Emy’s family didn’t travel much and so she felt like she was missing out. Her first trip (without her family) was a backpacking trip for 3 months in Southeast Asia. This trip kicked off a lifelong passion to see the world.
For Johan it was quite the opposite. His family did quite a bit of traveling including a trip to China in his teens. He got comfortable with traveling and also spent some time in Southeast Asia by himself. Although we both traveled to some of the same places, we did not meet until years later when living in Malmö, Sweden.
In 2018 Emy was in her last year of study and Johan had quit his job. We were both keen on seeing more of the world when we got an invitation to a friend’s wedding in Australia. The invitation was just the kick in the butt we needed and we started researching ways of staying for longer.
Australia became a natural choice as we were already going there and the Work and Holiday Visa let us stay for a year and a bit more. When in Melbourne, we had no plans on how to explore this big continent. Emy stumbled across the van life many were living and we bought our first van (“Billy”) a few weeks later.
An Overview of our Great Road Trip in Australia
From Melbourne, our plan was to drive up the east coast but once we got close to Sydney we realized that it was too cold for the beach life that we had imagined. We started to wonder why no one had told us about the Australian winter!
Late one evening we had enough, changed our plans, backtracked through the night and took the “shortcut” through the Red Center to get to the heat in Darwin as soon as possible. The Northern Territory was like the Australia we had read about as kids — long stretches of nothingness, plenty of cute kangaroos and scary crocodiles.
We spent many nights in front of a camp-fire watching the stars without another soul around for miles. After Northern Territory, we spent almost four months on a cattle farm in Queensland to extend our visas before eventually making our way down the east coast back to Melbourne.
Emy grew up with horses so for her life on the farm was a dream come true. Mustering cattle on horseback and bottle-feeding poddy calves made this true Outback experience one of the best of our time here.
During the start of our great road trip in Australia we realized that we were going to miss out on some really unique locations if we only stuck to the east and so we mentally started preparing for a trip along the west coast.
We sold our van, bought a 4WD (“Billy 2”) and have been on the road for the second time since March 2019. This time we followed the coastline through Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia all the way up to Northern Territory.
We have just recently turned back and will now drive the more than 10,000 km back down again. Going straight down to Melbourne would save us more than half the trip but the stunning and empty beaches of the west coast has been one of the highlights of our trip and we think that the detour is definitely worth it!
Also, in a round trip which takes you back to where you started, you have to appreciate the journey itself and not only the destination.
Best Memories and Biggest Challenges on the Road
We often get asked about our favorite places from our road trip in Australia but there are just too many memories to choose from. Each of the states we have visited has something unique to offer. To name a few: In Queensland we got to experience some incredible waterfalls, including the elusive Windin Falls.
In Western Australia we fell in love with the white-sand beaches of Esperance. South Australia taught use the art of rock-pool hunting and we spent hours around crystal-clear waters, swimming and watching dolphins play in the water.
During our one and a half years in Australia we have probably visited more beaches than previously in our lives. There are so many beaches in Australia with so many different qualities we simply can’t choose a favorite, but we now know what we are looking for.
The perfect beach for us is one where the water is calm, warm and clear. Where we get the place to ourselves and where we can set up our camp in peace. Preferably some palm trees and no crocs!
We have spent a few birthdays over here too and every time we try to surprise each other in some way. We celebrated Johan’s 30th birthday in Melbourne where Emy had prepared a hot air balloon ride over the city and a night at a suite at a hotel, checking two things off our bucket list.
Spending so much time on the road subjects us to the risk of a breakdown. Every time there is something wrong with the car or we take it to the mechanic we are terrified about what the outcome might be.
For us, the car is more than a vehicle, it is our home and if it breaks down it leaves us without anywhere to sleep. A fatal outcome for the car would also mean the end of our trip so a lot hinges on keeping it in good condition.
Keeping our Billies in good shape with regular oil changes and check-ups has probably kept us out of a lot of trouble. Having road assistance is another calming factor. Last time we had to call them for a breakdown they simply showed up, identified the problem within minutes and removed the rock that had gotten lodged in the wheel.
Easy solve but it still made our hearts race and our brains coming up with terrible “what if”-scenarios.
Meeting Local Legends and Learning Aussie Culture
We would describe the Australian people as laid-back, friendly and happy to help. Every time we pop the hood, an Aussie is sure to show up and won’t leave until he can be confident we have everything under control.
Their helpfulness can however be taken to the extreme, rooting for you to get bogged waist deep in mud just so that they can pull you out again, beer in hand. We have also learnt that Australians don’t take themselves too seriously so there is no need for you to either.
Our van broke down between Mount Isa (middle of nowhere) and Cloncurry (also middle of nowhere) and after having a look at the car our mechanic took us in while we waited for parts. We will never forget those nights drinking beer on his veranda while he was busy whipping something up to cater for our vegan diet.
We ended up staying in his spare room until we could continue our journey and if we would have asked for it, we would probably still be living there.
Tips for Surviving and Thriving on an Aussie Road Trip
Choose a car for your road trip in Australia that is suitable for where you are going and what you want to do. Having a van is extraordinary and we miss the simplicity of being able to park the car with the whole setup ready to go to bed.
Life in a 4WD on the other hand might be a little less comfortable but it can take you places a van cannot. If you are anything like us and enjoy having a place all to yourself, you will definitely want a car that can go through everything.
Australia has a lot to offer, both in terms of cities and beaches but we would encourage people to spend some time out in the bush. There are not many places where nature is so accessible and being away from the internet and social media for a few days is probably a good thing.
One piece of advice we wish we had gotten before embarking on our road trip in Australia was to prepare for both extreme heat and cold. Pack all the bikinis you got but make sure to fit that warm jacket as well!