Why are Australians so bad at

exploring Australia?

Image by Philippe Wuyts

Image by Philippe Wuyts

A look into our fascination with places that are far away, for Citizens of the World. 

For every home among the gumtrees, it seems there is an Australian looking to the horizon, dreaming of a place that's far away. 

Now more than ever before, we are searching for love, good times and adventure abroad.Maybe because we're running from someone, maybe because we’re running to something—or maybe just because we saw it in a movie once. Never mind our sweeping plains and ragged mountains ranges, we want our travel memories sealed with an awkward wave in a departure lounge, and a passport stamp.

But why do we all think we need to leave Australia for a holiday?

In early 2015 Tourism Research Australia reported that the number of Australians taking overseas holidays had continued to increase, with departures up 6% to 5.5 million. The falling Aussie dollar, it seems, is yet to put the brakes on our unyielding desire to travel abroad. So what’s so wrong with the great ‘down under’? Our celebrated, sunburnt country. Or, is it less about what’s wrong with here, and more to do with what we don’t know about there?

There is no denying the allure of the unfamiliar. Even when you’re small, the places you’ve never been seem far more interesting than the places that you know—your neighbour’s yard, your friend’s house; the next suburb over from your own. Isn’t it understandable that in adulthood this prurience would linger? Take this curiosity, add a little disposable income and a passport, and it seems reasonable that someone might choose Amsterdam over Ayers Rock, or Paris over Perth. Combined with Australia’s geographical isolation, the pull of distant shores becomes stronger, somehow
more exotic.

It is this flavour of exoticism that travel dreams are so often made of. Culture shock may sound violent by its very nature, but when it all comes down to it, that’s where the magic happens. By immersing yourself in the different and the strange not only do you travel, you transform—often without noticing that you are. In this sense, geographical exploration lends itself almost seamlessly to self-exploration. What could be more liberating that that?

Haggling at a market in South East Asia, being shoved in a New York City Subway scrum, trying to figure out what a Parisian is trying to tell you via mime because you don’t speak a word of French; this might not be the stuff that dreams are made of, but it is the stuff that changes you (for the better). Australia may offer us breathtaking beaches and undiscovered wilderness, but what it cannot deliver is an immersion in a culture entirely alien to our own: the opportunity to emerge a liberated, global citizen.

Despite our apparent reluctance to explore our own shores, one of America’s leading travel publications, Conde Nast Traveller, recently named Australia 2016’s ‘Destination of the Year’. It’s a promising sign for our relatively young country, and one that may in time shine a more attractive light on our great southern land.

Until then, Australians will most likely continue to gravitate towards mysterious, foreign destinations. After all, you can’t write home about something if you’re already there.

This story was first published on Citizens of the World, 2016.