You may have noticed we’ve just been to Western Australia. Seen STA Travel’s new film? Total eye candy. Been on Instagram lately? Selfie heaven. Read our project lowdown on STA Travel’s blog? Pure inspiration. We have had so much to write/colour leak/shout about because the project was genuinely awesome. But as we submitted our final bits of commissioned material and read through everything again, there was something missing, that we hadn’t quite had the space to put our fingers on.
As you know from our previous blog post about different types of travel – we’re a fan of all of it. Whether you’re enjoying the highlights of Europe on a 2-week party bus or hitchhiking solo to a secluded hill in East Timor, we don’t see the point of being snobbish. Everyone nowadays claims to take you where none of the other tourism service providers take you. Even day trip providers at Bangkok’s floating markets that are flooded daily with boatloads of pale, sunburnt, squinting westerners compete at sales point bragging about the fact they take you to the ‘real’ market. What? Everyone else goes to a virtual one? And shipping your 3 busses of 50 tourists (yep, I’ve said it) to the ‘secret spot’ daily keeps that spot ‘secret’ for the next day’s load?
You’re never going to get more off the beaten track (OTBT) than everyone else (locals, anyone?), unless you’re a highly trained specialized deep-sea diver in the Marianna Trench. Or an astronaut. ‘Tourist’ has become such a dirty word, just look at hundreds of inspirational quote pictures that spread like wildfire.“I’m a traveller, not a tourist”, is such a stamp of moral high ground, even crappy websites like holidify.com are using the slogan for their poorly executed ad campaign. Since when did travellers sleep exclusively in tents with one t-shirt and a stupid amount of camera equipment for shots they can’t back up cause taking a laptop makes them a tourist?
But we digress. What made Western Australia so cool was that it seemed to be blissfully unaware of this distinction between tourists and travellers and the deeply rooted judgement in to OTBT or not to OTBT. Yep, Perth had its fill of pissed up student types throwing up kebabs on historical monuments in Freo. Wannabe professional photographers stood around street art hotspot Wolf Lane, like it was some exclusive underground club, to be spotted and deemed ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ by other wannabe professional photographers. But for some reason, the alpha-OTBT-body-language-hierarchy wasn’t as present. Maybe it’s the fact that Western Australia has been out of the mainstream’s minds that the place still has an air of collective adventure. On the road our touring mob mingled with families in campervans, shoestring backpackers hitchhiking to places that would otherwise be too expensive to get to, high-end glam packers and crusty my-grandad’s-been-comin’-here-since-he-was-6-and-so-have-I’ old-timers. Yes, we certainly had different hygiene facility expectations, but on the whole there was a refreshing absence of “ugh, look at those smelly youngsters” vs “OMG, my SOUL would DIE if I EVER signed up for a TOUR. How MAINSTREAM is THAT???”
Maybe it’s the people. WA, like Australia in general, isn’t cheap, and you can’t get away with not showering. Maybe the hardcore off-the-beaten-trackers don’t fancy places as ‘westernised’ as Oz, but want to bathe Facebook with shots from this-cute-little-third-world-country-no-one-has-ever-heard-of-before-except-me. Maybe it’s the way the ‘attractions’ are laid out – you can’t just get there in an hour on the back of a scooter and be back for your sunset yoga session. We drove more than 3000km, and that takes some dedication and a relatively comfortable means of transport, or you’d quickly get bored of being in pain. You also just have to stick to the way things are run, put up with the ‘constricting’ regulations and health & safety rules you have to follow cause this is Oz, not Java. No adventurous riding on car roofs here, but we do know a good spot in Myanmar!
We think the most defining thing for us was Western Australia’s unexpectedness. Everyone knows there’s a photo opportunity spot just above Machu Picchu, cause everyone who goes has their pic taken exactly there. Hell yeah, we totally would too, that is the point! It’s an amazing place, so why wouldn’t you want to remind yourself that you were there? When it came to WA though, all we could come up with from our pre-knowledge brains was a generic pic of Perth’s skyline, a shot of a whale shark and some endless bush. This lack of pre-chewed visual narrative was amazing, ‘cause we were surprised round every corner. We had no idea how beautiful Karijini National Park was. We had no idea that Shell Beach’s waters were so crystal clear, and whale sharks were really SO much cooler in real life. We had no idea how amazing the colours of the container ships and red rocks of Gantheaume Point in Broom contrasted with the turquoise sea and lush green vegetation. And we had this stretch of West Coast, three times the length of the UK, to explore with a completely blank slate. To take yourself where you haven’t been before through other people’s eyes is in a way of getting ‘off the beaten track’. And a place where you can do just that, in this incredibly well documented world, is really quite unique.