Plastic Free Life On The Road

Those of you who follow us on Facebook will know that we recently took part in Plastic Free July; a month long challenge which encourages participants to refuse single use plastics. We were unsure as to how difficult this challenge would be while on the road, but we thought it was worth a shot! We see so much plastic on the side of highways, in campsites, and on beaches and it drives me a little bit insane. The more we thought about the challenge the more I realised how much of today’s products come exclusively in plastic: whether it’s cherry tomatoes and berries, dairy products, or toilet paper. The month wasn’t without its difficulties and there was definitely some unexpected plastic, but overall I think we managed to reduce our plastic usage by about 95%. Now that the challenge is over we have relaxed some things, but there are also lots of newly formed habits that we won’t be letting go of! Here’s some super simple steps to living a less plasticy life! 

1. Remember your reusable grocery bags.

This is the easiest way to avoid plastic. Single use grocery bags are horrible for the environment. They never fully break down but they do fall apart into tiny pieces that animals end up eating. We’ve been using our own grocery bags for quite a while but we used to forget to bring them quite often. During July our plastic usage was at the forefront of our minds and we always remembered our bags. If you do forget why not just put your groceries loose in your trolley and pack them directly into your van? It’s one benefit of having your kitchen on wheels! 

2. Avoid plastic produce bags.

Have you ever questioned why you put your bananas into a plastic bag only to take them out again when you get home? There are lots of reusable produce bag options available but we just went without. For small things like green beans we used the paper mushroom bags. We also avoided all prepackaged produce. It turns out this is often the cheaper option-loose mushrooms are so much cheaper, but for some reason I used to always buy them prepackaged without even thinking about it! 

plastic free

What a plastic free cart looks like

3. Take the time for a dine in coffee.

It’s estimated that in Australia over 1 billion takeaway coffee cups are disposed of every year. These cups are plastic lined and don’t biodegrade and few recycling plants are able to process them. We travel slowly and are rarely in a rush to get anywhere. Going out for coffee is a treat for us so we choose to dine in and avoid plastic that way. If you’re someone that has a takeaway coffee every morning or like your coffee on the go, invest in a keep cup. Lots of coffee shops offer a discount if your use your own cup! It doesn’t have to be an official keep cup either- a cheap travel mug works just the same.

4. No straws please!

Our oceans are filled with single use plastic straws. Sometimes the plastic straws even come wrapped in plastic! I don’t know about you, but my arms are strong enough to lift my glass all the way to my mouth. Lots of bars and restaurants are getting involved by only giving straws by request but if you want to be sure to avoid plastic just let them know you don’t want a straw (explaining your reason might even get them on board!) 

plastic free

source:ukonserve.com

5. Use a refillable water tank 

Last year when we travelled in California we bought big single use water jugs from the supermarket. Now we have a 23 litre water tank that we refill. We use the Wikicamps app to find places with potable water(you usually find it near dump points) or fill it up whenever we’re in a caravan park. Not only does this avoid lots of plastic waste, but it’s saved us a ton of money! 

6. Buy meat at the butcher/deli

Meat is one of slightly more difficult things to buy plastic free. Prepackaged meat in the supermarket comes in plastic trays . You can bring your own containers and ask the butcher to fill them, or just ask them to use as little plastic as possible. The same goes for bread-buy it in a bakery. 

7. Don’t get downhearted 

There were times during July when I felt like our efforts where completely futile. When we were in beautiful places completely littered with rubbish. When we were served unexpected plastic. When I really wanted bread and there were no plastic free options. It’s important to remember that every little step you take does make a difference. Small changes add up to make big impacts. Plastic free July and the War on Waste documentaries are what pushed Coles and Woolworths to #banthebag. Your choices as a consumer do matter. Equally, it’s not your fault that the world is so full of plastic. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to buy something in plastic. We didn’t give up dairy even though we couldn’t find non plastic options. We recently needed some car maintenance products which all came in plastic- we just couldn’t avoid it. The fact that you’re even reading this post shows that you care-which is more that can be said for a lot of people. 

plastic free

Sometimes despite our best efforts we still accumuluated plastic

Is plastic free living more expensive?

The answer to this one isn’t exactly straight forward. Some of the products we usually buy in plastic were more expensive-such as peanut butter in glass or pasta in cardboard boxes. However, over all our groceries were cheaper in July because we couldn’t buy any expensive processed foods. Our diets were also really healthy and mostly plant based! Buying food in bulk stores can also help you to save money and reduce your waste, while also supporting local business-win win!

If you do find reducing your plastic usage too difficult I would definitely encourage you to try to pick up plastic litter when you see it. Nobody likes to see litter but often we complain about it and forget that we can actually do something about it! We particularly try to pick up litter when we see it near waterways, because plastic can do so much damage when it enters the water. Good luck!

Should you visit the Eyre Peninsula?

