OK, before you start thinking that this post is sponsored by Australia Tourism or something, it’s not, but it is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. If you poll potential travelers most, and not just Americans, usually have a trip to Australia in their top five dream trip destinations. People around the world are captivated by this remote continent-island, most of which is so barren life doesn’t exist except in the extreme. It’s now been a year since my one and only trip to Oz and I can’t think of a better time than now to try to answer the question: Why does everyone love Australia?
1. Extreme – Australia is 2,989,000 square miles, about the same size as the Continental United States. Yet the island nation is only home to 22 million residents, the vast majority of whom live along the coasts and far away from the Red Centre. Much of Australia isn’t just inconvenient for life and habitation; it’s extremely bad for it. Temperatures soar to incredible heights, there’s no water and just about every animal has its own special way to kill or maim. The Red Centre though I think is a great metaphor for the rest of the country, everything about Australia is extreme. It’s located at the ends of the earth, just about as far away from anything you can possibly get. It has animals found nowhere else on the planet; remnants of another geological age and infinitely strange. A trip to Australia isn’t like a weekend away in London; this is a trip for the ages. It’s big, far away and demands time and attention and it is this extreme nature that I believe stirs our imaginations as travelers at the most base of levels. Whether conscious or not, there’s a need for travelers to take their lives up a notch either intellectually of physically and Australia is one of the best places to do that.
2. Completely different – Thanks to its millennia of separation from the rest of the world, there’s just no place like Australia anywhere else. It is believed that the Aboriginal people first arrived on the shores of Australia 50,000 years ago. Think about that number, fifty thousand years. In terms of human civilization that’s an incredibly long time ago and is an equally long time to be isolated from the rest of the world. But this isolation, both geological and socially, has imparted to Australia much of its wonder and charm. Most of the animal life doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world and they are mostly accessible to tourists: Koalas, kangaroos, platypi, you name it and every strange, cute creature seems to call Australia home. These differences are translated across to the landscape, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and the vast interior desert are themselves as unique as those cuddly koalas and kangaroos. This is the only place in the world that can be called completely different from anything else anywhere in the world, so why wouldn’t it be a dream trip?
3. People – I believe that the combination of their, ahem, interesting heritage and the fact that they lived on the edge of the planet created the modern Australian personality. Outgoing, fun, engaging, smart, enthusiastic and self-reliant – these qualities are by and large enjoyed by many Australians and they were borne of necessity. We in the United States congratulate our founding fathers for their own challenges in pioneering the nation, but the first Australian colonists/prisoners took this to new levels. The fact that they were able to create the country that exists today in only a couple of hundred years is no mean feat. Along the way though it meant that only a special type of person would succeed. These qualities make it a joy to visit Australia, as you’ll never be without a drinking buddy or someone with whom to yammer on about politics. As an American, I think we are drawn to Australia by our similar backgrounds and cultural underpinnings. We are both, basically, Anglo in our heritage and frankly I think understand each other fairly well. We both also truly value our independence and that too brings us closer together. Australia is an easy place to visit with people who are easy to get along with. That’s pretty uncommon as one travels around the world.
4. Adventure – I generally consider New Zealand to be the adventure travel capital of the world, but Australia revels in a special type of adventure that I believe draws millions of people. Instead of relying upon bungee or Zorbing, travel to Australia is itself the adventure. As humans I think we love the idea of being a pioneer, of exploring unknown spaces upon which few have tread. Sure, millions of people visit Australia every year but there is a perception I believe that to travel there is to be an adventurer, a special kind of traveler who seeks to discover new things. Whether or not that is actually true doesn’t matter, it’s the feeling of that adventure that is important and is another reason why it is so beloved by many.
Australia is big in size, in spirit and in expectations and it’s hard at times to reconcile all that. It would take years of travel through Australia to see its width and breadth and to walk away feeling like you truly know and understand the country, but it is this tendency to shock and awe visitors that I believe is the country’s greatest asset. It’s also why millions of people who have never visited want to visit; they seem to realize on some level that it is a country of infinite possibilities and that alone is enough to make it a dream destination.
What do you think? What are the other reasons why people seem to love Australia so much?