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Roadtrip Australia: Van-Tastic Northern Territory - WILLIE & ANDREW Americans Willie and Andrew embark on the ultimate Aussie roadtrip as they motor around Northern Territory with Van-Tastic Adventures for six action-packed, free-wheeling weeks of adventure.

DEGLAMOURIZED: WHAT TRAVELING IS REALLY LIKE

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 2 May 2010 | Views [1213] | Comments [1]

Ah, the allure of traveling. Hopping from one country to the next, coloring in and crossing off entire landmasses on your world almanac. Never knowing where you’ll be the next evening, maybe even the next morning. Seeing a spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean twelve hours after you watched it rise over the Pacific. Meeting new people every night, fleeting personalities that disappear by the morning but stick with you for a lifetime. Throwing yourself head over heels into a new culture, trying foods you didn’t know were edible, finally being understood in a language you’ve only just learned hours before. What could be more glamorous?

ANYTHING.

ANYTHING IS MORE GLAMOROUS THAN TRAVELING.

 Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling. Specifically, I love backpacking. Throwing yourself into a world with nothing more than the possessions strapped to your shoulders and praying that it’s enough. But it’s a rough and difficult lifestyle, a grimy, dirty, and overall smelly change of pace.

On this trip, Willie and I have been lucky enough to have a campervan. Which means that we always have a bed to sleep on – though not always a place to park it. When we’ve slept in parking lots or alleys, we’ve been assaulted by drunks in the middle of the night or police at the break of dawn. If you sleep too close to the road, the passing traffic keeps you up all night. Especially if there happens to be a biker’s parade in town the next day. Which is something we have experienced.

So normally we spend our nights at rest stops. This is easy in the Outback. Because ‘drowsy drivers’ are so dangerous, rest stops can be found about every 50km. It’s safe to park there. Of course, you’re not supposed to drive through the Outback at night. Kangaroos and bilbies and pterodactyl wannabes rush into your headlights at every opportunity. So we have to get there early, around sunset.

Which is great. Because we get to watch the sun sink into the desert horizon, usually over distant mountains or rock formations. And with so little else around, you can see every single cloud in Australia from your one perch, and every single one of those clouds captures the light and sends it back in strange and vivid colors.

But once the spectacular sunset is over, we’re left in the dark. There are no streetlights around. But there are plenty of snakes. Somewhere. We’re told. The idea of traipsing through the desert without being able to see two feet in front of you has never quite appealed to us. So from sunset on, Willie and I camp in the van. This usually means that we play cards. Sometimes a game that relies on speed, like Spit. Other games rely on strategy, like an addictive game we learned in hostels: Shithead.

After a few hours of card games and rambling, strange conversations, the van is hot. Ridiculously hot, forcing us to sweat more than some saunas. Our clothes stick to us. They’re damp with sweat. We remove our shirts to sleep, stretch them out to dry. And in the morning, they’re still soaked through. But now they’re smelly.

Also, there’s no laundry at these sites. And there’s no showers, either. In the past six weeks, I’ve been able to wash my clothes twice. And I only have five shirts with me. So when the smell becomes too much to handle, we put on our backpacks and go to a hostel. But we don’t stay in one. Oh, no. We simply march past reception like we’ve had a room for weeks and then proceed to scout out the place. This is how we find showers. This is how we brush our teeth. Which is what we usually do when we put our laundry out to air-dry, since paying for a dryer would be ludicrous. Instead, we hang our shirts and underwear all over any piece of furniture we can find, and we wait. Our clothes get crisp and hard.

Then we leave, trying to ignore the looks from receptionists who can’t comprehend the shift we’ve made from haggard, stubbly, and stenchy to clean-shaven, shampooed, and crisp-shirted.

Oddly, cities are the hardest places to be in. It’s harder to get permission to park behind somebody’s shop, or to find rest stops that don’t mind you staying. Harder to find showers and laundries. But it’s easy peezy lemon simple in the country.

And yes, for the first five weeks, we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day. By the sixth week, we couldn’t stand it. Now we frequent the cheapest bakery in town.

This is what it’s really like to travel.

It’s the least glamorous lifestyle I can imagine.

But I love it. It’s easy to embrace, especially when every other traveler is just like you. Nobody cares. It’s a big, smelly community full of people with stories to share. Would I suggest it? In a heartbeat. But know what you’re getting into.

By Andrew Adams

Tags: andrew adams, brushing teeth, how to shower, how travel, laundry, real life on the road, rest stops, road trip, vantastic, willie concepcion

Comments

1

haha I'm glad you guys have managed to sneak into showers
There's something so awesome about being struggling uncomfortably in a strange place.

and what the heck is a bilby/bilbies?

  Morgan May 10, 2010 11:32 AM

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