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  • Writer's pictureKaia Colestock

The Ups and Downs

The last several months have been mind-blowing and beyond incredible. Everything we wanted our adventure to be. We had a sufficient length of time to digest the culture of this country and get to know its people, so we thought it worthwhile to put together a list of observations we gathered during our trip. Most were positive, very few challenging, and all were memorable.

  1. Australia is the best of many countries combined. Coastal climates are always mild. People are extremely friendly. Trails are well-maintained. Thunderstorms are intense. Food is delicious. Culture is diverse. Wildlife is everywhere.

  2. Australians value their wildlife and natural places. National parks abound everywhere. Koala bridges are provided at regular intervals across the highway. Wildlife-protective fencing runs along roads. A considerable amount of money goes into preserves and wilderness. And we saw dozens of other changes that made a huge difference - simple things like paper straws or disposable food containers.

  3. Population density per square mileage is low. Socially, it feels like you’re living in the States 50 years ago. People still trust each other. (What a concept!) You don’t have to put in your zip code at the gas pump, nor pay ahead. Economically, Australia is in the present. Infrastructure is up to date in the cities and charmingly-dated in the rural areas. Architecture and creative design is out of this world.

  4. Australians as a whole are so worry-free and laid-back. “No worries” is one of the most common phrases we hear. As Bryson put is in his book, In a Sunburned Country, "everyone is so damned happy." It's true.

  5. There’s no “live to work” mentality. No one works his/herself to death. People live to enjoy life. There is ample time and value placed on self-care.

  6. Environmental literacy is very high. People are already well-versed on most environmental issues affecting wildlife, habitats, and climate regimes. Locals will casually say, “Oh, because of climate change, [this and that]…” and no one attacks. Science is revered, accepted, and commonplace.

  7. Campgrounds are immaculate. If you pay a small fee, you usually get kitchen facilities, flushing toilets, hot showers, occasionally library sitting areas, and cleaned, mowed campsites. Many campgrounds are free.

  8. Round-abouts are EVERYwhere. They replace 99% of all stop lights. Stop signs are just as few and far between. You see signs for “Give Way,” but no stops.

  9. Tolls are streamlined via a transportation app. You register your plate, add payment, and your card is charged every time a camera snaps a photo of your vehicle.

  10. Healthcare is a dream. An impromptu eye exam was $30 with no (local) insurance, but it was the same quality we get in the States.

  11. The most beloved food for locals is the “pie,” or meat pie; a beef stew meat or minced meat with gravy covered with pastry. There are dozens of pie variations. People eat them more than fast food.

  12. Random observation - there are almost no roadkill scavengers, except a few corvids. You see dead wallabies, kangaroos, or other animals on the side of roads, but no vultures exist in Australia.

  13. There’s no tipping system for waiter staff. Once in a while there is a communal jar, but it’s looked down upon to tip an individual person. When you ask for a hotel or meal total, taxes are already included.

  14. Australians take biosecurity very seriously. Intense predator exclusion fencing surrounds the most important wildlife reserves. Park entrances have stations for sanitizing shoes in chemical solution and brushing invasive seeds off your footwear. Foodstuffs are not allowed across state lines, particularly going from Victoria to South Australia. Attempting to sneak in fruit or fresh vegetables will cost you a minimum of $2000.

  15. Americans are not viewed in a favorable light, to put it mildly. And America is seen as a hot mess. No one is eager to go there.

  16. Most trails are elevated boardwalks, and they are found everywhere.

  17. Mental illness is minimal, or at least not visible. [European] Society in Australia feels more at peace than anywhere else we’ve been, to date.

  18. We never saw a homeless person.

  19. Aussie vernacular takes a minute to grasp. Some of the phrases we used often:

  • Hello = G’day

  • A person (male or female) = “mate” in every context

  • Silverware = cutlery

  • Breakfast = brekkie

  • If you want crispy bacon, you ask for it “cremated”

  • A meat-filled pastry = pie

  • To-go = takeaway

  • Anything less than full cream milk = skinny

  • Kangaroo = roo

  • Mosquito = mozzie

  • A grilled sandwich = toastie

  • A pit toilet = long drop

Maybe not the best sign to put up at a campervan rental business....? For what exactly are you prepping us?

We had to think of some challenges to balance all this jubilation. We could only come up with a handful:

  • There are few to no road shoulders at all. You only see guard rails if your life is in considerable jeopardy. Australians love their precipitous drop-offs.

  • You’re hard-pressed to find farmer’s markets or fresh produce with regular consistency. Aussie has a lot of fried foods and meat pies. After coming from the agriculture hub of California, we felt a glaring absence of farm-to-table foods.

  • Fuel is expensive. $1.70-2.00 per liter here comes out to about $6.50-$7.50 per gallon. We get it, this is an island. Then again, everyone is on an island.

  • You have to watch your toes for venomous critters, and take wildlife encroachment seriously. Stingers, snakes, and spiders, for starters.

  • Leeches - don’t take a dip in a creek or walk on a wet trail without expecting a few. They are relatively harmless, but really gross.

  • Flies! You’re starting to see a pattern of annoying invertebrates. Flies were especially bad this year because of extended rains. The Australian fly is a special breed of madness, or at least that’s what it turns you into when it‘s present. They are insanity itself (i.e. they'll land on the same place on your face an indefinite number of times, expecting a different result).

Even with the challenges, we would still give Australia a 10 out of 10. It’s difficult to imagine another place on earth that is more appealing environmentally, socially, and economically. We hope to interact more with indigenous cultures when we come back. We look forward to returning as soon as possible to the Land Down Under.

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