Many people that we met along the Nullarbor were planning on driving right past the Eyre peninsula and making a bee line for Adelaide. One couple that we met informed us that there was less to do on the peninsula than there was on the Nullarbor. We decided we would go experience it and make that judgement for ourselves.

We had an awesome time there and here’s why….

Crazy coastline

Í don’t know if we’ve ever been somewhere that has a sculpture park along the Cliffside, but it was a pretty cool experience! It’s just one example of the diverse coastline you’ll find here on the Eyre peninsula.

Eyre Peninsula our migration patterns

Cliffside sculptures in Elliston

 

Eyre Peninusla our migration patterns

Wild waves in Coffin bay

National parks

There are two beautiful national parks on the Eyre peninsula- Coffin Bay, and Lincoln national park. They both contain beachside camping, awesome fishing, hiking, wildlife, and picturesque vistas. Coffin bay also has plenty of tracks for four wheel drive enthusiasts!

eyre peninsula our migration patterns

Skipping rocks in Lincoln national park

Eyre Peninsula our migration patterns

Sunset at Yangie bay lookout, Coffin bay

 

food

Coffin bay is known for its oyster so its certainly worth visiting if you’re a seafood lover. Port Lincoln is home to our favourite bakery of the trip (and we have tried a fair few)- Hage’s bakery. Try their donut of the week.

Our migration patterns eyre peninsula

First breakfast out of the trip at The Rogue and Rascal cafe,Port Lincoln. Did not disappoint!

wildlife

We saw so many emus and kangaroos in the national parks in the Eyre peninsula. We woke up one night to a kangaroo digging through our bin. Emus roamed freely throughout the campsite. If you’re feeling particularly eager  for a unique wildlife encounter you can go shark cage diving in Port Lincoln.

our migration patterns eyre peninsula

Emus in Coffin bay

history

We were surprised to find that there is a wealth of history throughout the Eyre peninsula. There are many memorials for the “founder of south Australia”, Matthew Flinders. The tale of his explorations are woven through the peninsula, in the names of features (such as Point Avoid) and in the landscape itself (such as the areas of land he cleared to try to farm).

eyre peninsula our migration patterns

A memorial to Matthew Flinders atop Stamford Hill

 

hiking

There are great hiking networks throughout the  peninsula, including the investigator trail which is an 89 kilometre trail following Matthew Flinders’ original exploration. Lincoln national park contains one of Australia’s top 40 great walks- the Stamford Hill hike. It’s a relatively easy walk with stunning views at the summit.

eyre peninsula our migration patterns

The view from the top

community

One of the most awesome things in the Eyre peninsula was the amount of volunteers who gave up their time for their community. From the volunteer run book store in Port Lincoln to the blacksmith museum in Tumby Bay whose volunteers couldn’t have been more accommodating. It’s amazing that there are so many people willing to invest their time to preserve the history of their communities. It certainly made the Eyre peninsula somewhere that we will always remember.

our migration patterns eyre peninsula

Fitzgerald Bay campsite

 

 

 

Experience Esperance

Our drive to Esperance was quite the journey. The crazy weather we’ve been experiencing caused a whole string of road closures, including a collapsed bridge on the main highway. We actually had a pretty hard time trying to find a detour between Albany and Esperance. The route we eventually had to take was a massive detour, bringing us all the way to Lake King, along hundreds of kilometres of gravel road, and through a small river. In some ways it was an annoyance to have to go so far out of the way and use so much more fuel, but in other ways it was definitely an adventure. We even got to see some emus crossing the road, which was pretty exciting!
After all that it was certainly a relief to arrive in Esperance where, thankfully, the sun was shining! Better yet, we found that there is a fortune of things to do in the area.From its miles of coastline to its quirky shops, its certainly a town worth visiting!
Experience Esperance

Observatory Point on The Great Ocean Drive

The town of Esperance is situated right by the ocean. The esplanade runs along the length of the bay, and is a bustling street filled with people walking, fishing, and enjoying the scenery. There are parks, an indoor mini golf course, and jetties to walk down. One of my favourite spots was the Coffee Cat, a coffee van on the esplanade that’s a local favourite. The Esperance museum was surprisingly cool, with a really massive collection of historical items from shells to a whole steam train. It’s situated right next to the museum village which is a model historical village containing some pretty cool unique shops. 

One of our favourite spots in Esperance was the Lucky Bay Brewing company. This brewery is as local as it gets. The barley comes from local farms, each variety of beer is named after a local beach, and the brewery itself is essentially a farm house. The people are friendly, the beer is good, and they can make up one litre cans or growlers to take away. You won’t regret getting a tasting tray.

Experience esperance

The biggest can I’ve ever drank!

