We had spent some very beautiful and idyllic days on Boracay – our first experience of the Philippines – prior to arriving in Australia. It was going to be our last Asian stop for a long time. It was going to be the first time in almost six months to be in a ‘Western’ country. How were we going to feel about it?
We landed in Perth. And we immediately had a weird feeling in our tummies. It was grey. Too clean. Too much like home. When the bus departed from the airport, we honestly thought we had landed in Heathrow and were on our way back home. Had our travels come to an end? Should we have stayed in Asia for longer?
In the metro, our feeling grew stronger: we were ‘culture-shock-sick’. Where were all the loud people? The cheerful chattering? The new sounds and sights? Instead, we had squeezed ourselves into a rush hour underground. People were oblivious to us. Everbody was on their phones. No one chatted to one another. You were not allowed to drink nor eat. I swear I heard someone saying ‘Mind the Gap’ over the speakers.
After having settled into our new home for the next days, we took a bus to the city centre of Perth. Where were all the people? The city was empty! Maybe there was an event going on somewhere. No. This is just how empty it gets in this city. We didn’t like it and it felt odd.
After realising that eating some Australian delicacies would simply be too expensive, we decided to look for cheap eats in town. We also craved something Asian. So we went to eat Japanese food. It was delicious. And yet, we couldn’t shook this feeling if ‘meh – ness’. Here we were in the middle of the city centre in Perth eating something Asian. We weren’t proud of ourselves.
As we wander down the street, we spot a sign: AUD $10 for a pint. Seriously? I had paid 20 cents for a pint back in Vietnam. Our budget was GBP £15 per person per day – how were we going to cope in Australia?
Couchsurfing…for the first time!
We were incredibly lucky with our first ever couchsurfing experience. When I contacted Olivia, I did not put my hopes up too much as we only had 1 reference from a friend who did us a favour – and she was the only couchsurfer we knew. Olivia, thankfully, not only replied but she accepted our request right away – for 3 nights. It was clearly meant to be.
Olivia’s home, in a suburb of Perth, was absolutely beautiful. Every item in her house had a story to tell – they live a very sustainable lifestyle (sadly her husband and the dog were away for the week-end) – the whole house was solar – powered and they literally did not have any electricity bills. She was a hugely inspiring person and so fascinating to listen to. We couldn’t have wished for a better newbie couchsurfer experience.
We were lucky enough to have our own bedroom with an immensely comfortable bed. The beach was only a 15-minute walk away. It was Paradise. We enjoyed cooking and eating together. We didn’t want to leave anymore. And suddenly…Australia started to grow on us. Perhaps, this country has something promising in store for us.
It’s a pity we hadn’t done couchsurfing in Asia before. But, the reason was simple: Asia is so incredibly cheap and we loved having our own room for less than GBP £10 per room! But in Australia, where a dorm room costs AUD $50, we were not going to be able to stick to our budget. So we decided to do as many couchsurfs as possible and for the rest of the time, we were going to live and sleep in our car!
Our new home on wheels
Within two days we were the proud owners of a Holden Commodore complete with camping equipment. The registration process in Australia can be hugely confusing and if you are not careful enough you could end up buying a car that you’ll never be able to sell again at the end of the trip. As we had landed in Western Australia, but knew we were going to fly out of Brisbane – Queensland, we bought a car that was registered in NSW (right next to Queensland’s Brisbane). **Update: Here is a comprehensive guide on how to buy a car in Australia**
We literally ate, slept, hung up our washing – basically did everything in our car. It was so much fun!
The best part about it, was to just rock up somewhere and sleep for the night. We were not bound by strict Greyhound bus routes – we were free to sleep anywhere we wanted. Well…almost. Thanks to Wiki Camps, we managed to find wild free camping spots. One night we joined a group of people, sat by the camp fire and listened to them singing and playing on their guitar. It was lovely. We felt like in a movie. This was freedom!
I was curious to find out how I was going to feel about the whole ‘Aussies are friendlier’ – ‘NO! The Kiwis are’ debate. To be honest, everyone we met in Australia was incredibly friendly. Everyone is really easy-going and relaxed.
It’s not difficult to see why Aussies would be so damn happy: sunshine all year round (except in Melbourne…the weather is as temperamental as London sadly), BBQ’s on week-ends, surf…what more do you need in life to be happy? I didn’t feel like the Aussies were arrogant at all. They were too damn easy to be around with. They also never made us feel as if we were the foreigners. It was awesome to be around them.
On one of the first days on the west coast we serendipitously arrived slap bang right in time for the Margie Pro surf competition – so we got up early, cooked our breakfast at the parking lot and spent the whole morning and early afternoon watching professional surfers do what they know best. It was a beautiful relaxing day – everyone was cheering and clapping – the atmosphere was awesome. I love how surfing is such a big part of the Aussie’s life.
It’s a culture I could easily see myself fitting into very easily!
Outback & Wildlife
I loved the ‘real’ Australia – the one just outside of the cities, where you see the kangaroo roadsigns. Where the sand is red. Where it’s endless roads of nothingness and… well…you. I adored the outback! Imagine my face when I first spotted some kangaroos in the wild! I couldn’t believe it…it was one of the best days ever!
We made sure to never drive during ‘roo-hour’ (dawn and dusk) as it is simply too dangerous. If you are unlucky and hit a big enormous male kangaroo, he will probably survive, but you won’t. It’s not worth the risk. If the locals don’t do it, don’t YOU do it either. Stay safe!
Koalas, Emus, Kookaburras, Kangaroos – you name it. Australia is full of incredible wildlife and I will never get tired of seeing them in their natural habitat in the wild…
What was your first impression of Australia? I would appreciate a comment below.