I decided several months ago that I was going to keep a promise I made to myself to visit/travel/live in Australia. I've tried to go about it from a couple of different angles, and I have decided to go on an extended trip (several months) rather than an extended stay (several years), for financial, logistical, and family-begging-me-not-to-go-at-all reasons. I found a 3 month visa that Australia offers, called an ETA. I'm not allowed to be employed during the stay, and apparently if I stay a day over 3 months, they are allowed to come and kick me out of the country. The timing is ideal, because I have been working for about a year and have been saving the majority of the money I've earned for the trip. The planning is really not an issue; I actually enjoy planning things, it's kind of a hobby. I'm getting more and more excited about the prospect of a 3 month trip around Australia.
After going looking at this from several different angles, I decided the best way to go, as far as seeing the country and paying a little as possible for lodging, would be to stay at hostels throughout the country. I will be traveling alone, with the exception of the couple weeks that Matt will be vacationing with me. Below is the planning I have so far:
Step 1: Passport.
I received my passport about a week ago.
Step 2: ETA.
An ETA stands for electronic travel authority. It's a temporary visa, allowing you to travel in Australia for up to 3 months at a time. It also allows you to return as many times as you want for up to 3 months each time, for a year. But you are not allowed to be employed within the country. And you have to leave after 3 months or they can arrest/detain you in Australia.
So now I have approval from both countries to go on the trip. I could leave anytime and go to Australia- it's such a liberating feeling! But I am planning on going on this trip between September and December this year. It will be their Spring (which means I will experience 2 springs this year, but no fall), and I will be back in time for Christmas (a must to get my family on board). Plus, by September, I will have nearly double the money I have now, so I will have plenty of money to fund the entire trip, as well as a nice nest egg for when I return.
3. The Plans.
I have decided I will be making a circle clockwise throughout the country and I have picked 11 prominent cities to visit. I will be starting in Sydney, then the train to Melbourne, taking a ferry over to Tasmania, next a train to Adelaide, a ferry down to Kangaroo Island, then a Greyhound bus to Coober Pedy, a flight to Perth, up to Darwin, next to Alice Springs, a flight to Cairns, last to Brisbane, and a train ride back to Sydney to return home.
Sydney- I will be starting and ending here, probably about 2 weeks total time. I will see the classic touristy stuff (the Opera House), but I am also considering ending the trip with a nice lunch cruise in the Sydney Harbour. In addition to the stuff in the city, there is a mountain range called the Blue Mountains where there is a famous rock formation called the "3 sisters."
Melbourne- I will stay here about a week and explore the city. There is a wildlife phenomenon know as the Phillip Island penguin parade that occurs nightly when the penguins return to the sea each night.
Tasmania-I will be taking a ferry overnight to go there and comeback, spending about 5 days there.
Adelaide-I will stay here around 6 days, I will tour the Barossa Valley vineyards.
Kangaroo Island- I will be staying here 5ish days, and will most likely be staying in the wildlife sanctuary.
Coober Pedy- This is the Opal capital of the world, and is definitely considered "Outback." The buildings in this town are built into the rock to save themselves from the intense desert heat. Depending on lodging, I might only be able to stay here a couple of days. Hostel looks booked up already, and hotel is pretty pricey.
Perth- Main city on west coast, home of the coastal wind phenomenon know as the Fremantle Doctor. They have good beaches, and I plan on staying 10ish days, depending on lodging.
Darwin-The main city in North, know for lots of Aboriginal History and wildlife. One attraction I will be visiting is Kakadu National Park.
Alice Springs- This is classic Outback. I am planning on going hot-air ballooning over the outback and attending a dinner of local fare (including kangaroo!), followed by a star-gazing session.
Cairns- This is another city known for the beaches, I plan on staying 10ish days. I will snorkel the Great Barrier Reef!
Brisbane- I will spend about a week touring the city before returning to Sydney and spending a couple more days there before my departure back to the US.
There are so many little details I have to keep in mind when planning this trip, such as power converters, travelers health insurance, and currency. But I am getting more and more excited about the trip and will continue to update this blog throughout the planning process and throughout the 3 month trip.