Typically, when you think of the Gold Coast you think of golden sand, sunny beaches, great surf, and holiday theme parks. But there is another side to our great Gold Coast, and that’s the hinterland. From stunning rainforest skywalks to relaxing wine tours, scenic national park walks to exotic spa retreats. The Gold Coast hinterland is an experience not to be missed.
Whenever a gap year is mentioned in Australasia, it is usually stated as ‘The Big OE’. Emphasis on the word ‘Big’ here. Seeing as most countries in the Southern Hemisphere are surrounded by sea, any venture away is considered pretty far away, therefore proving it difficult to travel to a destination for just a few weeks.
With practically every third person in the Southern Hemisphere doing some sort of OE during their lives, a gap year is almost considered a rite of passage today. You might find patterns in OE objectives depending on which continent a young Australasian traveller is focusing on. This article will primarily focus on the European Overseas Experience. One of the first and most popular OE’s for those Down Under seeing as an English visa is easy to come by.
With the growth of globalisation, overseas experiences are a lot more easier to do compared to a generation ago. In most cases, the objective is to broaden the mind and come back with some ‘life experience’ by interacting with cultures and seeing famous sights with your own eyes. For linguists it means putting those three years of Spanish classes to practice, or for Art History graduates, analysing renaissance paintings at famous galleries. Well, this is the tale 20-somethings from Down Under would tell their parents. What they don’t mention (especially on those notorious Contiki tours) are the continuous nights out ‘test tasting’ local beverages till the early hours of the morning. It will usually have them interacting with different nationalities so there is some truth in the white lie there.
For those who take the plunge into travelling around Europe, it will mean scrimping and saving for the trip and then scrimping and saving during the trip. This will all count for life experience and money management skills at the end of the day, as travellers are made to think like MacGyver during meal times and tackling the issue of fitting their life for six months into a backpack. In saying that, the lives of gap year travellers are slowly getting easier with the global phenomenon of social media increasingly influencing the way we interact.
Even in the travel realm the idea of ‘Social Travel’ has been coined, with many younger travellers using the internet to their advantage, whether it be asking for travel advice on forums, to finding ways to meet new people. Websites like Craigslist or The Local have proved helpful for finding all kinds of things temporary employment or tandem partners.
Sites like couchsurfing and Wimdu have made a mark on the internet by offering accommodation alternatives from private accommodation to having the chance to stay with locals, which would definitely enhance an overseas experience for sure. So although it might sound frugal to penny count your way through Europe, tech savvy youngsters have used the internet to their advantage, with smart ideas to connect travellers and help them save money.
So all in all, the Big OE is a pretty big deal in Australasian society. With the majority skipping around Europe before settling down in England (London) to make a few quid, there is always a sense of accomplishment and feeling of a life lived when they return to their home town busting out wise tales or sidesplittingly hilarious tales of their experiences away for many years ahead.
This is a featured guest post.
Everyone loves a sunset but I think we only really appreciate them when we are travelling. Might be down to the fact that we don’t have the time to fully appreciate them day to day or maybe it’s down to the fact that when we travel we are doing something amazing at the time and sharing it with awesome people. Below are some choice moments from my travels over the years.
Fraser Island, Australia
Driving around Fraser Island in a 4×4 for 3 days with a group of strangers has to be one of the fondest memories I have of Australia. It was certainly the highlight of my time backpacking the east coast of Australia.
Sahara Desert, Morocco
Two things I love about Morocco; Tagine and the desert! Riding through the desert on camel back is pretty cool but sleeping on a sand dune under the stars in the Sahara desert is unbelievable.
Santa Cruz, Mexico
Santa Cruz is on the west coast of Mexico. It’s good for surf and tacos. Good enough reasons to visit as any. I visited some friends who are lucky enough to live in this slice of paradise.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Ah the debauchery that is the Full Moon Party! You can’t say you’ve partied hard until you’ve done five days on Koh Phangan!
Los Angeles, USA
This sunset shot was taken from a roof of a building in Universal Studios in LA. It’s such a tourist trap but you know what, it was an awesome day. Rollercoasters remind me of being a kid and there’s nothing wrong with being childish at times!
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Visiting Maya Beach (the beach from the film The Beach) and the Monkey Beach, home to cute little monkeys is one of the best tours I’ve done. Take a later boat as it means you get to catch the sunset on the way back.
Sailing the Whitsundays is one of the best things you can do on the east coast. I remember this moment so well because just after this picture was taken lots of turtles swam by the side of the boat.
Blue Lagoon, Fiji
For anyone doing a round the world flight I would recommend that they add this in as one of their stops. I spent a few days on this island. Having just done a ski season in New Zealand, sitting in a hammock reading a book for a few days with views like this was all I needed.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
Driving the Great Ocean road is a must if you do your Gap Year down under. You’ll spend a lot of time looking out of the window. This was taken on day 2 of a three day trip. It wasn’t long enough.
Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala
This sunset shot was taken on the descent of Pacaya. It’s an active volcano not far from Antigua in Guatemala. Moments before we’d been cooking marshmallows in the volcanic vents.
West Coast, New Zealand
The coastal driving in New Zealand is immense. The best stretch is from Nelson to Wanaka on the west coast of the south island.
Phillip Island, Australia
You have to check out the Phillip Island Penguin Parade if you get the chance. I recall sitting on the wooden benches avidly waiting sunset and for scores of these cute pegnuins to wash up on shore and waddle home. The urge to put one in your backpack is overwhelming.
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Surfing in Australia is the national sport and as the birthplace of Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl there’s no better place to learn how to navigate the waves.
HostelBookers are offering you the chance to join the Australia elite and hit the waves at either Woorim Beach, Bribie Island (just north of Brisbane) or on the Sunshine Coast with SCSurfSchools.
You’ll get a 1½ hour lesson in your choice of location with all the equipment you need. This includes boards, wetsuits, rashies and sunscreen. All you need to bring is your own water, drinks, towel and swimwear to wear underneath.
- Tweet a picture of your best surfing pose to @hostelbookers + @SCSurfschools using the hashtag #surfsup. Twitpic is an easy way to do this.
- No surf board needed for entry, just your imagination.
- Our favourite pose will win the prize. And our second favourite will win the bodyboard.
- We’ll announce the winners on Twitter on Monday 19 December.
- The winner then has one year to use the surf course and we’ll send you the bodyboard asap!
Remember, you can book a wide range of cheap accommodation with HostelBookers. They have cheap accommodation in Australia from Cheap hotels in Sydney to Party hostels in Cairns.
Vital grammar that every backpacker should know when stepping out and about in the land down under…
1. Replace the casual ‘hello’ and expect to be greeted with a ‘G’day Mate’/’How ya doing mate’/ ‘You right mate?’ …. You will soon become everyone’s ‘mate’ and everyone will be your ‘mate’.
2. ‘Chavs’ are known as ‘Bogans’ on this side of the world
3. When asking the local guy where the nearest ‘alcohol shop is’ expect to be corrected and directed to the local ‘Bottle O’/ ‘Bottle Shop’.
4. Making out with the hot guy/girl in the club is referred to as ‘pashing’
5. ‘Last night was so much fun’ becomes ‘last night was heaps of fun and totally awesome guys’
6. You will no longer be ordering an ‘orange juice’ at the bar/restaurant but an ‘OJ’ (that’s obv an OJ… with vodka unless it’s before midday of course
7. ‘Plans for “this afternoon” will be abbreviated to ‘what’s the plan “this arvo” guys’
8. The hot guy/girl at the beach/in the club has got ‘spunk’ … and when you want the annoying guy/girl in the club to get lost tell them to ‘rack off’.
9. You will find yourself asking for the local ‘hotel’ and not ‘pub’ when wanting to have a beer (I find this most bizarre, I thought hotels accommodated guests for sleeping!!)
10. Grab your “thongs and sunnies” – Put on your “flip flops and sunglasses it’s time to catch some waves”
11. ”After having a ‘barbie on the beach’ you’ll be feeling “chocka” (aka full-up)
12. When you turn up late and there are no seats left on the Oz Party Bus, it no longer ‘sucks’ but ‘shivers’
13. You’ll be paying with X amount of ‘bucks’ to stay in the hostel, not ‘dollars’
14. When you get to your hostel and your bed hasn’t been made you will need to go to reception and ask for a “doona” … not “duvet”.
15. Need the ‘toilet’…. You now need the “dunny”
16. When you’re daydreaming watching the world go by down by the Harbour you are “away with the pixies”.
17. If you are from England don’t be surprised when the hostel staff/bar tender/shop assistant/random on the bus overhearing you speak, gets excited and says ‘oh wow you’re a pom/pommie/pommy
18. All ‘biscuits’ are known as ‘cookies’ in the land down under… even if they don’t have choc chip pieces in them they are still called ‘cookies’ over here!
19. You will start calling ‘sweets’, ‘lollies’ these include all sweets and not just lollies on a stick aka ‘Chupa Chups’ as we know them back home etc.
20. When all your ‘vests/strap tops’ are dirty/have holes in them you will be re-buying some more in the name of ‘singlets’.
21. When it’s time to up and leave one hostel and move on to the next, it’s time to grab your ‘kit’… not your ‘backpack’!
Written by GYE contributor Hayley Woolf.
Hayley Woolf recently joined us at Gap Year Escape as a writer. She currently works hard and plays harder on her Gap Year in Australia. She told me she hadn’t learnt to surf yet. That’s it, off you go to surf camp missy!
With surfing being synonymous to Australia, a three day organised trip up the east coast with Mojosurf was the perfect opportunity for me to embrace the national sport and learn to surf…
Five fifteen am and I am being woken to the sound of John Mayer – that’s my wake up alarm. I am not usually up at silly o clock but I had a 6.00am bus to catch. This was the Mojosurf bus that would be taking me six hours north of Sydney to Crescent Head for my first ever surfing trip. A little nervous, yes, but excited much? YES again. I was going to surf school!