Great Ocean Drive

Esperance is famous for its magnificent white sand beaches, and there’s plenty of them to choose from. The Great Ocean Drive is a 40 kilometre circular drive that begins near the centre of town at the Esplanade and winds its way around the wealth of perfect beaches in the area. The are plenty of look out points, access to four wheel drive beaches, and even a nudist beach along the way! One of the most popular beaches is Twilight Cove, a beautiful bay with sparkling blue water and a large “rock with a hole in it” that people were jumping off of. We had lunch at the picnic tables there and had a lovely walk through the soft sand. This beach is patrolled by life guards so it’s safe for the kids too!
Experience Esperance

The rock with a hole in it

Also on this drive is Esperance’s Pink Lake. Now, if you’ve looked at visiting Esperance you’ve probably seen photos of a strawberry milkshake coloured lake. That’s lake Hillier and it’s located on an island off the coast of Esperance. Pink lake, despite its name, is not nearly as pink. The pink colour of these lakes is caused by a type of bacteria found in salty lakes. Lots of the bacteria coupled with high temperatures equals a very pink lake! Apparently Pink Lake hasn’t been particuarly pink in quite a while. The day we saw it it did have a pale peach kind of colour. Not quite a strawberry milkshake, but still worth taking a look at!
Experience Esperance

The not so Pink Lake

Cape Le Grand

About an hour East of Esperance is Cape Le Grand national park. It’s a place of perfect white beaches and majestic granite peaks, a sprawling space where bushland, mountains and sea all collide to create a haven of nature. The most famous of beaches in the park is Lucky Bay. Home to a friendly family of kangaroos, the whitest beaches in Australia, and a coffee van that whips up your order directly on the beach, it’s no wonder this bay is so popular. Best of all, it has a national park campground that has hot showers, a camp kitchen, and flushing toilets for $10 per person a night! When we were here the recent storms had wreaked havoc on the beach, there was seaweed all over the shore and the sand was almost like mud in parts. But as soon as we got into the water it was beautiful. It felt like we were in Hawaii, surounded by granite peaks and with water so clear we could see our feet, it was an awesome experience.

The Kangaroos are friendly in Cape Le Grand!

If you’re into hiking there’s plenty to do in Cape Le Grand. We were eager to do Frenchman’s Peak, which looked very cool from the ground and promised breathtaking views across the park. But, of course, we were greeted with a thunder storm just as we were planning to set off. Thankfully the park is close enough to home for us to do it another time.
Experience Esperance

Snow White Sand in Cape Le Grand

Cape Arid

Cape Arid is another park that the weather negatively impacted on. The park is mostly four wheel drive and of course the recent rain fall had resulted in plenty of road closure. Nevertheless we camped in one of the more easily accessible campsites in the park, Thomas River Fishery. There are actually two campsites on Thomas River. One that used to belong to the shire, and one that has always belonged to the national park service. Go to the national park one! The shire one needs a serious upgrade in terms of the facilities on offer and they’re both the same price. From both campsites you can walk to the beach, have access to four wheel drive tracks, can see lots of nature, and are generally surrounded by beautiful wildlife.
Experience Esperance

Thomas River in Cape Arid

 Our time in Esperance was unforgettable, punctuated by beautiful scenery, wildlife encounters and awesome food and drink. Without a doubt, there’s something in this gorgeous coastal town for everybody to enjoy.
experience esperance our migration patterns

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Guide to Australia’s Great Southern Region

Experience the great southern on a budget

Our first week of travel has been filled with adventure, hiking, and, unfortunately, a lot of rain. It’s currently the height of summer in Australia but as I write this I’m hiding in the car from the rain and wind. We’ve been trying to make the best of our time in the Great Southern region because, despite the weather, this really is a beautiful part of Western Australia. With a stunning coastline, hikes of all assortment and dozens of four wheel drive tracks, this region truly caters towards the adventurous spirit. We’ve kept this article as a list of free attractions in the Great Southern-perfect for the budget backpacker- but some of the national parks do have entry fees. I thought I’d include them anyway because so many travelers buy national park passes.

 

Walpole

Our first stop on our big adventure was D’entrecastreux national park near the town of Walpole. The majority of this park is accessible by four wheel drive only, and the few two wheel drive roads are unsealed, which may be something to consider when driving a rental car! However, when you do get into the park you’ll be greeted by a seriously beautiful and almost untouched coastline. The park is actually quite big and has several entrances. We saw a small portion of it, but we loved it all.

Mandalay beach was a highlight of our time here. From the soft white sand to the visible remains of a shipwreck it definitely scores highly on our list of favourite beaches. There are some cool rock formations here and an island off the shore. We even found a small animal skull! The beach is two wheel drive accessible but it is a gravel road, and quite a corrugated one. We were surprised to find that our beer hadn’t shattered.

Great Southern

Beautiful Mandalay Beach

We also took a four wheel track drive to long point. This was actually a much longer track than we had anticipated, but it did offer great views of the surrounding beaches. There also seemed to be some hiking trails, and there were some other driving tracks branching off from the main “road.”

