Alice Springs, Australia: How to Set yourself up for Incredible Memories
Once and a while, a moment comes along when you notice that you are completely present. For most of us, that doesn’t happen very often, since it is so hard to live in the present and not think about tomorrow or your to do list or reminisce about the trip you went on last year.
I can remember some of these moments throughout my life because they are like snapshots in my brain. Probably my favorite experience ever happened pretty randomly. My family (mom and 2 sisters) found ourselves in the Australian outback at Alice Springs. We were scheduled by a travel agent to go on a dinner trip that night. Nothing weird about that so far right? When the time came, a guy (Bob) picked us up in his truck and needed to stop at his house around the corner for some more supplies. Well, now it’s a little weird. What other supplies could you possibly need when he is pulling around a whole storage pod already...? Then we drove out a ways (where there really isn’t anything around) while Bob was talking about his wife and the crazy experiences they have had in Alice Springs. We went to a couple of cool locations, saw some kangaroos, and then when it started to get dark we drove into a campground that looked deserted…
My family is pretty trusting of people, we just get to know them and have a good time, but this sure wasn’t what we expected. Bob set up a table for us and told us to sit and converse and have a good time while he set up. Being us, we tried to help him unpack his truck, but he wasn’t having any of it. He set up a fire and started cooking.
We didn't know what to expect from a traditional Australian chef in the outback (luckily we are adventurous with food)... but everything was insanely good! Except for those wild tomato things though, I will say that... I did not like those. We had crocodile, emu, kangaroo, so many crazy things for us Americans. The stars were so clear, and that was pretty incredible coming from the other side of the world, where the sky looks completely different. We had the most amazing time hanging out by the fire with each other, no cell service, under the bright stars, with the best chef making us the best food! For me, I am all about the atmosphere a space and experience creates. That is what makes it special for me, and everything about this adventure was perfect. To date, that was my favorite travel experience I have ever had.
While writing this story, I realized I had no idea how we came about going on that adventure, so I looked it up and found Bob here on this list of Northern Territory's top outdoor dining experiences and he was at the bottom!!!! We also experienced the 4th one on the list and it was nowhere near as amazing as this was... just saying. So here is a link to Bob's direct site, because if you are going to Alice Springs, you HAVE to do this dinner. (Also I am not paid to say this, and I never give high recommendations like this. The only other time was for my gyno in Richmond because she is equally amazing.)
Anyways, I know people say "don’t take any day for granted", and you shouldn’t, but you are also not going to have your favorite most magical experience ever, every single day. But, there are ways to set yourself up for those moments.
This time I asked my sister, Hailey, who has been to like a million countries already and she is only 20 years old (yes it does suck to be her older sister). She took a gap year before heading off to college and is now a firm advocate for gap years because you definitely broaden your perspective on life, other people, and will be able to get more out of your college experience no matter what kind of gap year you take. So here are some of her tips about setting yourself up for these amazing experiences.
1. Be flexible.
Seriously, put that pout away when something doesn’t go your way or if you don’t understand something. If we were those types of people to get all uppity at everything we would have made Bob turn around and bring us back to where we were staying the minute he said he had to stop by his house for more supplies after not knowing anything about what we were to expect. Listen to your instincts, of course, if things do get hairy, because they can, but you are not going to enjoy anything if you are stressed out about things not going exactly as planned. Wander the streets and let the wind push you where you are meant to go.
2. Do your research ahead of time.
Before you commit to going somewhere, make sure it fits with what you want. You could be looking for a relaxing trip to the beach or an adventure in the mountains! Whatever you want to experience, you have to have to make sure it is a place that fits your expectations. And that includes your budget! Make sure you know what things cost there, and make sure you have enough.
3. Save money on food.
Go to the grocery store (experience what life is really like there) and get some food you can cook in the air bnb or hostel kitchen. It will be way cheaper, and healthier, than eating out for every meal. And you will be amazed at what kinds of different foods people in other places have.
4. Get comfortable with sharing.
Ya, air bnbs are a great thing, but if you really want to save money, make some friends and couch surf, or stay in a hostel. You'll have to share a room with some strangers, but you are all out adventuring and traveling anyways. It makes for easy friends, stories, and suggestions for where to go next. I always stay in hostels, but now I have friends everywhere. Some of my best friends in Australia were the people I met in my dorm room in my hostels. That’s the way to take advantage of going new places.
5. Ask around.
Ask locals for suggestions about what to do and where to eat. What you find online before you go can be mostly touristy, which is fine, but to get those real-feel places and experiences, the locals know best.
6. Bring Friends.
Traveling with people makes me wayyyyyy more comfortable, just because there is another brain to bounce problem solving ideas off of if something does go awry. But you can also save a lot on food, accommodation, and bundles for excursions. Plus, it is so much more fun to share those experiences!
7. Choose wisely.
The kind of experience you have also depends on where you are in your life. There are so many opportunities for college students to study abroad, volunteer, or do an internship. If you are unattached after college, volunteering abroad is also a great way to get amazing experiences, build the resume, and do a little more soul searching if you are not sure what you want to do yet. You could even work at a hostel! Or pick up and move! Just go and find an apartment and a job… it's possible! I did that in Melbourne for 6 months working in a restaurant. You could even work the restaurant scene and move around every couple of weeks/months. Really tap into your inner nomad.
8. Step out of your comfort zone.
Just a little. I am not talking about bungee jumping off of a cliff if you really could never ever do that in your life and not regret it even a little. But maybe if someone in your group wants to do a speedboat and snorkeling thing, and you are a little nervous about it, still say yes, deal with the little bit of fear and anxiety, and it will definitely be worth it.
9. Put your phone away.
I know it’s hard, and yes you want some pictures to take home with you, but this is really about the conversations, living in the moment, and the experiences. Respect your company, your environment, and yourself enough to realize the time and place for your phone.
Side note from me, some of you might have noticed that my travel pictures on my kfonsart instagram never line up with where I actually am. I do take a bunch of pictures when I travel, but I barely go on social media, just to post things I already have scheduled, answer a comment, or do a story, plan ahead so you don't focus so much on your virtual friends that you forget about making new ones in real life.
Laugh it off always. There is no use fighting, arguing, being sad or stressed on this trip. Laugh every day, all the time. Bring that energy into wherever you go and whatever you do, no matter how wrong things go or how crazy your experiences turn out to be.
It’s that easy! Ok, it still takes a lot of planning and saving, but it definitely isn’t beyond your reach. Traveling is a great thing to work up towards. Isn’t that what life is all about after all, experiencing it?
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