10 October 2014

On the Road: A Pathway to Growth

A shot of other explorers on the road

As a study abroad student from the University of California, Los Angeles, I experienced my first Australian mid-semester break this past week. For some students, the break was filled with endless amounts of sleep and relaxation, while for others, it contained traveling to different countries in search of cultural shock and experience. But for me, the week long break was packed with adventure, bonding and personal growth.

It all started with the collaboration of the fantastic four: One Colombian, One Sweden, One Californian, and one from Washington State.

A picture of us in front of our Jucy van. From left to right: Cristal McClure, Juan Camilo Vargas, Simon Sundstrom and myself.

The unlikely formation of this diverse travel group added to the emergence of one’s self into new and exciting experiences that tested my courage and fed my bottomless appetite of wanderlust.

My mates and I rented a Jucy camper van and decided to drive down the coast from Brisbane back to Sydney. We had a rough estimate of a plan and decided to simply “wing it” in order to have a true college road trip experience. Juan and Simon flew to Brisbane on the morning of Sept 25th to collect the van while Cristal and I decided to leave later that evening in order to attend our tutorials (yes, we actually are good students!). Leaving that evening became our first mistake. Our second mistake was choosing to fly with Tigerair. The weather was stunningly beautiful with warm rays of sunshine and light gusts of refreshing winds...until a thunderstorm rained down on Sydney in all of its glory and might. Our flight was cancelled and the next available flight we could re-book took off Sept 28th. This minor setback provided Cristal and I with the opportunity to further explore Sydney and bond over homemade chocolate milkshakes (the sweetness cut the edge off of our bitterness).

During the afternoon of Sunday, Sept 28th, Cristal and I arrived in Brisbane after a short comfortable flight. Little to our knowledge, the adventure would begin the minute we stepped off the plane.
Below is a detailed schedule of our Australian road trip:

Sunday (Sept 28th): Grocery Shopping. Arrived at the Gold Coast and made last minute accommodation booking at a Camper-van Park. Went out and explored the night life at Gold Coast.

Monday (Sept 29th) & Tuesday (Sept 30th): Beach day at The Gold Coast - Surfers Paradise

Wind surfers taking advantage of the breeze at Surfers Paradise

Tuesday (Sept 30th): Traveled to Byron Bay and stayed at the Arts Factory Hostel. Made new back packing friends and attended a talent show.

The Arts Factory logo basically describes what the hostel is all about

Wednesday (Oct 1st): Drove to Nimbin to explore the town and then to Minyon Falls in the Nightcap National Park to have lunch with other mates we ran into on the road.

A picture of the crew at Nimbin

Thursday (Oct 2nd): Snorkeled with turtles at Byron Bay. Drove to the town of Yamba to explore and then to Coffs Harbour. We stayed the night in a sketchy parking lot.

Me snorkeling in the clear water
A close up photo of one of the turtles

Friday (Oct 3rd): Beach day at Sapphire Beach. Drove to Port Macquarie and stayed at a camper-van park.

A picture of Sapphire Beach

Saturday (Oct 4th): Traveled to Newcastle and rented out ATV’s to ride on the sand dunes. We spent the night in a parking lot right next to the ocean. Cristal and I found a small pub and danced to the live music, which encouraged the locals to get up and dance.

Cristal and I showing off our muscles on the heavy duty ATV's

Sunday (Oct 5th): Drove to Hunter Valley and participated in a “Cheers” tour which included a full day of wine tasting at four different wineries in addition to cheese/chocolate tasting and a delicious lunch.

A picture of us at a winery in Hunter Valley

The expedition turned into a bank of memories that only the four of us would be able to fully share and withdrawal no matter how hard we tried to narrate the trip to friends and family. The destination was simply the journey itself. Seeing Australian nature from a ground perspective and feeling the heartbeat of land and ocean match the pulse of my own was nothing less of intimately beautiful.

Growth came in many different forms.

Time stopped as I looked deep into the eyes of a magnificent turtle, feeling my body surrounded by cool ocean, water rushing in my ears, hearing nothing but the splash of the sea current. I felt limitless. The experience reminded me of why we must keep on fighting the grand fight to protect our ocean’s biodiversity.

Driving in Australia tested my ability to learn and abide law. Putting myself in a stressful situation with lives in my hands helped me grow as a responsible adult.

My heart beat fast as I rode along the sand dunes at top speed with the wind and sand blowing through my blonde hair. I learned how to trust myself and my own abilities.

Trying the taste of sweet and bitter wines for the first time expanded my horizons to new cultures and new perspectives from wine connoisseurs.

May it be a road trip, studying abroad for the first time or opening your heart to new and exciting experiences, maturity is the goal and growth is the progressive side effect.

Jennifer Crane
Current student at the University of Sydney and Marketing & Communications Intern at the University of Sydney Business School 

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