Great Southern

Enjoying the view

I think our favourite spot in the walpole area was the Conspicuous Cliffs. They might sound like something from a Lemony Snickett novel, but these cliffs are a spectacular coastal feature. There are multiple look out points as well as beach access. It was incredibly windy at the look out points! You can also hike part of the bibbulmun track here, so it’s a really good spot for a day trip.

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A blustery day at the cliffs!

Denmark

 

Denmark is only about an hour South of Walpole and it’s a really awesome town. There are tonnes of great attractions around here, including a meadery, “chocolate lounge”, and wineries. I have to admit, one of the highlights of Denmark for us was the bakery. It has a whole host of awards to its name and some very interesting options. Alex had a curried kangaroo pie- dubbed the “vindaroo”. It’s a great spot for a budget lunch!

Great Southern

Fishing in Parry beach

The other great thing about Denmark is Parry’s beach campground. For $15 per site per night this place offers showers, flush toilets, huge sites, and you can have camp fires even in Summer! Best of all it’s right by the beach and it’s part of the bibulmun track. We spent a few days here and we really enjoyed it. One day we walked all the way to Elephant rocks from here. It was about an 18 kilometre round trip and took us a little under three hours each way, but it was such a cool hike. We had miles of beach entirely to ourselves, saw some wildlife, and we felt pretty accomplished when we reached the pristine beach of Green’s pool and Elephant rocks. We also accidentally fell asleep on the beach on the way home, but that’s not important 😉

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Elephant rocks-worth the walk!

Denmark itself is larger than I expected and is situated very prettily on the Denmark river. It seems to be quite geared towards tourists and has lots of interesting shops worth wandering around. My favourites were the Australian Alpaca Centre- a alpaca wool clothing store- and Third Stone Traders, a fair trade and local craft store. The town is definitely worth exploring even if you’re just window shopping.

Great Southern

Street Art in Denmark

Albany

 

If you’re like me you probably had no idea that Albany was once destined to become the capital of Western Australia. It’s the oldest city is the state and has the rich history to prove it. There’s quite a few museums here but I’ll just focus on the free things for now.

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Albany was beautiful once the sun came out!

First of all there’s cosy corner campground- a totally free campground with drop toilets and beach access. It’s about fifteen minutes outside of Albany and, while basic, it’s pretty awesome for a free spot! We stayed there for a few nights and while the weather wasn’t good enough to really enjoy its proximity to the beach, it was still great to have somewhere free to spend some time.

 

Albany itself has a free museum which offers a pretty comprehensive overview of Albany’s history. I have to admit I had no idea there was so much learn about the city’s past. We really only visited the museum because we both wanted to use the public toilets there, but it has great colourful exhibits and the friendly staff gave us great ideas for how to spend the rest of our time.

 

One of the coolest attractions in Albany is The Gap. This is area of rugged coastline where a viewing platform has been built over a gap in the cliffs. From here you can watch the waves wooshing beneath you. It’s pretty wild and might be one to avoid if you’re afraid of heights! The view is great though and the water is a gorgeous colour as it splashes against the rocks. It’s also right by the natural bridge and the blowholes- we brought a picnic and made an afternoon of seeing the sights!

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The Wild Waters of The Gap

About an hour outside Albany you’ll find the Stirling Ranges which contain the biggest mountain in the Southern half of WA- Bluff Knoll. We climbed the mountain one blustery day and it was a great experience. It was definitely tough, especially with the wild weather near the summit, but we got some great views, got some good fresh air and exercise, and enjoyed our first real physical challenge of the trip!

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Bluff Knoll-doesn’t it look like something from a fantasy film?

As a result of the crazy rain we’ve had over the past week some sections of the trail were pretty water logged. It was cool to be able to fill our water bottles at the waterfalls though!

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The freshest water imaginable!

So that’s our guide to the free attractions of the Great Southern! Our plan was to move on to Esperance after a few days in Albany, but due to some crazy flooding and road closures we’re not sure when we’ll make it there. For now we’re hanging out at Shelley’s beach campground, just down the road from Cosy Corner. This site isn’t free-it’s 7.50 per person per night- but we love the crystal clear water here and it’s quite sheltered from the wind. We’re not quite sure what we’ll do next, so be sure to follow us on facebook, instagram and twitter to keep up to date. You can also sign up to our newsletter in the sidebar. Happy travelling!

our migration patterns

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Buying a car in Australia

If you’re planning on traveling in Australia for anymore than a month or two it might be most cost effective for you to buy a vehicle instead of renting. Camper van rental prices in Australia are very high, particularly if you’re travelling one way. When we started to look at the cost of renting a campervan for a few months we quickly realized it would make more sense to just buy one. So that’s what we did!
There’s a whole host of backpacker vehicles out there, from vans to four wheel drives to sedans. But the process of buying a car in a new country can be a bit daunting! So here are our top tips for buying a car in Australia.


