Seeking to recapture the magic we experienced on our road trip honeymoon back in 2014, we recently hired a huge Maui campervan (amazing!) and hit the road, bound for our friends’ wedding in beautiful Mission Beach, QLD. A lazy 7000+ kilometres later, we returned home to Melbourne – relaxed, full to the brim with memories and freeeezing after the warm temperatures up north.
Thankfully, these days, I don’t suffer too badly from the post-holiday blues (flexible business doing what I love, FTW!). But I have felt rather reflective since my return, and wanted to document three things this holiday reminded me to keep front of mind as I ease myself back into business / life as usual. Here they are:
1 // Stay curious
As a Sagittarian homebody, I am a rare creature indeed. According to my star sign, I should be off gallivanting around the planet, feeding a never-ending appetite for wanderlust. And, yet other than the occasional adventure in the comfort of our home state, I’m usually more than content to stay home. I like routine, familiarity, solitude and safety. Too many places, people and sensory experiences leave me wanting to crawl into a cave and hide. In other words, it’s a big deal for me to plunge myself into new surroundings and scenarios.
And yet, our outback honeymoon – during which we explored some of the most vast and unforgiving landscapes in the world, coupled with some pretty confronting cultural realities – was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It stretched me, challenged me and opened my eyes to new discoveries both beyond me and inside me. So, when our friends announced they’d be getting married in Mission Beach, all the way up in northern QLD, we realised this was the perfect opportunity to do another road trip up through the guts of this country we love so much.
Not surprisingly, when we told people we were going to drive from Melbourne rather than simply catch a ride in the comfort of a big jet plane, most people declared, “You’re crazy!” And, look, I get it – road trips (particularly 7000km road trips) aren’t for everyone. But I do wonder how many even stop to consider the longer route as an option, such is our appetite these days for instant gratification – the quicker we can get where we’re going, the better.
And yet – clichés aside – sometimes the magic really does lie in the journey rather than the destination. We considered flying for a brief moment, but as we looked at the great vast map of Australia, tracing our fingers along the highways and through all those tiny country towns along the way, curiosity got the better of us. What’s out there, we wondered? Who lives there? What is the history of that place? How does the landscape change as the kilometres fly by? All of these questions would have remained unanswered had we simply flown over the opportunity to explore more of this great brown land of ours. By being down on the road, we got to dig our fingers into so many new places, landscapes and experiences – and, yes, while the destination was absolutely beautiful, it was the journey there and home again that made our trip one we’ll always remember.
Curiosity led us to Carnarvon Gorge, even though it was out of our way and a pain to get to (our big lumbering camper did not appreciate 30 kilometres of rutted gravel road). Yet, lo and behold, it was the absolute highlight of our trip. A tropical wonderland – brimming with rocky outcrops, waterfalls and wildlife. Basically, paradise on earth!
Curiosity also led us to the Hunter Valley Zoo, even though we don’t have kids and looked completely out of place. But, we adore animals and the opportunity to spend a morning up close and personal, geeking out on new and unusual species, was just too good to resist. Not surprisingly, we loved every second.
The lesson: follow your curiosities – even if they’re uncool / uncouth / unwhatever. Often it’s the road less travelled that leads to the greatest experiences and the best memories.
A wild cotton plant on the side of the highway in outback NSW.
Countless river crossings and ancient rainforest wilderness at Carnarvon Gorge.
Having a chat with the locals at Hunter Valley Zoo.
2 // Expect Embrace the unexpected
Anyone who knows me knows I like to be organised, in control and prepared down to the smallest detail. When it comes to travel, I admit: this makes me a rather rigid, no-fun Nancy. The reality is though that control only goes so far – with travel (and life!) subject to surprises at every turn. This played out in the form of a record-breaking storm along the east coast of NSW. We arrived in the Hunter Valley on a Friday, looking forward to two days of hiking and winery hopping, all while enjoying the last of the late autumn sunshine. Um, not quite. Instead, it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Two straight days of constant rain saw us simply throw our hands in the air and retreat to the comfort of our camper.
I could have turned into an insufferable grump about this. After all, it was – God forbid! – not what I’d planned. But, what do you know? Those two days spent rugged up in our cosy camper, surviving on cups of soup, laughing ourselves silly, binge watching Girls and dashing through the rain to get to the toilet block, were two of my favourite days of our trip. That time together in such close confines was exactly what we needed, and gave me memories I’ll cherish forever.
The lesson: Don’t just expect the unexpected, embrace it. Often, it’s exactly what you need. Even if it’s not, find a way to rock it anyway.
Hunter Valley wineries (note the stormy sky ready to pour!).
Spectacular Fitzroy Falls.
3 // Use your time wisely
While we saw some spectacular sights on our trip, my favourite thing was simply spending three uninterrupted weeks with my wonderful husband. As we cruised along roads in the middle of nowhere, side by side in our humongous camper, taking in the landscape around us, discussing the next crop of up and coming F1 talent (serious business in our household), reminiscing, singing, laughing – I just felt so very lucky to have that time. After all, nothing beats quality time with our loved ones. And yet, when holidays are over, it’s so easy to return to a time-starved mentality. The truth is that we choose how to spend our time – and this applies equally to the easy, open days of holidays and the harder, chaotic days of our everyday lives.
So, while of course I miss those three uninterrupted weeks, I recognise it’s up to me to keep using my time wisely now our holiday is over. To stop mindlessly scrolling through my phone. Close my laptop early when I can and do some art. Call my Mum and have an actual conversation. Jump in the car and do something fun on a random Tuesday – because, well, why the hell not? This ‘seize the day’ mentality has no doubt been influenced by the fact that people we know and love received some pretty crappy diagnoses while we were away, including the dreaded C-word. There’s nothing like these awful wake-up calls, these scary reminders of our own mortality, to make you stop, reassess and give your best life your very best shot.
So, the lesson: life is short, guys. Clichéd, I know – but true. Call your loved ones. Make the hours count. Soak it all up. As the saying goes: this is not a dress rehearsal.
Beautiful Mission Beach.
Whisper-quiet Hydeaway Bay.
And, in case you’re planning a trip of your own (do it!), here are our favourite places from Melbourne to Mission Beach:
On the road, somewhere in the middle of nowhere.