Winter is upon us and since we’re human and Australian, the moment our feet are placed in a pair of Ugg boots, we start thinking about how to get back out of them. Around June I begin my yearly migration through travel deal websites, gazing at idyllic yet repetitive photos of blue skies, coral and cocktails with reckless jealousy and abandon. Next are the foreign exchange websites and visa requirements for tiny atolls and well-known islands, foreign enough to be exotic, familiar enough to be non-threatening.
However, my ideals have changed. After a ten month driving holiday around Australia it is my duty to inform you that all those Grey Nomads have, annoyingly, got the right idea. You can easily get your fill of heat, foreign culture, different cuisines, stunning landscapes, and spiritual awakenings without packing a passport. Don’t panic, you’ll probably still need an inflight drink and an entertainment system to get there.
You can go to the East Coast of Australia; Noosa, Airlie Beach, and even Cairns to get rid of your winter blues, though it’s all fairly familiar. The exotic flavour you might extract from your Pacific Island holiday certainly won’t be found in Hastings Street or the Cairns Esplanade. No. You must turn West and North: here, amongst impossibly vast spaces, where outrageously picturesque sunsets occur with dangerous frequency to your liver and sunscreen and a swimsuit are about all you need for the day, is your next warm holiday from the chilly South.
You can go to Darwin and get a dose of city (well, big town) living with an Asian twist. Tropical smells of frangipani and lemongrass waft around and it’s hot! Climb to the top of a ridge in Kakadu National Park, realise the country is breathing and that you are simply a tiny cog in Its machine.
You could drive the Gibb River Road and hear the Kimberley dust and mountains speak to you with far off, imagined, didgeridoos. Or you could go to Broome and spend days on Cable Beach, drink Mango Beer (or something equally disgusting to do with a tropical fruit), and learn about its pearling history and opium dens. Go snorkel off the beach at Coral Bay in your swimmers, play with whale sharks and come to the realisation that fresh water is in short supply over this side of the country but don’t worry: you’re on holiday and beer will be ever present.
All in the heat and sunshine.
But had you told me all of this a few years ago, I would have waved you off as I walked to the travel agent, because ‘real holidays’ are had overseas. They’re incomprehensible languages and museums holding things which are hundreds, thousands of years old. Real holidays are strange foods, unexplored cities with intricate laneways and wilderness of pines and deciduous trees. Overseas holidays assault your senses like popping candy; every corner holds a new spectacle to make your eyes blink.
After travelling through it though, as a woman who had only traversed the East Coast, it’s clear the top part of Australia is foreign in every way. So stay here this winter. Get warm here. Spend your money here. Make your own country less foreign right here.
And best of all? You don’t need your passport or a currency calculator to do it.