There’s so much more to Australia’s Northern Territory than we’re lead to believe

This article was created for The Travel Project by Claire Woodward, an Occupational Therapist from Canberra, Australia.

Like many of my Australian peers and millennials alike, the desire to travel “overseas” is a strong one, with the ongoing notion that the experiencing of sights, sounds and tastes of distant countries and cultures far outweigh any excitement of the experiences that remain at home.

We are geographically isolated, requiring at times strenuously long flights leaving us bleary eyed and jet lagged, and our exchange rate does not buy us many British pounds, euros or US dollars, but still it is adventure and the unknown that we seek. Australians are known for travel, and no matter where I have travelled in the world the sound of a familiar accent never seems to be far away.

Our endless curiosity, perhaps fuelled by our distance from the rest of the world, our incredibly multicultural population, exposure to world history and politics in high school covering the vast topics of ancient and modern civilizations and ever reaching popular culture and social media, only makes the desire even greater to explore. It only takes a quick look on Instagram to inspire and for us to add foreign locales to our ever growing bucket lists.

However, I think at times we may be too quick to jump on the bandwagon of exploring exotic and distant places that we forget what we have at home – no matter where we come from in the world. I certainly am guilty of this, having explored the world far more than the country I was born and raised in.

After being bitten by the travel bug again and growing restless with the 9-5, I booked a last minute trip to cross off some of my own bucket list items in Australia’s Northern Territory. Aware of the vastness and difficulty travelling solo around this part of the country, I hopped on a Contiki tour for ease of travel with a company that had brought me fun and exciting adventures in the past.

I was hoping for a quick break and a reset, but what I experienced was far more than I had ever anticipated. A forced technology detox, thanks to lack of phone reception was refreshing given the slave to social media that I am and so to were my travel companions – a few Australians but mostly those on their own ‘overseas’ adventures from the UK, Europe, Asia and North America and a guide with endless knowledge about the land we were exploring.

At times it was very easy to think I had truly entered a different world. I was witnessing landscapes that I had only ever seen on the television or in the pages of high school text books. I have seen some remarkable sites around the world, however not one of those was comparable to the overwhelming sense of amazement I experienced seeing the sacred place of Uluru for the first time. Whether this was because I had been brought up learning about Uluru and Australia’s Indigenous culture and history or simply because I underestimated what travelling to this part of the world would be like, I do not know.

Traveling abroad has the ability to develop our sense of self, often being placed in new and challenging situations of negotiating language, customs and currency; however the experience of exploring home was utterly fascinating and has ultimately given me a greater sense of appreciation and understanding about the deeply rooted Australian indigenous culture and history and the challenges present within our current society.

That of course, if you let it, is one of the benefits of travel – no matter who you are, or where you come from. Without leaving my own country, it allowed me to experience something so vastly different, to question and contemplate my own beliefs and to learn; creating new perspectives and ideas about the world around us and the society that I was raised in.

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