To start, I hadn't planned on going to Australia. In fact, I'd never even really considered it. But back in Spring 2010 one of my friends from work had planned on going over to work for a year and had persuaded another of our friends to spend the Summer there. One drunken night before they left, I was asked "Why don't you come too Claire?". Me? Go to Australia? In less than a month? For three months? Go a hot country when I'm this pale? I don't look good in shorts, what would I wear??
Once I'd sobered up, done what I do in most confusing situations and gone over the pros and cons (and called my Mam of course!); it was decided- You only live once, so why the hell not! In little under a week I went from resigning myself to a Summer of working to booking flights and applying for a working visa!
I'm going to make this a sort of guide to travelling and Australia in general, so I'll split it up into various sections over a number of posts with photographs to keep it interesting!
We booked all our tickets and visas through an agent before we went. You can of course do this on your own separately, but this meant we got all of the boring, important stuff out of the way leaving us to get excited about the actual trip. You can also book various trips through these agents, but I would recommend leaving this until you get there. You'll find better offers and get a better sense of where and what is good from talking to fellow travellers. I have a confession to make- I never read a guide book before i went or the entire time I was there. In hindsight I should have at least flicked through one to get a geographical sense of the area I would be travelling in. Most people travelling the East coast of Australia like we did either travel up the coast or down, because we had no idea where we were going we ended up going down, up, up a bit more, down a bit, then up again before we finally figured out where we wanted to be! So yeah; if you buy a guide book, don't just carry it round for 3 weeks before dumping it in a hostel book exchange- read it!
The next dilemma you'll have is- WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR???!!! I'd say try to limit yourself to a number of key items which are interchangeable with each other and will be suitable for a variety of weather conditions. I went from being too hot in shorts and a vest top up in tropical Cairns, to freezing my butt off and wishing I had my winter coat with me down in freezing Melbourne.
I took a suitcase with me, which was a bit of a controversial choice and earned me a lot of mocking from my friends. But who was laughing when we walking for miles to hostels or transport stations, me that's who! Whilst they were struggling under the weight of their rucksacks like tired little turtles, I was trotting along with my suitcase gliding behind me. Smug much? I knew we hadn't planned to really go out into the wild bush and would be spending most of our time in cities, so a suitcase worked out well for me. Also, I didn't have to pull out all of my belongings just to find one item of clothing which was buried deep in a rucksack. But I guess it's just personal preference.
One mistake I made was going with an almost full suitcase, thinking 'I won't buy any clothes over there'. Of course I was going to buy clothes, I was daft to think I wasn't. When travelling to various places, you'll be constantly packing and un-packing your belongings; bare this in mind when deciding what and how much to take with you.
If I was to go travelling again I would probably take the following-
2 pairs of shorts
2/3 skirts (which can be worn with tights if visiting colder climates)
1 pair of jeans (bear in mind these drastically add to the weight of your bag)
Various tops ranging from vests and t shirts to shirts and blouses, casual to smart
A hoody or a cosy cardigan
A jacket for covering up on cool nights (I took a denim jacket with me which was ideal for nights out and wearing with my hoody underneath in colder places
Leggings or sweat pants/jogging bottoms (for travelling and sleeping in freezing air conditioned rooms)
Bikini or swimsuit (buy this before you go,so you'll have time to find one you like. Don't do what I did and and think 'I'll get one when I get there' and end up having to buy the worlds worst bikini at Target Country at a town in the middle of nowhere)
Tights and socks
A large scarf (good for covering up when too cold and for a number of other uses, such as a barrier between your head and that less than desirable hostel pillow)
A few accessories what you can use to dress up casual clothes (don't be tempted to take too many, if you're anything like me you'll pick up various trinkets on the way)
Shoes and bags will obviously take up a lot of room in your luggage and will be a pain to carry. I would take a pair of sandals or trainers for the daytime (something you'd be comfortable walking miles in) and then a dressier pair of shoes for the nighttime. Personally, I really wouldn't bother with heels. A small rucksack is great to take as hand luggage. When taking smaller trips to remote places we'd leave our suitcases/large rucksacks in storage at the hostel and just take the essentials in a smaller bag
When it comes to make up and cosmetics, just take the essentials. Leave things like shampoo etc at home, just buy a bottle when you get there (the last thing you want is shampoo exploding all over your stuff on the long haul flight). I didn't even take a hair dryer with me, luckily my friend took her GHD straighteners with her. Most days it was too hot to have my hair down, so a hair donut was an absolute life saver.
If anyone has any tips or questions about travelling or Australia in particular don't hesitate to post them below!