Close to ten years ago, I caught the well-known travel bug. I’d get on that plane whether it was an hour, 3 hours or those excruciating 24-something hour flights – I was hooked. Arriving home after my very first trip in the U.S., I decided that ever year I would have to travel overseas at least once. Being in a completely different country and immersing myself in anything that was on offer was how I wanted to live. I knew (well I thought I knew) that my future would see me anywhere that wasn’t Australia.
I grew up in Tatura: a country town in Victoria, on a dairy farm and my holidays consisted solely of trips to the Gold Coast once every year. This would be when my dad wasn’t milking cows (a small window of about 2 weeks). Any other short holiday or weekend getaway was a drive to Melbourne and that’s about it.
Living The Fancy Jetsetter Lifestyle
Eventually I turned eighteen, packed up and moved straight to the big smoke (Melbourne). My first job was in luxury retail and to say I loved the finer things in life would be an understatement; designer handbags, shoes, high-end dinners and weekend hotel stays became an obsession. This quickly progressed to overseas travel. I would see epic campaigns shot for the brand I worked for and thought ‘I have to get over there ASAP’ – and I did exactly that.
I would get any friend or family member I could to come on a trip with me but eventually I had to start going on my own as I wanted to get up and go at any given opportunity. All my obsessions came with me when I would go dinners, hotels, shopping and the sight-seeing.
All I wanted to do was tick off names on my list so whenever someone would say ‘oh Sam you should go to blah blah’ I could immediately say ‘yeah I’ve been’. It was around this time that my passion for photography had slowly started to creep back into my life, and it all just went hand in hand.
A New Chapter
Fast forward through 6-7 years maturity kicked in and all my materialistic ways had diminished. My love for photography remained and even intensified, as did my love for travel. Travel those days looked a little different. I was still jumping on those long-haul flights but instead of wandering into every designer store I was wandering into galleries, taking the time to soak up the culture and take as many photos as I possibly could.
Then came 2020; the year of lockdown. A trip I had booked to the UK to see one of my favourite artists got cancelled. It took me right to the very last minute to cancel those flights in hopes it would all blow over – we all know how that turned out. I was crushed and I felt completely stuck.
During all the madness that was COVID-19, an old friend from high school had come back into my life; Adrian. He was the one person I would have never thought would ever make the move to the city: a country boy at heart and a lover of anything outdoors, camping, 4WD, fishing you name it. Never would you find him sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day, he will always find things to do or work towards -one of the many qualities I love about him.
One Tuesday night I was going over to his house for dinner. Earlier that day he had called me to tell me he had lost his job due to COVID-19. I walked inside and his dad looked at me and said ‘go in have a look at what he’s doing’. Sitting at the table Adrian had the Hema Road and 4WD Atlas out, looked up at me and said ‘how much annual leave do you have? Let’s go away’. Definitely wasn’t expecting that. So, we started to plan our 3-week trip. This was around the time Victoria had been out of lockdown, then unexpectedly Metro Melbourne was forced back in – leaving regional Victoria free to roam. We had left just in time.
We had only been together for roughly 3-4 months at this stage and of course every inch of me wanted to go on an adventure with this amazing guy. Then my anxiety kicked in, all these things came rushing into my head: ‘I’ve never been camping’, ‘I don’t know how to set up a swag’, ‘what clothes do I bring?’, ‘I don’t think I even have boots’, ‘how the hell am I going to wing this?!’ and they were only a quarter of what came to mind, you can imagine the rest.
In expressing my concerns to my mum I was reminded that I grew up on a farm. I wasn’t afraid of getting my hands dirty so surely, I could wing it.
A Dream Come True – Visiting WA
The trips that both Adrian and his dad had told me about sounded amazing, one that stuck was the trip his dad, Lou, had made to the Kimberley region in WA. I started going through photos and I was honestly taken back. ‘We have all of this in Australia?’ I think I followed every single page I could possibly find on Instagram that night on WA, The Kimberley, and started to research.
In 3 weeks we visited the Grampians, Big Desert, Little Desert, Murray Sunset National Park, stayed along the Murray River and I got a taste of the Vic High Country. The first week in I was captivated by what we had in Victoria, the state I had lived in my whole life. How the hell did I miss this? All those little thoughts in my head had slowly disappeared.
Adrian was the perfect man to show me the ropes and made me feel completely comfortable. Not quite as comfortable as I would be sitting in a robe at the Four Seasons, but as I sat there staring at the stars, I looked over to Adrian and said for my 30th birthday I want to go to the Kimberley.
When we had arrived back, that’s what we started working toward. Belle (my name for the ute) his GU Patrol started getting all the attention and the countdown started to our 3-month trip exploring WA.
I am officially converted and in total awe of what our country has to offer. To think this chain of events has led me to where I am sitting now, writing this, looking out along Australia’s Coral Coast. I know it’s only the beginning, and to quote a man I have a tremendous amount of respect for… ‘Good Country Australia’.