While Schoolies week is busy turning the Gold Coast into an drunken underage orgy, the weather in Brisbane is most definitely necessitating a trip to the beach. Fortunately enough, residents of Brisbane have plenty of options. This trip, we took the option of the very underrated Dicky beach up on the Sunshine Coast, named after the shipwreck adorning the sand near the flags.
If you have ever even heard of Texas, you will know two things about this mythical state in the United States of America. Firstly, that everything is bigger in Texas, and secondly, that Texans love Texas.
Visiting Texas, these two facts lead you to believe that everything will be oversized and over the top. And in Amarillo, we were lucky enough to stay in a hotel that more then delivered on those promises.
Imagine putting together two things from your childhood to create one awesome thing. Remember that little trampoline that oh-so-many of us had? It had a diameter of about a metre and barely gave you enough air to badly hurt yourself if you fell off. (Which I suspect was a tactical design characteristic)
This weekend Brisbane was lucky enough to be the host of the G20 (group of 20); a meeting of the leaders of 19 different countries and the EU held annually so these leaders can discuss and knot-out some of the biggest problems facing the world.
Travelling in foreign cities usually necessitates at least some sort of involvement with tour companies, be it for a day, week or month. In a city like San Francisco, where the main industry is tourism, you will be presented with an insane number of options for tours.
Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches, and Brisbane is a city fortunate enough to have a lot of them close by. A couple of months ago, I made the trek down to Byron Bay to see what it was all about, and I was most definitely impressed.
It is around about a 2 hour drive down down the East coast from Brisbane to Byron Bay, into Queenslands neighbouring state of NSW, so long as you keep your wits about you and avoid peak hour at all costs. If you’re planning on driving down around 5 on a Friday, you can expect that two hour drive to be more like a three hour drive, and very, very slow.
But even if you have to drive three hours, it’s worth it to check out what Byron has to offer. Do yourself a favour and if you are visiting Byron, give yourself at least one night there, it is very much the kind of place that backpackers plan to spend a week, and end up there for months. The kind of place you can fall in love with way to easily.
The vibe of the town is extremely chilled out, and you get the feeling that anyone who is in a hurry is definitely not a local. Organic cafe’s line the streets and almost every door remains open, allowing amazing aromas to spill onto the street and entice potential visitors to follow their noses and stomaches.
Amazing as the food and coffee is, it is not the main attraction in Byron, typical of an Australian costal town, the main attraction is, of course, the beach. Golden sand stretches between coastal cliffs, and is staunchly guarded by the Byron Bay lighthouse, the crisp white figure is recognised as the most Eastern point of the Australian mainland, and offers a breathtaking view of the Bay.
Byron offers a huge amount of coastal walks, some of them up very steep hills, which are definitely on my list for my next winter visit there. If you aren’t hoping to swim, it is worth a visit to Byron in winter, the views are just as spectacular and the walks a little easier, but be warned, it will be cold, especially at night. Cold though, for an Australian, those of you from a little further North (ie. in the hemisphere above) will probably not even notice.
But for this Australian, summer is the time to visit Byron, to float around in the water and dry off in the sand, maybe with a beer from one of Byron’s many microbreweries. (Specifically, Stone and Wood Pacific, but you can read more about them in the coming weeks).
So if you are visiting Brisbane, and have a couple of days to yourself, Byron should definitely hold a space on your “to do” list.
When I first went travelling solo, everyone said that it is so easy to make friends, and that I’ll make the best friends ever while travelling. And this is 100% true, everything happens for a reason, and the situations in which you meet people travelling are so precarious, I find those are the situations where you meet the people that will have a massive impact on your life.
Sometimes your encounters with people are so short, but they’ll always be intense, you might spend a week with someone, for them to become one of your best friends. When you think about it, it makes sense you’ll have an instant connection with those people you meet travelling; they are the same sort of person as you, who get the feeling that there is so much world out there to discover, and who are dead set that they’ll discover it.
I met some absolutely amazing people travelling, and most definitely left bits of my heart scattered across the globe with them, and my trip most definitely would not have been the same without them. Whether it is a great group on a tour, a great tour leader, or sometimes the girl at breakfast who you catch also stealing extra muffins for later.
So you can put your mind at ease when travelling solo, that you will make friends, and they’ll take your trip from great to unforgettable.
I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to make friends in general, but it is different when you’re not actually obliged to have contact with other people for an extended amount of time; and so without further ado, here are the best tips I have for making friends while abroad.
