Let me tell you about a trip of a lifetime that, two years later, I can still remember vividly. It was only nine days, but they were unforgettable.
I finished high school in 2011, and as is tradition in Australia, students head off to different destinations for “schoolies” – a week of fun, partying and celebrating the end of high school with fellow students.
However, my mind had been set on a different kind of fun since March of that year. Since I can remember, I have been a train spotter and enthusiast – whether it be steam, diesel or electric. Whether it be watching them go through stations, sitting static in a stabling yard, or watching them go flying by, my fascination with them holds true.
Saving up as much money as I could during Year 12, and working to build my bank balance, I began to plan how much I would need to budget – and the costs of transport.
The main part of my trip was a cross-continent train journey (called the Indian Pacific) from Sydney, on Australia’s east coast, to Perth, on the other side of the country. Including the stopover in Adelaide, the whole tour would last three days.
Never for a moment did I regret my decision to go on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity rather than spend a week drinking lots of alcohol and possible remembering very little. Even through the months of planning, where I had to choose the best possible accommodation for my budget, and all the tours I would do.
Before I could book any of my accommodation in the eastern and western cities, I had to organise my room for the train. While on board the Indian Pacific, we were treated to some spectacular views, friendly staff and superb weather. Stopping off at four locations, we explored (via the form of a tour bus, or self-guided walking tours) different cities while getting to know a bit of history.
Perhaps the top highlight of the three day adventure was being able to sit in the cabin of the locomotive that pulled the long-distance train before we left Adelaide on the second day. To learn how the driver kept the train running while monitoring safety definitely added to my knowledge of trains.
The other part of my trip was staying in both Sydney and Perth. For me, this end of year trip was about experiencing new things, such as travelling independently, and seeing the sights of a city I had not been to before.
Unfortunately, the weather in Sydney stopped me from doing a harbour cruise and crossing the glorious Harbour Bridge. Nevertheless, walking the busy city streets and shopping centres made me realise that the environment in your home city or town is never the same in any other city.
Staying in a hostel was also quite an experience; albeit one I would be happy to do again. Meeting people at a hostel is far easier than a hotel, and adds to the memories, finding out just how many people were travelling from around the globe.
Over in Perth, amidst sunny skies, I was able to see Kings Park, which has a beautiful view across the sea and beachfront. Someone who I met on the train also had family in the outer suburbs of Perth, and I was invited to have lunch with them.
Most of my exploration in the cities was done by walking and public transport. The most important thing I took away from my trip was that you don’t need to party everyday; you need to get out and explore the wider world, and have memories you can look back on.
Don’t get me wrong, the thought of the parties had tempted me, but the chance to see so much more of my own country? That was always going to win out. I encourage everyone to save up some money and go overseas and experience new cultures. It might be the best thing you ever do.