I arrive at the pickup destination; Sydney Central station outside Wake Up hostel, Sydney. Parked up and pimped out, with a group of backpackers already waiting to get on was the Mojosurf bus. I’m welcomed by a beach-blonde, Aussie guy who has a sun tan that would make Paris Hilton envious. This was Ant, our driver; he couldn’t fit the Aussie surfer stereotype any better if he tried. This was when I was reminded of the hidden benefits of what comes with going to surf school… surf candy.
Being my first time on a backpacker bus I was pleasantly surprised. I wonder if the Greyhound will be as cool (and as clean) as this. Flashy blue lights illuminating the cabins, reclining chairs, pumping speakers and even flat panel screens to watch movies. I felt more like a celebrity on my way to a party where I would be rubbing shoulders with Hollywood’s glitterati. However, my arrival destination couldn’t have been more opposite…
When we pulled up to Crescent Head we were immediately greeted by the enthusiastic and comical Matty, one of the instructors from Mojosurf. You could tell that Matty was a typical joker and someone who would always be up for a laugh. As I stepped off the bus I realised life at surf camp was very different to life back in Sydney, but one which I could easily become accustom to. A beach house, hammocks, beautiful sunshine, and pristine coastal scenery, do I need to continue?
After a swift and organised check-in, it was a quick change into wetsuits, which the instructors ensured were the appropriate size and fit for myself and each of the sixteen or so other surfer dudes, who were ready to hit the waves and learn to surf.
The surfing lessons tended to last approximately two hours each and were the perfect balance of top quality tuition and having fun. Within the first hour of my first lesson I was already able to stand on my board. Ok, so I did have some form of assistance and I may not have been standing for long but it was only my first lesson.
This was also when I was informed of Mojosurf’s, number one rule of surfing; ‘Look Cool and have Fun’. Fifty per cent of surfing is about looking cool and the other fifty per cent is about having fun. In the nicest way possible, Matty told me I needed to work on the former. When having a candid cameraman around capturing every moment, working on the ‘looking cool’ part suddenly became all the more important. If only he was good with Photoshop……
With surfing being such a hungry sport having a nutritious meal prepared for you becomes mandatory. You won’t forget the Mojosurf food. Mojosurf feeds their guests generous portions of scrumptious fresh, healthy and filling foods, to ensure everyone has plenty of energy for their next surfing session. Vegetarian or Vegan? Not a problem. Mojosurf have got it covered and cater for both on request as well as many other dietary requirements. They say eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper. Forget the latter two; you’ll be fed all three meals like a king if Mojosurf have anything to do with it. From breakfast, lunch to dinner, you are guaranteed to be well fed throughout your stay at surf school.
If you think the fun stops when the sun dies down and surfing lessons are up, think again. The evenings at surf camp are just as fun as the days. There may not be any clubs or bars in Crescent Head but there is the ‘Humpy’. Your guess is as good as mine as to why it is named this and who named it this. The Humpy is a camp fire surrounded with wooden seating, situated in an even more secluded area than the beach house, which is great as it means you can turn up the music and make as much noise as you like. Drink, relax and exchange stories on who caught the best wave and how much fun everyone had, in front of a warm fire and beneath a sky full of stars that look like the Milky Way.
Aside from the light from the fire and the stars its pretty much pitch black outside. This is when I realised the importance of bringing a torch/flashlight; a requirement for the surf trip that I had ‘forgotten’ to pack. However, thanks to my ‘Lighten Up Lipgloss’, which speaks for itself; a lipgloss with lights and a mirror, I was able to successfully navigate myself back to the beach house. Call me shallow for taking a lipgloss down to the Humpy but it definitely served a purpose and I now consider it a necessity for all future trips I go on.
Overall my time at surf camp was amazing and I couldn’t have asked for more. The instructors were incredible (guaranteed when they’re not in the water watching you, you’ll be watching them) and the staff couldn’t have been more accommodating. When losing my pink diamante havaianas on my first afternoon I was most impressed how word got round that Cinderella had lost a thong and within an hour I had a replacement pair on my feet (thanks Nick & Brett). From learning how to surf, to leaving footprints in the sands on the most remote beaches, to making new friends and spending summer nights partying by a camp fire. Mojosurf provided me with one exciting and unforgettable trip.
Finally, when it comes to my actual surfing experience and time in the water, I may not have mastered the art in looking as hot as Cameron Diaz when she’s photographed surfing in the columns of Heat and NW magazine and I may not look as cool as Taj Barrow (one of the most famous Aussie surfers) when I’m on my surf board, but one thing that’s for sure is that I had heaps of fun. I wasn’t there for a long time I was there for a good time and that’s exactly what I had. Mojosurf, three words – ‘Living the Dream’.
Written by GYE contributor Hayley Woolf.