Gumtree is your best friend

Gumtree is a nationwide buy and sell website. Just search for backpacker cars and you’ll find a huge amount of cars kitted out for travel. People often sell their cars with stoves, tents, camping chairs and lots of other travel accessories included. Our four wheel drive came with a roof rack, Jerry cans, a stove, camping chairs and lots of cooking equipment. The price of backpacker cars varies, with vans and 4x4s costing a fair bit more than station wagons. Our 1997 Pajero cost us $3,500.

Buying a car in Australia

Our 4×4 already had a bed in the back!

Registration is important

Registration (or rego as it’s unaffectionately called) is what legally allows you drive on the road. It’s a fee you pay every 3,6, or 12 months that includes third party insurance. If a car’s rego expires and isn’t renewed within a certain frame of time it needs to undergo a safety inspection to be re-registered. These safety inspections tend to be very strict and for this reason buying an unregistered car is a pretty big risk-you have no idea how many things you’ll need to fix! Because of this unregistered cars sell for just a few hundred dollars.

Buying a car in Australia

There’s nothing like the open road!

Registration varies from state to state

Unfortunately, registration is not a nationwide program. Each state has its own rules and regulations about registration. This can be annoying for travellers driving one way-trying to sell a car that’s been registered in a different state can be difficult! That’s because if someone wants to re-register if in that state they will usually need to get it inspected.

When we bought our Mitsubishi Pajero it was registered in the state of Victoria. We could have transferred the Victorian rego into our names but we would need to have a Victorian license number to put on the forms. The other option was to visit a Victorian department of transport in person and register it there. Because we weren’t travelling for a while we decided to just re-register it to the state of Western Australia.

Buying a car in Australia

To register the car in our state we needed to undergo a safety inspection. This didn’t bother us much as we’ll be travelling for a year and we don’t want to have any major problems with the car anyway! It is a bit expensive though, as each inspection costs around $80. We failed the first inspection because of a few small issues but passed the second one with flying colours 😉 we then got new license plates and paid the registration fee for 12 months. The cost of registration varies based on your car and state-WA is apparently the cheapest state and has the added bonus of being able to renew your rego online. Some states require you to undergo yearly safety inspections. Read more about each state’s requirements in the links below.

Western Australia

Victoria

New South Wales

South Australia

Tasmania

Northern Territory

ACT

Ask the right questions

Obviously no matter where you are in the world it’s important to ask the right questions when you buy a car. Ask to see the service history, ask what issues the previous owners had, ask what the fuel economy is like. Check what kind of thread the tyres have-especially if you’re travelling for a short time, tyres are an expensive thing to replace! If you’ll be travelling to hot desert areas it’s important to ask if the engine has issues with overheating. When you test drive the car check the windscreen wipers, cruise control, and listen for any unusual noises.

What to do once you’ve bought your car!

Once you’ve bought your car you have two weeks to transfer the registration from the previous owner’s name to yours. You can download the registration transfer forms from the relevant state’s website or visit the department of transport and register there. Once you’ve registered you have nothing else to worry about! Just be sure to renew your rego before it expires!

Be aware of the local driving laws- speed limits can differ from state to state! Try not to drive late at night in rural areas as you run a serious risk of hitting a kangaroo or other wildlife, which can seriously damage your car. Remember that by taking care of your car you increase your chance of selling it. I’ve heard of travelers reselling their cars for a profit at the end of their trips!

Have you ever bought a car in a foreign country? What was your experience? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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Making the most of your Travels

There are so many travel experiences I look back on and wish I had appreciated more. Sometimes in the moment it can be difficult to look beyond whatever stress you’re under. In hindsight I can see how silly it is to not appreciate how cool it is for the most stressful thing in your life to be getting lost in a new city, or missing a bus back to your hostel, or not being able to read your menu.

Making the most of your travels

We loved Venice, but we didn’t always make the most of our time there


Sometimes when you travel for a long time (and a long time doesn’t have to be that long. It only takes a few weeks to forget about the responsibilities of every day life) you start to take things for granted. You see so many beautiful things every day that you start to compare them. To put them on a scale. You think’ “this beach is not as pretty as the beach we saw last week” and forget to appreciate that moment, that destination, that experience for how unique and exciting and beautiful it is.

You’re not necessarily going to fall in love with every place you visit. Not every destination is going to be at the top of your list. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it and appreciate it and take a moment to be thankful for where you are. I didn’t like Vienna as much as Budapest, I didn’t like Sequoia and much as Death Valley, I didn’t like Vegas as much as San Francisco. But I’d choose any of those places in a heart beat over 9-5 days at the office.

Travel Vegas

Vegas wasn’t our favourite city but we still enjoyed it!


