Have you ever won return flights to Australia plus the keys to a campervan for you and three mates? No? Conor Kerr has, and he recently returned to reality with a tale to tell.
We caught up with Conor to ask him about his trip, and share his thoughts on Australia’s incredible east coast.
this image is courtesy of Conor & Co.
How did you hear about the competition?
I saw the competition on STA Travel’s Facebook Page. I knew they were always running competitions, so thought it was worth a try.
Had you ever thought about visiting Australia?
I was actually in Australia when I found out that I had won! I was working out there, and planned on using the prize tickets to fly some friends out to see me, but just after finding out that I’d won, my girlfriend and I suddenly had to return to the UK to attend a funeral. Winning the flight tickets meant that we could return to Australia, which was brilliant, especially as we hadn’t been able to get to Sydney — and we couldn’t visit Australia without going there!
How did you feel when you found out that you had won? What was your first thought?
When Emma at STA Travel phoned me to tell me that I had won, I thought it was a scam. I honestly never believed anyone actually won these competitions! When I finally realised it was for real, I couldn’t believe my ears, and was jumping up and down — I could not believe that we were going back to Australia so soon.
How did you decide which three mates to take with you?
The first person I invited was my girlfriend (I don’t think I could have got away with not doing that!) Thinking of two more people was quite a challenge.
I decided to keep it quiet for a while, but in the end we decided to invite another couple, who we get along with really well. It was also vital that we chose someone who could drive, given the prize included three weeks campervan hire, since I don’t have a licence!
and this image is also courtesy of Conor & Co.
Did you meet any memorable people while you were Down Under?
We actually met some people from the same town as us in Northern Ireland (we always seem to meet people with mutual friends!) We met them on the road, and then arranged to meet up with them at the end of our trip in Cairns.
What was the highlight of your trip?
The best thing we did on the whole trip was sailing in the Whitsundays. The sand and water were absolutely pristine — like nothing I’d ever seen before. We had one day of sun, but the clouds on the other days didn’t spoil anything. We did an organised tour with other travellers, and were lucky enough to see whales, which was absolutely amazing.
The other thing I’ll never forget was snorkelling on Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It is quite an exclusive island with a fantastic beach and amazing areas for swimming, and we even managed to spot some sea turtles. Some others in our group saw a shark, but we weren’t too sad to miss that!
Were there any downcast moments to your trip?
To be honest, the entire trip was faultless. Of course there were moments when the four of us bickered, but overall we got on extremely well.
There were a couple of things that put a bit of a dampener on the trip, though. We were given a speeding ticket one day (which we couldn’t understand as we didn’t think our campervan could break the limit!) and had some issues with various policemen when we tried to ask how to pay it off. And I’ve just received a further speeding ticket in the post this week!
Also, our van was broken into on two separate occasions. Luckily nothing was stolen (I don’t think we had anything worth taking, being travellers!) but it was enough to shake us up for a while.
Did you pick up any special souvenirs?
Well, we didn’t go as far as cork hats and boomerangs, but I do have to admit I picked up some koala teddies for my sisters.
guess what? this image is courtesy of… Conor & Co.
Any plans for more travels in the next year?
I think I will have to take some time off travelling for a while. I’m in my final year of University, studying law, so it will be a very busy time for me. I will have exams at Christmas; a dissertation to write; and careers to start thinking about.
Having said that, if I can find a job in the short-term after graduating, I would love to go away again, especially considering the state of the job market at the moment.
I’d definitely travel with STA Travel again! I had travelled with them before this trip, and the whole process was very smooth. The team were really helpful and understanding when my girlfriend and I suddenly had to cut our original trip short, and it was great to have STA Travel branches in Australia, to get some local knowledge.
Would you like to go back to Australia?
I’d love to go back — especially to do a one year Working Holiday Visa. Australia is such a great country, and it’s always good to get away from the grey weather in the UK!
Has the trip changed your opinion towards the country?
Before I went to Australia I was under the impression that it was a vast country, and although this is true, when I was there I found that it felt quite small. I had thought it was a very developed, international country; but there’s actually a relatively small number of big cities, which are spread out across thousands of miles.
I preferred the smaller places, such as Byron Bay, which have managed to retain their charm. It felt like we got the best of both worlds, with both the big cities and the small towns.
and, you know it, this image is courtesy of Conor & Co.
What about your opinions towards travellers?
I found that everyone was overwhelmingly friendly and really excited to meet new people. Most of the travellers we came across on the east coast were from England or Ireland — I guess because we like to get away from the British weather!
Do you feel this trip has given you the travelling bug?
I had been on holiday to a few places in Europe with family as a child, but my first experience of travelling was a few months in Southeast Asia a few years ago. As soon as I got a taste of travelling on a big scale like that, I was hooked.
The trip to Australia only served to prove that. The next place on my list is South America (but that list is growing by the day). I can always convince myself with the fact that travel can look good on my CV!
If you’d like to find yourself in Conor’s shoes, make sure you Like the STA Travel UK page on Facebook. It’s a thriving community, offering tips and advice, the latest travel deals and heaps of opportunities to win amazing trips around the world.