Today’s blog comes from our Student Travel Ambassador at Sheffield University, Sophia Amico…
You know that sinking feeling in your stomach when you haven’t got a clue which direction your life is heading or where you even want it to go? You have that unnecessary pressure to go to university with all your pals so you don’t get left behind, but deep down you’re itching to see the world.
So you spend hours ripping your hair out applying through the never-ending process known as UCAS. I know I did. Then I spent hours lying awake at night wishing that somebody could make the decision for me; I would ask teachers, friends, family, anyone that would listen: should I go to uni or head off into the world travelling? Although everybody advised me to go to university first, I knew in my gut that it wasn’t for me.
I wanted to get out there and experience life. I wanted to wake up to the sound of crashing waves and surfer boys yelling “Hang 10.” I wanted to squeeze my way in and out of crowds in Berlin and watch the sunset over the Ponte Vecchio. I longed to take pictures of foreign lovers as they posed romantically under the Eiffel Tower and I dreamed about taking endless ‘selfies’ with all the wonderful people I had met along the way. I knew university was right for some people and there are so many good things about it, but this was really what I wanted – I just wasn’t sure exactly what ‘this’ was yet. What I am trying to say is: I didn’t have a plan. And although there’s nothing wrong with plans, walking in to an STA Travel office without one can be even better.
My travels in Australia
As I sat waiting in the Covent Garden STA Travel store for my meeting, I was asked where I wanted to travel, what my interests were and if there was anything in particular I wanted to see. I was a blank canvas, happy to paint my gap year with as many different colours as I could.
I decided on Australia because, well, it’s Australia – can you think of anything better than catching a few hours of ‘sun and surf’ on Bondi Beach before serving drinks behind a trendy bar in the city? Nope, me neither. As much as I love eating tomato soup, drenched in ice-cold rain after my walk home from work, I would definitely rather be eating chicken skewers off the barbecue with tousled beach hair and an ice-cold lemonade in my hand! Whether you’re planning a gap year or your summer va-cay HOLLA, here are some places to spend hours Googling and drooling over.
New South Wales, Sydney and Queensland
Whether you’re a total novice or you were born with a surfboard in hand, New South Wales has lots to offer with loads of surfing packages and deals. If you don’t like surfing, I’m sure you’ll be tempted to admire those who do while lying on the plentiful beaches, especially Byron Bay, the ultimate chill-out beach. If it’s not the hippy, organic cafes and the cute boutique shops that tickle your fancy, maybe the dolphins will! But if that doesn’t get your blood pumping, adrenaline junkies can admire the beautiful views surrounding Sydney whilst on the popular Sydney Bridge Climb. And believe it or not, the nightlife is equally attractive.
Voted Australia’s sunshine state, Queensland is the perfect place to soak up the sun for those who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. Take a trek through the tropical Daintree Rainforest, or take a trip down to Cairns and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. If you fancy a night on the tiles, Brisbane is jam-packed with an extensive list of cool digs and hangouts for you to enjoy and truly get your Australia on.
The Outback & Western Australia
Ok, so you know they say that you can’t have it all? Well the West Coast does. With beautiful sights and endless beaches, the brilliant weather and amazing wildlife are sure to take everyone’s breath away. If that doesn’t do it, a trip down to the Margaret River is sure to leave you in awe. Not enough? Well I’m sure the native wildlife on Kangaroo Island will get you hopping with excitement whilst the rugged Outback and the vast mountain ranges are bound to satisfy your wanderlust.
As the capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin is a modern city home to some pretty awesome hangouts, one being the ‘Cage of Death.’ If reptiles are your thing (or you’re just crazy for adventure) you can get up close with massive saltwater crocs and various other large (scary) Australian reptiles in the 200,000 litre freshwater aquarium that Darwin offers.
The Southern States
Popular for having one of the most famous and stunning driving routes in the world, the southern state boasts that ‘no trip to Aus can be called complete without a journey along the Great Ocean Road.’ The route which connects Australia’s foodie capital Adelaide and its tres chic, cosmopolitan Melbourne is sure to be a road trip you’ll never forget. Hiring a campervan is really cheap too and they drive on the correct (!) side of the road which makes travelling even easier; score! After your long drive and all that ever so tiring sightseeing on Phillip Island, why not party in one of the hundreds of totally edgy bars in Melbourne? I don’t know, just a thought. Your call.
If you fancy something a bit more rural, Tasmania offers a much more rugged landscape with its tranquil lakes, beautiful beaches and unspoilt bush land, it seems that Tasmania is sure to be a hit if you want a more hands-on experience when it comes to nature.