This morning, we flew from Melbourne to Perth, Western Australia, as our side Australian trip this year. Western Australia is one of the largest states in the world, and just getting from Perth to the top of Western Australia could take 24-36 hours driving time. During our five days in the state, we’ll barely be touching a dot of it but are trying to see as much as we can that is in the vicinity. This will be my first time on the west coast of Australia, and my first time seeing the Indian Ocean.
Western Australia isn’t really a place that the average person thinks to go to first when they think of Australia. Oftentimes when you meet people who have been to Australia, they think of or have been to Sydney, Melbourne, or Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. Perth, Broome, or the Margaret River aren’t top of mind unless they are Australian. WA has a more rugged “bush” feeling than the east coast of Australia – at least, that’s what I’ve been told since I’ve been here for only a day at this point. Of all the friends I’ve told about our WA trip, only one had heard of Perth before and had a strong desire to go. And if it weren’t for Chris, I probably wouldn’t have known anything about Perth or the Margaret River. I’d even heard of Adelaide, South Australia, before I’d learned about Perth.
That’s actually a shame, though, because Western Australia has so much that is amazing about Australia: gorgeous aqua beaches, intense waves for world-class surfing (yeah, not for me, but I will happily watch), white sand, golden desserts, tropical flora and exotic fauna everywhere. And because it is lesser known on an international scale (especially for Americans who probably don’t know where to identify Australia on a world map), it’s satisfying to tell people I’m going here when they have no clue what or where it is. Popular destinations are popular for a reason, but that’s because enough people have gone there to make that road known. We have to start somewhere, and someone is eventually going to do it. But some places that were once relatively unknown eventually blow up – places like Iceland, where I personally know three clients, three colleagues, and five friends who have gone in the last year. I’m not crapping on Iceland; I’d love to visit it, but it’s such a turnoff when everyone and their grandmother is going to a specific destination like Iceland.
Jeju Island, the honeymoon island of South Korea that was once virtually unknown outside of Korea, is now incredibly popular with foreign tourists to the point that now, many tourists go to South Korea to visit Seoul and Jeju, and then leave. It’s fun to take the roads less traveled to then come home to friends and tell them what an amazing experience you had at a place where few people to no one you know has gone to, and then convince them that this is a place worth adding to their travel bucket list.
Perth is also one of the most isolated major cities in the world, and maybe this is the introverted side of me, but the idea of being isolated from the rest of the world is actually quite exciting.
It’s hard, though, when you have limited paid leave, a fixed travel budget, and need to make hard decisions about how and where to spend your holiday, especially for Americans with such annoying and stingy paid time off policies. Oftentimes, we end up doing what is the easiest – visiting major cities that people we know are aware of and skipping everything in between those cities. Chris’s cousin recently biked through Vietnam from the south to the north and was able to see so much of the country that the average Vietnam visitor would not have seen. “I just don’t see how anyone could just go to Ho Chi Minh City, then fly up to Hanoi, and leave,” she said.” “So many people do this. Why would you do that? There’s so much else to see!” I understand that sentiment, but then the reality of everything above I mentioned kicks in; you want to see what you know and have heard of when you know your time is limited and you don’t have weeks or months to explore lesser known areas. It’s all about how you set your priorities given your time constraints. Me? As the saying goes: I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.