I always look back at the day we got lost in the back streets of Venice and wish I had taken a moment to step back and think about the situation I was in. Here we were wandering the beautiful cobble stoned streets of this historical city. We had wandered out of the tourist filled centre and now we were walking through empty, almost haunted laneways. It was pretty and peaceful and we should have savoured every minute of it. But we didn’t. Because instead of looking at how lucky we were we just felt hot and tired and we were lost. They aren’t really any signposts in Venice and they wasn’t anyone around to ask. We were fed up and worried that we wouldn’t find our way back in time to get the bus. We got angry at each other.

Making the most of your travels

It’s hard to believe we were grumpy somewhere so pretty!


When I look back now I wish we’d just relaxed, enjoyed the moment, appreciated how lovely it was. When you travel there are always going to be stressful moments. You’re always going to get lost or miss your bus. But sometimes those situations can turn into your best travel moments. They can become the crazy stories that you’ll tell forever. You just have to make the best of your circumstances first. And I’d certainly rather get lost in Venice then be sitting in an office!

How to Pick your Travel Destination 

Picking your travel destination can be really hard! The world is full of dream destinations and when you’ve only got a few weeks of travel time a year and when you spend all year saving for it, you definitely don’t want to regret your choice! Here are a few factors to consider when making that all important decision.

Budget

When it comes to budget travel not all countries are created equal. Work out what the budget for your trip will be and then ask yourself these questions.

How much will it cost to get there?

If your destination is on the other side of the world it will cost more to get there than it would to visit somewhere a train ride away. I could fly to Bali for a third of the cost of flying to Europe, or I could take a bus down South for even less. For most trips the cost of getting to your travel destination will be your biggest singular expense and it’s important to factor that in when researching destinations.

How much to stay there?

The cost of accommodation can vary greatly from country to country, and even from city to city. Switzerland and Germany border each other but it’s still infinitely cheaper to stay in Germany. Look at the available accommodation options in each location. Will you stay in a hostel? Are there highly rated hostels available? Will you have the option of staying in an Air BnB? If you’re the kind of traveler that leaves their accommodation first thing in the morning and doesn’t return until that night you don’t want to visit somewhere where expensive resorts are your only option.

What’s the cost of living?

If you’re on a budget you probably don’t want to visit somewhere where a glass of wine is going to make a dent in your retirement fund. Look at the cost of eating out, the cost of alcohol, the cost of attractions like museums and theme parks. You don’t want to arrive at your travel destination and find that you can’t afford to do anything!

Interests

Obviously you want to visit somewhere with activities that interest you!

What does your dream holiday involve?

Do you want a city break or would you rather explore the great outdoors? Do you like hiking mountains or would you rather relax on the beach? Does a day looking at old architecture sound fascinating or boring to you? The fact is my dream destination might be completely different to yours, and just because trip advisor highly recommends somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it! Ask yourself what it is you want from a holiday, whether it’s a relaxing retreat or a challenging adventure trip.

Mobility

How will you get around?

This is another one that will affect your budget! Some areas have better public transport than others, in some hitchhiking is the norm, and in others it’s impossible to get around without your own vehicle. Check the minimum age for renting a car, look at rail pass options, and research the rules of the road in your potential holiday location. If you’re staying in a city check if parking will be an issue, or if you’re doing a road trip look at hiring a camper to combine the cost of travel and accommodation. You could even rent a bike and cycle around, particularly in European countries!

Safety

What are the risks?

We’ve mentioned our thoughts on the dangers of traveling before. We really believe that travelling is generally safe if you’re prepared, but be aware of safety conditions is your chosen destination. For example, I would probably avoid visiting somewhere like Syria for the time being. Even in “safer” countries it’s important to be aware of potential dangers. If you’re in a city known for being a pick pocketing area you need to prepare and be aware of your belongings always. Travel insurance is also an important factor here, make sure you’re adequately covered for whatever activities you’ll be participating in, particularly if it’s a more extreme sport like skiing.

 

If you consider these factors you’re sure to pick a travel destination that best suits you!

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Meelup Reserve Trail 

Recently we walked part of the Meelup reserve trail from Meelup beach in Dunsborough to Eagle bay. This is a beautiful coastal trail leading through bush and beach. The full trail goes from Dunsborough beach to Eagle bay and is 7.4 km one way, but we chose to bite off a 3 km portion. The trail is rugged in parts and occasionally we lost the trail signs, but as long as you follow the coastline you’re bound to end up in Eagle bay eventually! This walk would be wonderful in Summer as there are lots of secluded beaches along the way where you could stop for a swim and a picnic! There are toilets at Meelup and just before you reach eagle bay. Here are some photos from our hike!

Here the trail started to ascend into the bushy cliffs overlooking the ocean. The path was rocky at times but the views were beautiful!


We had this little beach all to ourselves! I never get tired of secluded south west beaches. We definitely recommend hiking the Meelup Reserve Trail!