1) Don’t be scared
This might be easier said then done if you’re a little on the shy side, but really, if you’re the kind of person who psyched themselves into travelling alone, you’re probably not that shy. Don’t be worried about looking like an idiot if you just strike up a conversation with someone in the common room. It is a little scary, but realistically, even if you’re unlucky enough to be talking to a grumpy pants, they’ll probably be gone to their next destination in a couple of days, so who cares.
2) Do the hostel activities
If your hostel has an outing for a hike, or a trivia night or whatever, go to it. I went to a lot, and never saw anyone by themselves for very long. Everyone goes on those things to socialise, that is kind of the point of them. Plus, the tour guides have been told where to go by locals, so you usually see some pretty cool stuff.
3) Go to breakfast.
Apart from the fact that it is the most important meal of the day, I made a LOT of friends by just going to breakfast in the hostels. There is usually pretty limited seating, so you almost always have to join someone else’s table, but even if it’s not necessary, do it, sit down, chat to people, and next minute you’ve got a little crew joining you on your adventures. (Or, like Helen and I did in Vancouver, just pretend to be tour guides, then you’ll have an even bigger crew)
4) Respect different cultures
To some of you, this might seem like a pretty obvious one, and yet, I still heard a lot of people taking the mickey out of someones accent, or the way they spoke. Don’t be a dick, no-one likes a dick. You’ll meet a lot of people who do different things to you, who might be a stickler for religion, may speak little english, who might have a very different dress sense. You don’t have to convert your life to match theirs, but at least respect the difference.
5) Ask questions
You’re travelling to discover stuff aren’t you? Don’t go into a conversation thinking you know everything, you’ll learn so much more if you learn to listen to people, instead of sticking to a pre-conceived idea of how the world is. Plus, you might find out about some pretty amazing places that you didn’t even know you HAVE to visit.
6) Watch for stragglers
If there is someone at an activity or anything standing on their own, go and talk to them. Chances are they will be fully up for a conversation, and are just a little too shy to go up to people. Plus, if you are nice to people who need it most, the universe will give you some good karma, probably in that you’ve just met an awesome person.
7) Meet your roommates
If you are staying in a dorm room, it is a no-brainer way to make friends to be nice to the people in your dorm. I had some wicked roommates while I was travelling, and we went on many an adventure.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the ways to make friends abroad, but hopefully it will give anyone planning a solo trip a bit of peace of mind that it is easy to make friends, and you definitely will.
Remember too, that we’re lucky enough to be part of a world where it is super easy to stay in contact with people around the globe, grab peoples Facebooks, Skype, Email and whatever other methods of communicating online that you have and stay in touch with them! Because saying goodbye really sucks, but it is a lot easier when it is a “see you later” as opposed to a finite goodbye.
Enjoy these pictures too, of just some of the incredible people I met travelling, all of whom I shared adventures, the occasional drunken D&M, and many a laugh with.
There are so many more people who could have been up here! But a special mention to two of my two favourite backpackers in Australia, Martin, who we lost to Portsmouth before I returned, and Becca of Kent, who leaves today for her next adventure.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is no wonder that the Grand Canyon attracts around five million visitors each year. The Canyon is an absolute must see for anyone hunting down some quality scenery, and it is hard to really go wrong with a visit there. But believe it or not, there is a big difference between doing it, and doing it well.
I was lucky enough to see the Grand Canyon from both the West rim and the South rim; and while both sides gave breathtaking views, there can only be one winner. And for me, that was the South rim, although it does depend on the kind of Canyon experience that you are really after, and of course, budget and time constraints. But seeing as the South rim was my favourite, that is the one that I’m featuring today (don’t worry, we’ll get to the West Rim eventually).
Basically, if you are after a full on Canyon experience, with the panoramic views and giant hikes, the South rim is for you, whereas if you want to more just get a feel for what it’s about, West rim it is.
To do the canyon properly on the South rim, necessitates staying the night there, and dare I say it, getting up really early. There are few things that can beat watching the sunrise from deep within the belly of the Grand Canyon, and if you can push past the urge to hit “snooze” too many times, it is well worth it. Staying a night at the Canyon makes experiencing all it has to offer a lot easier, you’ll never hike it at dawn if you have to leave vegas at midnight to complete the 4.5 (approximate) drive to the South rim!
That being said, the decision to hike into the canyon is one that requires a bit of science and common sense however, as from in a single day, the Canyon can go from freezing cold to absolutely sweltering.
