09 May Bad Travel Days and the Ocean Road
Most days on the road are good, really good. A few are the rare kind that you remember for years; days that were so amazing it almost hurts to remember them – like skydiving in New Zealand. Then, inevitably, there are the days that aren’t so good. Just as in normal life, sometimes we’re exhausted, sick, pissed off or just feeling inexplicably flat. Unfortunately, I was feeling a mixture of all those things the day we set off on our Great Ocean Road Trip.
Driving the Great Ocean Road
After an amazing few days visiting Melbourne I had been excited to get out and explore the Great Ocean Road. I’d heard stories of wild kangaroo and koala sightings and seen pictures of the road itself winding alongside turquoise waters and beautiful beaches – it was time to see a slice of real Australia, I thought.
The reality was somewhat different.
The day we were due to drive the Great Ocean Road I forced myself up at the crack of dawn with an aching stomach, even though the sky was grey and leaden, a mist of rain obscuring the view. Naively, we’d expected Australia to be full of non-stop sunshine but instead we felt like we were back in the UK as we drove into the grey with the heat turned up, promising each other that things would improve.
Mile after mile I scoured the roadsides and peered into the trees looking for wild kangaroos and koalas, growing more disappointed as they failed to appear and then hitting rock bottom when we saw a dead roo at the side of the road. At each stop I dragged myself from the car, searching for that sense of amazement, for that moment of awe that would make it all worth it – but all I could see in each cliff side and beach was piles of rock and acres of moody, churning water.
The weather cleared up and finally, we reached the climax of our drive, the 12 apostles; rock formations carved from years of patient sea and wind erosion. Looking at the photos now I can’t understand why I wasn’t moved at all by the sight of those apostles; I remember looking around at all the other tourists there seeing the appropriate expressions of amazement on their faces – why didn’t I feel it too?
Why Bad Travel Days are actually Good
Looking back on it now, I can see why I felt so cold and removed from our Great Ocean Road experience. The combination of having one of those stand-out amazing days in Melbourne and crashing in exhaustion from weeks of hectic travel contributed to my bad mood, as did the stormy weather, my high expectations of the journey ahead and my aching stomach – but there was another factor at play – the legacy of New Zealand.
Since we left I’ve been realising more and more just how incredible New Zealand is, just how truly spectacular it looks. In comparison, the Great Ocean Road, which for a large stretch doesn’t even run next to the sea itself, looked mediocre. I’m afraid that I’ve been spoilt by all the amazing drives we took in New Zealand, incessantly winding up and down hills, on the edge of ragged cliffs, through spectacular gorges and valleys, surrounded by towering mountains, rolling fields and vast lakes. In my opinion New Zealand just beats Australia hands-down on the scenery front.
Realising all this doesn’t make me feel any better about not loving my experience on the Ocean Road though; it doesn’t stop me from feeling ungrateful and spoilt. On bad travel days like that it’s hard to remember the version of me six months ago who would have been awed by the sights that now left me cold, the person who ached to travel and would have traded anything for that day on the Ocean Road.
However, I have to remind myself that not every day of our trip can be incredible; I won’t love every place we visit and I won’t feel great all of the time – but that’s ok. I’ve come to the conclusion that there have to be some bad travel days because ultimately, they keep me appreciating the good days. This new lifestyle we’re carving for ourselves can’t be an endless procession of one awesome day after the next – there have to be some dull days amidst the blinding brightness of the rest, there have to be times when we simply sit still and do ordinary, dull things like the laundry. Above all else what I try to remind myself on those rare, bad travel days is that even the worst times on the road are better than the best days of my old life and whatever happens:
I am so happy and grateful to be living this life of travel.