:30pm, retrieved my bags, and took the double decker bus to the main city. From there, I walked about 15 minutes to the hostel I booked prior, the YHA Melbourne Metro Hostel.

I highly recommend this hostel by the way. It had a great common area to meet loads of travelers.

I reserved a 4-bed dorm as opposed to the 12-bed dorm to reduce my chances of getting stuck with a snorer. It just so happened that underneath my bunk was the loudest snorer in all of Victoria. It was 10:30pm, I was tired and decided to call it a night.

I actually began to doze off in between his snores and not only a few minutes later, I heard the door knob to my room being tampered with from the outside and inaudible drunken chatter. Whoever was outside the door was having trouble getting in. Still, I laid there motionless and slightly annoyed, hoping they were just at the wrong room. Mr. Snorty McSnore below me and the two drunks outside the door…

…How did I get stuck with these people?

Once the two guys finally figured out how to get inside, I popped my head up to see the faces of the culprits making all the ruckus. One of ’em came to me and eagerly introduced himself as Connor (Scotland) and the other was Nicolas (Switzerland). They apologized for being loud which was pretty nice of them to do. Connor was even amazed when I told him I was from the US. We are a rare breed here I guess? Which I think he’s right. I only met one American in Australia so far and she was a nut house.

“We’re going out for a few beers with some people waiting for us downstairs,” Connor began in his Scottish accent. “You should join us! That would be cool!”

I already made up my mind as soon as he started speaking. No. I was cozy in bed already half asleep. It was an easy no, but I thought about it and for some strange reason, I said “Yeah, I’ll come.”

Why did I say that? Now I HAVE to go. I instantly regretted my decision but I went to bed without eating dinner so I was quite hungry, so maybe I’d find some grub on the way. Plus, they were both super nice.

I followed Connor and Nicolas downstairs to a group of backpackers waiting outside.

“Man, everybody knows each other and I’m the odd man out,” I thought to myself.

Turns out that wasn’t the case. Everyone literally just met and most of them were German. Included in that bunch, were two German buddies named Luca and Mahid. They didn’t stay at the hostel, but instead were living in a camper van parked just outside the hostel.

 

 

After the night was said and done (around 4am), I was glad I went out with them. These were the most generous group of backpackers I’ve come across since…well not too long. I met another neat group a couple months ago when I first arrived in Fiji.



Over the next few days, I became tighter with the German group. I would give Luca and Mahid my hostel key to take showers every morning and in return they made me sandwiches they created up from the top of their head which included a combination of bacon, dorito-esque chips, barbecue sauce, and sriracha sauce. It sounds kinda odd but it was actually mighty tasty!

“The chips give it a crunch,” Luca would say.


As a matter of fact, this specific group of backpackers proved to be extremely useful, as they can all cook! They even cooked for me a few times while I stood back and supervised. (I did my part by washing all the dishes afterwards.)

 

I’d also take rides with them in their van to nearby beaches filled with penguins and markets surrounding Melbourne.

Within the week, our group grew with the addition of even more Germans including Tarek, a guy from the outskirts of Paris named Jules and a few other randos, all from Germany.

A good measure to tell if I like ya or not is if I start to make fun of you. The more I can make fun of someone, the more comfortable I am around them. If I can’t poke fun, then it’s because you hold some power over me (boss, teacher, etc) or because I’m unsure about you. I was able to make fun of these guys within just a few hours of meeting them. But with Germans its easier to tease them because of their funny English.

Like the way they pronounce the word “clothes” as “cloTHIS” for example.

Their English was already great, but I took it upon myself to refine it with the help of a professional English speaker such as myself.

Guys, remember to swap your ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds in the English vocabulary!

In addition, I was able to practice my horrible German and learn a few new words to add to my dismal German vocabulary.

During the week, I would periodically leave the backpackers to meet up with other friends I knew around the area. I met up with Ben and his friends again at the noodle market and later also met Nakul’s girlfriend Latha for the very first time. She gave me all sorts of tips for my upcoming trip into India.

I also met up with a former backpacker who joined my party while I was traveling through Nicaragua. Her name is Debbie and she lived in the Fitzroy area of Melbourne.

When I last saw Debbie, I departed from her and Luke while in Costa Rica to stay with some friends of mine there. When I met up with her here at a hip restaurant somewhere in Fitzroy, it was like talking as if we had seen each other just yesterday as opposed to two years. It also happened to be Thanksgiving and so we celebrated by pigging out on the tapa’s plates she chose.

The Fitzroy area is collectively trendy with a lot of unique bars and pubs scattered in the area. Debbie graciously took me through a handful of the ones she liked the best. The Pixel Bar was perhaps my favorite. A bar filled with classic arcade and pinball machines and retro 8-bit inspired art along the walls.

I mentioned to Debbie that I planned on traveling along the Great Ocean Road the next weekend and that if she found the time, she should join along. As a matter of fact, the ordeal of me going to the Great Ocean road was crazy spontaneous. I was presented with the generous gift of a free house over the weekend by my friend Alison, another backpacker I met back in Laos, who was out of the country working in Dubai. The house is situated right on the start of the Ocean Road. Initially, I had a few friends joining me. Mychaela, Josh, and Timo; three volunteers who I met while in Fiji who happened to be in Australia. Also Clint, my friend from the States who was studying here as well. Josh and Timo both got brand new jobs and weren’t able to get the weekend off like they wanted, while Clint got the dates mixed up. Oops.

So now it was just Mychaela and I. How did that happen? We can’t hog this big wonderful house all to ourselves, so I invited some of the backpackers I hung out with all week at the hostel. I knew they would want to go and they were appreciative of me for inviting them. Debbie planned on joining us a day later.

Onward to the Great Ocean Road!