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5 Tips for Your Gap Year in Australia

Uluru

So you’ve overcome your crippling fear of spiders, know the ins and outs of ‘Knifey Spooney’, and are ready to bring the thunder to the Land Down Under? Welcome! You’re well on your way to becoming a true blue bloody ‘ocker’ Aussie.

But what next? Whether you’re traversing the sweeping sights of southeast Queensland, livin’ la vida loca in Perth’s pied-à-terres, or meeting the local larrikins of rural Australia, a trip abroad is sure to illicit it all. From challenges to triumphs, here’s everything you need to know to have the ultimate gap year in ‘the lucky country’.

1. Clear for Take-Off and Pack Your Pack Right!

You’re braving a polar vortex one day, and sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage the next? Welcome to a little thing scientists are calling ‘hemispheres’! Though it may be tempting to pack everything from your Sunday best to grandma’s pet schnauzer, it’s important to consider Australia’s predominantly arid climate before take-off.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has everything you need to know about the sunburnt country and its vast and varied weather to help you pack efficiently (and prevent your pits resembling Niagara Falls in the process). Though metropolitan cities along the east and west coast offer shopping experiences to rival that of SoHo, if you’re trekking inland or to rural regions on your year abroad, resources may not be as prevalent. With this in mind, make sure to stock up on everything you need before departure — after all, it’s better to be over-prepared than traversing Alice Springs in leg warmers.

2. Make Mates Outside Your Bubble!

New mate

Whether you’ve come across with mates, or bonded with fellow expats over a beer or ten — the temptation to stick within your circle can be hard to break! The inevitable isolation that comes from leaving home and being surrounded by people that seem to speak a foreign language (“Howzit goin’ moiiite?”) often only compounds this impulse.

Acknowledging how and why you’re feeling this way is the first step in challenging yourself to assimilate and embrace Aussie culture. From the workplace and share-housing, to sporting events and nightlife, travellers are never short an opportunity to befriend larrikin locals in the Land of Oz.

Most importantly, get out there and say G’Day — Forbes didn’t name us one of the worlds friendliest countries for nothing!

3. Be a ‘Yes’ Man!

To quote the great philosopher Jim Carrey, “you gotta say 'yes' to life.” Sure, you probably won’t hit it off with Zooey Deschanel, watch Harry Potter with Rhys Darby, or be detained by the FBI in Nebraska, but some of the best experiences you can have abroad come from simply saying ‘yes’.

Australia in its entirety offers a world of opportunity for those willing to take the plunge!

Although you may have your sights set on the hustle and bustle of Sydney Harbour and the sweeping sunsets of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, Australia in its entirety offers a world of opportunity for those willing to take the plunge! Why not cruise the rugged Kimberley Coast, try your hand at a cattle drive in The Outback, or traverse the Mighty Murray on a paddle steamer? In fact, Australia Traveller's got a list 100 of things to do before you die in Australia -- so at the very least, you'll never be short of ideas!

The world is your oyster, as the old adage goes (quite literally in South Australia’s world renown Great Oyster Bay), so do your best to get out there and experience the wonders of the Great Down Under!

4. Get Active!

Get active

If you thought the freshman fifteen was bad, say farewell to your feet, and prepare for the travellers twenty. While all of those meat pies, sausage sizzles and goon sacks may have seemed like a good idea at the time (don’t they always?), travellers inevitably find themselves switching burgers for bulge as their gap year progresses.

But don’t fret — you don’t have to return home looking like the perfect prospect for the Biggest Loser. Including exercise in your daily routine is a great way to meet locals and try out some of Australia’s most beloved sports and sights! From AFL and cricket, to the Tough Mudder marathon and nation-wide Zombie Walk, the ‘land of plenty’ undoubtedly lives up to its name.

For travellers pinching pennies, why not trek one of Australia’s historic bush trails (widely accessible across the country), or try your hand at our world-renown surf breaks? Australian Travellers Magazine has everything you need to get started on your outdoors adventure!

5. Budget!

Nothing says ‘expat’ like the tough decision between Mie Goreng and bus fares, as you cling to your final dollars with the gusto of a new-born child. From fun and thrills to stacking bills, a gap year in Australia will inexorably take your money faster than you can say, “why is a pint here $10?!” Alas, fear not my friends, for there are many ways to travel across Australia’s unparalleled divide without breaking the bank.

If you can’t find a Kangaroo to ride around town, budget airlines such as Tiger and Jetstar offer fares for a shoestring, and often run sales specials outside peak periods

If you can’t find a Kangaroo to ride around town, budget airlines such as Tiger and Jetstar offer fares for a shoestring, and often run sales specials outside peak periods. Likewise, you won’t even have to break a twenty to camper-van across the country, with relocation rentals going for the price of a Maccas coffee. If you’re not lucky enough to have a mate with a Brisbane bolthole, services such as Couchsurfing, Aussie House Swap, and other house sitting options will have you livin’ la vida loca in no time at all.

Whether you’re traversing the panoramic falls of Kakadu, conquering the Simpson sand dunes, or jungle surfing at Cape Tribulation, there’s something for everyone in the ‘lucky country’! With these five handy tips in mind, you’re well on your way to having the ultimate gap year in Australia – just watch-out for the drop bears!

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Photo Credits: Uluru, Adam Campbell, and Ormiston Gorge.

Photo of Bridget Judd

Bridget Judd is a third year journalism student at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, Australia. You can find her on Google+ or follow her on Twitter @BridgetJuneJudd.