By Ellie Hutchings
Bursting with idyllic beaches, flourishing forest and home to the infamous Great Barrier Reef, it’s no wonder that Australia’s east coast is a hotspot for backpackers.
In the autumn of 2017, I spent two months in Australia with my best friend. It was the trip of a lifetime and I hesitate to say that I would change anything about it, but, if I had to, I would have spent more time on the east coast.
I’m sure the journey is equally as enjoyable whether travelling downwards or up, but we chose the former: beginning in Cairns and making our way down to Sydney over the course of three weeks. For complete travel novices like us, Australia is a fantastic first experience due to the ease with which backpackers are able to get around. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we owe our experience to Greyhound Buses.
The Greyhound Bus is a hop-on-hop-off service where you simply pay for a ticket from your starting point to your end destination and you’re free to get on and off along the route wherever you please, with no fixed time scale. Between Cairns and Sydney, we chose to stop at Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach (from which we took a boat tour out to the Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach), Hervey Bay (spending a night on Fraser Island while we were there), Noosa Heads, Brisbane, Surfers Paradise, Byron Bay and Sydney. Every single spot we visited was indescribably beautiful, but Fraser Island blew them all out of the water.
It’s difficult to not look back on my time in Australia with rose-tinted glasses. Although it was an incredible experience, backpacking isn’t always completely care-free and nomadic in the way that I feel a lot of people make it out to be. While living so minimally was freeing in a lot of ways (the ease with which you can travel around, the lack of dependence on luxuries, the flexible timetable), it certainly had its drawbacks. For me, the worst part about living out of a backpack was the lingering smell of what I can only describe as damp bikini that enveloped everything I owned. No matter how often we washed our clothes, the act of constantly shoving not-quite-dry swimwear in our bags upon realising we had a bus to catch meant that we could never truly shake the smell. As drawbacks go, however, I suppose it’s a pretty minor one.
Overall, I can’t recommend the experience enough. As cliché as it sounds, travelling with just the items strapped to your back truly makes you realise how little it’s possible to live with, and it didn’t take long for me to stop missing the luxuries that I’d become used to in daily life. Of the mountainous bundle of clothes I took with me, I think I ended up wearing the same outfits that were left on top of my bag on repeat!