Australia was my first backpacking trip, and a wonderful place to do it. I went all over the country, from Darwin to Adelaide, from Melbourne to Cairns, and Tasmania. After the countless activities I've done and things I've seen Down Under, I would tell anyone else that's going there to make their experience unique. It doesn't necessarily matter how, but do something that makes you smile and laugh when you look back at it. For me, this involved getting a bike and bikepacking Tasmania!
If it weren't for StepAbroad, I wouldn't have taken the first steps to leave! They offer a great service by making it easy to get to wherever your backpacking / travel dreams take you. I didn't need too much support from them while I was down there, so I can't comment on the quality of their help from abroad, but the regular check-ins from my Stepabroad adviser Alison were always delightful. Stepabroad and their Aussie associates helped me become very comfortable in Australia, and it was comforting to know that assistance was only an email away if I ever needed anything! Part of the reason I didn't need much assistance while I was down there was because of how well they prepared me for it all!
This program is great for first-time travelers and those nervous about making friends (I made a lifelong friend out of this program!), or for those feeling overwhelmed at everything. If you're an experienced traveler and confident in your abilities to handle the little or big things that come up, then this program may not be for you. That being said, it would add value to just about anyone's travels, even with the little tips that they give you on where to find cheap but good coffee and food!
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If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would've gone away from the "traditional backpacker scene" much earlier.
The East coast of Australia (Sydney to Cairns) is very heavily traveled by backpackers. If you take the traditional route of using Greyhound buses to commute between the cities/towns along the coast, you'll likely run into the same people repeatedly. For me, travelling the East Coast added very little value to my time down under. The best place I travelled to (ever) has been Tasmania. THAT is an incredible place that deserves your travel time and dollars!
My semi-guided trip up the East coast was hectic - running up the coast in 3 weeks was just way too fast. Performing this section of my adventures solo left me somewhat floundering around in some places after being dropped off on the bus. I made lots of one-night friendships and shared a lot of goon, which is quite a common story for many travelling the East coast. In regards to the scenery, I'm sure there are lots of incredible places that I missed, but having grown up in Northwestern Ontario, with time spent in BC, Newfoundland, and western Alberta, none of the scenery I saw came close to Canada's beauty (it is subjective, so go and see for yourself)! If I could go back, I would've skipped the east coast entirely and spent that time in Tassie. After two months in Tasmania, I was still dumbfounded at how beautiful and lush everything was. Working here was great, and the Tasmanian people were so friendly, and less backpackers. I got to really know some locals and contribute - it was wonderful.
If you want unique experiences, to get to know people and understand the area and Australia, don't backpack the entire time - settle down somewhere and work and play. That's what the working visa gets you, so make use of it!