A weekend in New York

Our plane landed in New York just as our stomachs were starting to crave lunch. Our first view of the city was from the air train and I found myself filled with an almost unbearable excitement. I never thought I’d be spending my twentieth birthday in New York City, but here we were. I felt proud that we’d worked hard enough to get here. We’d scrimped and saved, taken the worst shifts and made whatever sacrifice we needed to. Originally we thought we’d be getting a train and staying in a budget hostel, but now we were booking in to a queen room in a Long Island hotel. And we were so excited! By the time we got to the hotel our shoulders were heavy from the weight of our luggage but we had too busy an itinerary to even think about relaxing!

Two very excited travellers!

 Exiting the subway station in the middle of New York City is nothing short of surreal! You look up and the buildings seem to go for miles, as if they’re laneways reaching to the sky. Speaking of the sky-it was snowing. A lot. I saw more snow in New York than I’d ever seen in my life. In fact, the week before our visit all flights in New York had been cancelled due to the weather. Which makes me very glad that I wasn’t born any earlier! New York feels like a fairytail in Winter. As we entered Central Park I could imagine that a month earlier the place had been shrouded in Christmas lights and I thought how lovely it would be to witness that. Something about the contrast between nature and metropolis was magical as we witnessed the city skyline from the depths of the park. Looking around at the horse drawn carriages and stone bridges you could almost pretend you’d gone back in time, until you look up and see the skyscrapers reaching tall into the cloud brushed sky. 
 

The skyline from central park

We decided the quintessential New York lunch was street vendor hot dogs in Central Park. After filling our stomachs and playing in the snow we made our way to Times Square. The subway here is a really convenient way of getting around, but if you really want to see the city you should walk! As you walk between destinations you’ll find yourself recognising lots of places along the way. I have to admit I got distracted a few times by the five figure price tags in some of the designer clothing store windows! 

 

Our Central park snow man

It was still bright when we got to Times Square but the heavy winter skies set the perfect back drop for the lights of this famous square. I’ve heard people say you should skip Times Square. They say it’s a tourist trap, not worth visiting, inauthentic etc. I think those people are crazy! I don’t understand this idea that we should avoid the touristy areas when we travel. If some where’s popular it’s for a reason! Sure, the crowds can be annoying and it might not be the best spot in the city, but it’s worth going and seeing what all the fuss is about. I thought there was a great buzz here, between the lights and the music and the excited visitors. 

 

Times Square

After doing some shopping (how could we visit New York and not buy some new clothes?!) we decided it was dinner time. We had chosen a restaurant recommended by our New York travel guide. Usually we pick whatever place stands out to us, but I’m so glad we followed the guide this one time! We ate at Back Forty West, a funky little bar/restaurant with delicious food combinations and a great selection of drinks. It isn’t particularly cheap, but we thought it was worth it. We paid $130 for two mains, one dessert, two beers and two wines. 

  

The obvious chouce for our first New York meal

The next day we grabbed some bagels for breakfast (again, one of those quintessential New York foods!) and headed to ground zero. I knew it would be sad but I honestly didn’t expect it to be so hard hitting to see these massive holes where two of the tallest buildings in the world once stood. The contrast with the surrounding buildings was striking. I found the memorial to be really well designed and tasteful. What wasn’t so tasteful were the many tourists taking smiling selfies in front of the memorial. It really annoyed me that so many people thought it was appropriate to take these kinds of photos in such a somber place. For this reason we didn’t take any photos while we were here. It’s definitely possible to take respectful photos of the memorial but we just felt it wasn’t necessary, instead we opted to be present and experience the range of emotions that comes with being in such a confronting place.

  

The skyline looks very different to how it did before 9/11

Next on the day’s itinerary was visiting the Statue of Liberty! We booked our tickets online about a week before hand. If you want to go all the way up to the crown you need to book about a month in advance as there are limited spots. Be sure to book through libertycruises.com as other sites charge extra fees. It’s currently $18 for an adult ticket and $3 extra for to access the crown.

 Visiting the Statue of Liberty was another experience that hit me harder than I thought it would. As we pulled up to the island by ferry I thought about the many immigrants we would have arrived in New York by boat and seen the statue from the distance. It was a beacon of hope for so many people, a bittersweet symbol of the new life they were embarking on. Inside the statue’s pedestal the museum displays letters written by immigrants to the statue, and reading them was very touching. Especially as we are both immigrants ourselves, it was easy to relate to some of the things written in the letters; although of course in those times immigrating was much more dangerous and uncertain, with long treacherous boat rides and no real way to research your destination before arriving.

Hello liberty island!

 

After visiting Liberty Island the ferry takes you to Ellis Island, the old offshore processing centre for immigrants. The museum here is huge! Be sure you give yourself a few hours at least as there’s tonnes of information to take in and lots of great displays. We had to skip a lot of the exhibits as we simply didn’t have the time, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to read about the lives of people on this island. It’s also nice to walk around the grounds here too, it was particularly pretty in the snow!

