Coming to Australia, I had the faintest clue of what I would be doing here for three months. Other than briefly learning about the common native Australian animals as a child, I did not know much about this country. I have only heard of the major Australian cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and some city close to the Great Barrier Reef (which I later learned is Cairns). I debated over whether to fly into Sydney or Melbourne. My original idea was to find some sort of volunteering opportunity in Sydney to keep myself busy and then travel to Melbourne during my last days of this journey. During my beginning day in Sydney, I was overwhelmed with the variety of different places backpackers commonly visited. I eventually learned about the trail going along the east coast. Typically, backpackers would travel from town to town along the east coast and eventually fly into Alice Springs to visit Uluru. Few backpackers would venture into the west coast. By chance, I embarked on my first Australian adventure on the west coast.
West vs. East
A lot of people asked me which coast I preferred. It is a difficult question because they are completely different experiences and none that I would give up for.
I started my west coast journey with a completely different mindset. I barely even realized that backpackers “do” the coasts. Only arriving in Australia for 10 days, I hopped on my first flight to Perth and began making my way up the west coast with my travelmates via rental car. At the time, the aussie lingo and backpacker mentality was still foreign to me. As a non driver and lack of awareness of the popular attractions, I let my travelmates make most of the decisions. Western Australia is so sparsely populated that you can either feel eerie sometimes because its baroness. We would be driving for kilometers without a sign of other people. On the flip side, we get the luxury of enjoying the tranquil pristine scenery all to ourselves and pretend we own the land because no one else would be there to interject. We would make our itinerary as we go and camp out at nearest camp grounds when it is the evening. For this deserted part of Oz, I am glad to have found like-minded people to explore with (because you are literally stuck with them for the entire ride).
I did a lot more research on the east coast before hitting the road again. I was surprised by how prevalent the backpacking culture was on the east coast. Backpackers make up majority of the tourism along the east coast. There were plenty of hostels, shuttle buses, and tours designed for backpackers. This time around, I traveled alone through the Greyhound’s hop on hop off bus package and stayed in hostels. Ironically, it was a much more social experience as a solo traveler to interact with other backpackers throughout my journey. At the same time, the east coast is much more touristy and crowded with travelers and locals all over.
I was reflecting on my coastal experiences on my flight to Melbourne. I am still amazed over the fact that I had seen majority of both coasts in my short stay in Australia. I tried to think of my favorite spots that I have visited and I realized that it was the people that I have met that contributed immensely to my experience. The weather was not working in my favor for me to truly see the beauty of the Australian landscape. It was the wonderful (and not so wonderful) people and conversations that filled my memories. My camera captured the scenery and my heart safe keeps all the conversations I have shared with people.