Imagine yourself 10,000 miles from home. You’re twenty years old, in Sydney, Australia, and you’ve just made three new friends who you know you’ll be spending every waking hour with for the next six months. You’re sitting in your kitchen, and over one of your first meals together, a meal of pesto pasta and cheap white wine, you say “Tasmania.” And then it’s happening. Without even feeling like you’ve blinked, you’ve booked the flights, rented the camper van and crafted a precise itinerary of your four day’s in Australia’s island state.
Now imagine yourself walking off the plane in Hobart. The weather in comparison to Sydney is a shock. But your adrenaline is running so high you don’t even think about how sleeping in a tent on the roof of a van in the parking lot of Lake St. Claire National Park that night, will be pretty brutal. You’re driving on the left side of the road for the first time, but for some reason it feels completely normal. Maybe you’re meant to be there. By the end of those four days, you’ve left a piece of your heart on that tiny Island off Australia’s south coast.
It was the last weekend of March this year. I’ve been traveling since I was three months old, but I chose to tell you about this first, because it’s the first thing that crosses my mind when I think about why I do what I do.
I had met these girls, who would eventually end up being my best friends, praying that we could pull off living together in a van as practically strangers for four days. And we did. With flying colors.
The moment we saw our terribly ugly, but somehow charming, silver, dented mom van with a pop up tent on the top, we were in awe. We named her Fran (but when she acted up, Tina) and she, with myself in the driver seat, drove us across Tasmania. The first stop was Lake St. Claire National Park.
That first night was miserable. Fran was somehow cranking up winding roads in the pitch dark, with me slamming on the brakes every other turn just in time to miss the wallaby crossing the road, or the Tasmanian Devil sitting completely still in the middle of my lane. We ended up setting up camp in the Visitor Center parking lot just past midnight. It was storming, the rain cover on the tent flew off, I almost slept with a kitchen knife under my pillow, and I woke up shivering in a puddle of water at 3 AM. Nevertheless, at 6 AM we were up, pulling on every layer we had to set out on our hike up Cradle Mountain. It rained, snowed, hailed, gusted terrifying winds, and shone sun down on us. I have never loved a place more.
Exhausted, but amazed, we packed Fran up and headed for the East Coast. Not a single cloud in the sky, we watched the sunset and camped on the beach under millions of stars in the Bay of Fires. It was a night that reminded us how lucky we are to be alive.
The next morning we headed to Freycinet National Park, deciding Mount Amos would leave us with the best view of the famous Wineglass Bay. And of course, it was. But only after seriously spider crawling up slippery rocks on the side of the mountain did we find the perfect place to eat peanut butter sandwiches. A lunch so memorable, the four of us have rings with the coordinates of the exact spot on it.
That weekend we hiked mountains, pet wallabies, watched the sun rise and set, and were left with a feeling that is nearly impossible to describe. There was something about being off the grid, character building, and making lifelong friends, that left me inspired to spend more weekends like this.