Did I mention it was cold?
 We spent so much longer on the tour than I expected we would (that always seems to happen to us in museums!) and we found that it was already almost time for dinner! We had reserved a table at La Sirene, a highly rated French restaurant in the SoHo district of Manhattan. There are three things you need to know about La Sirene:

  1. The food is the kind of sophisticated yet simple deliciousness that can make grown men cry
  2. The tables are so close together that you may as well be eating with the people next to you
  3. They don’t take cards, except American Express.


 We really enjoyed our meal here but being so close to everyone else didn’t make for the most romantic atmosphere! Some people would call it cozy though, so it really depends on your own preferences.

 Day three began with a trip to the Chelsea markets. Honestly, of all the places we visited in New York this was one of my favourites! Its not somewhere that I’d really heard of before, but I’m always on the hunt for good markets so when I read about this one I knew we had to make a trip there. Located in the meat packing district of Manhattan in an old Nabisco factory, this huge indoor market maintains a funky exposed brick factory appearance. There are so many options here, from vegan sushi to gourmet hotdogs, book stores an jewelry stands, you will almost definitely spend more than you had planned to! It’s also where the oreo was invented, and it’s always cool to visit the birth place of good food.


 After we’d had our fill of the markets we went to the natural history museum. Wow is that place huge! It’s so much bigger than we were expecting it to be! We were there for about four hours and we only got to see a little over half of the museum. I definitely recommend setting aside the best part of a day to visit this museum. We particularly loved the Heilbrunn pathway and the Hayden Sphere. Tickets for the museum cost $22, but this is a suggested price and you can pay anything you wish at a service desk. If you do have the money I think it’s good to support this awesome museum.
 We took so long at the museum that we had to run across town to make it to our time slot at the Top of the Rock! We chose the top of the rock over the Empire State building as we wanted to be able to see the empire state building and have it in our skyline photographs. We picked our time slot to be able to catch the sun setting. The views across the city on one side and Central Park on the other were beautiful. Watching this buzzing city from a distance was an almost surreal experience, like taking a step back to observe the world while everyone else is rushing around. I will say that some people were selfish about the whole thing and hogged their space at the wall. Try and remember that everyone else wants to get a picture too!

The skyline sparkled in the sunset

For dinner that night we made our way back to the Chelsea markets for the New York Chilli Fest! We had seen the event advertised when we were there that morning and we got a great deal on last minute tickets. The NYChili fest is an amazing event where food establishments from all over the city produce their own version of the tex-mex favourite, chilli con carne. Our tickets included all you can eat chilli, plus all you can drink beer and cocktails from the New York distilling company all for $40 each! The festival was a great way to spend our last night in New York. We ate and drank with locals, tried more types of chilli than we knew existed (chilli with Fritos, chilli with tripe, chilli with noodles?) and sampled local beers. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Our weekend in New York flew by but I really think we put our limited time to good use. We definitely made every day of our visit an adventure! 

Bye New York, we’ll see you again soon

  

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Travel Apps to help you along the way!

Our favourite travel apps

Technology can make life so much easier when you’re travelling! We use lots of apps to help us plan, get around, and safe money while we’re on the road. Here are some of our favourites! 

Gas Buddy-find the cheapest fuel in your area-this is great for road trips and saved us lots of $$$s in California!

Hostel world-this apps got a huge database of hostels around the world. It’s a great tool for backpacking on a budget! 

Rome to Rio-this is a really handy tool for finding different options for getting from A to B! It tells you the time and cost for using plane, train or car!



Rail Planner
-this is the eurail timetable app. It is one of the most useful apps you can have while travelling in Europe and we relied on it heavily! It’s a collaboration of each country’s rail timetable put together in a really functional easy to use app. 

Booking.com– a great way to find the best value deals at your destination! What I love about this app is that they have tonnes of reviews for each hotel so you can find out what kind of place you’re booking!

Air BnB-everyone’s heard about Air BnB! This app has brought the traditional bed and breakfast into the contemporary travel world with great results. Living with locals is a great way to get to know your destination, and usually you can get some bargain prices too!

Trip Advisor– I am an unashamed trip advisor addict. I love to search my dream destinations and find out about all the activities there. Trip advisor allows you to see the highest rated accommodation, eateries and activities in your destination of choice! It doesn’t get much more comprehensive than that. 

Apple Maps– I know Apple maps has been the subject of some criticism,particularly when compared to the more well established Google maps. But I find that often when travelling Apple maps can be the better option. The main reason for this is that Apple maps has a better public transport feature, with detailed directions between stations. And I’m all for not getting lost on my way to the airport!



Pinterest
– I only found out recently that Pinterest is such a hub for travel bloggers. I’ve learned so many new travel tips and found lots of great travel blogs to read by perusing the travel sections of this useful app! It’s definitely worth checking out when planning your next trip.