Putting two and two together, we know that it gets hotter as we get closer to midday, and we know that it is harder to hike uphill then downhill. Simple as it sounds, a lot of people seem to not realise this, and the canyon has claimed many a victim to exhaustion and dehydration, with hikers setting off down into the South rim mid-morning, only to be crawling back up when the desert heat hits.
Fortunately enough, when I visited the South rim, my partner-in-canyon Anna and I both realised this, and so a 4:30am alarm was set for our hike into the canyon.
And boy, was it worth it.
Even if you don’t want to do a hike, getting up at the crack of dawn is worth it to see the sunrise over the Canyon, it really is spectacular, and my amateur photography doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. Sorry, I did my best but it looks like you’ll just have to go there!
One thing to mention about this hike though, is that this is a natural wonder of the world, and world heritage listed site, which means, there are no guard-rails. None. Just you, a sometimes very narrow pathway, and one hell of a drop on the other side. As you might have guessed, this means that I wouldn’t recommend this hike for those who struggle walking in a straight line, or who are petrified of heights (a little fear is healthy, but too much just ruins it for you).
I would rate this trail as an intermediate level of difficulty, there are times when it gets pretty steep and quite a few times when it could be a little scary. In saying that, Anna and I hiked only a small part of the trail, we definitely didn’t go right to the bottom of the canyon (a recommended two day hike); I imagine doing that is a fair bit more difficult.
Another must-see part of the South Rim is Hopi point, which provides amazing panoramic views of the canyon and is particularly beautiful at sunset (and even better if you sneak in some bubbles like we did); there are free busses that run along the main lookout points on the south rim and it is only a short ride to Hopi point. Where you can enjoy a view like this:
Pretty amazing right? But rest assured, if you find that yourself still at the campsite with sunset closing in, that isn’t exactly a terrible view either.
Again though, these photos can never come close to doing the canyon justice!
I’ve just scraped the surface today of what the Grand Canyon has to offer, stay tuned over the coming months for reviews on helicopter flights and a more in-depth comparison between the South rim, and the West rim.
If you have visited the canyon, particularly the south rim, I’d love to hear from you! Bombard me with your amazing photos! And enjoy this sneaky one of Anna and I mid hike.
Thank you, kind stranger, you captured a beautiful moment, if not our most flattering angle.
Nestled on the corner of Kelsey and Martha streets in the Martha St. precinct of East Brisbane, Amble and Adore is the newest addition to this cluster of cafe’s. Previously Birdee and Mia’s, Amble and Adore replaced the much loved cafe’ after the owners sold to follow their hearts and travel abroad.
Welcome, Readers, to The Wild Australian.
This is a blog for those of us with restless minds, those who can’t stay in one place too long, and most importantly, love to travel. For my fellow Australians who got loose and went wild, and for anyone else visiting the places mentioned!
If you have, or plan to live out of a suitcase at any stage, you have come to the right place to collect all the travel advice I have on the places I’ve been. From the best (and worst) places to eat and drink, the best tours, and the things that you just have to see to believe, as well as some general tips when visiting and travelling these places.
So with no delay, let me introduce the sections that we’ll have for you to explore!
Home: Is where the heart is, but also the main navigational page… where you are right now!
The more you know: These are some general tips for various cities and countries that you might like to visit.
Through the shutter: These are the most amazing places I have been, be it to experience nature, architecture or just a really cool place to visit. Bear in mind here, I’m no photographer, but I’ve done my best to capture what the place is all about, but no photo will ever do justice to some of these, there is always more to see, and lets not forget your other senses!
Just do it: The best experiences there are in all corners of the world! These are things I have done wherever I’ve gone that have been amazing!
Cribs: Great places to stay, with options for every budget, if you like a little comfort, or you’re on your own and out to meet as many fellow travellers as possible. Loads of different types of travelling, loads of accommodation preferences, here you can find some amazing hotels, hostels and airbnb accommodation, and some tips on finding the place to suit you.
Noms: Best places to get some of the best food! I love food, so a food win is a life win, these are the best places to go to eat when you’re exploring if you too, think food equals happiness.
Quality drops: Cool bars and drinks to try! Responsibly, of course, loads of places to suit purposes, for places to enjoy a quiet vino, to places where you can dance like you’re caught in a blender.
Now hear this: Things to avoid (my dad says this right before a warning), while I don’t like negativity, there are some things better left unexperienced. These are the things that I’d never recommend, other people may have had different experiences, but when I did it, it sucked.
So get your wanderlust on and plan a trip with some sound advice from someone who has been there, done that, and got many a T-shirt.