I’ve always enjoyed road trips and weekends away. Nothing fancy, nothing planned, just a packed bag, pillows, a great playlist, and the road.
I moved to Queensland four years ago, from the Central West of NSW. The summers were hot and the winters were freezing, but worst of all, I was too far from the coast. Growing up in Sydney I spent every weekend in summer at the beach. We holidayed at either Forster or Vincentia, and it was blissful weeks of swimming, sunburn, and the occasional heat stroke— the eighties weren’t known for slip, slop, slap. When I left home I moved to Byron Bay and just about lived in the water. I have tried to stay as close to the coast as possible my whole life, so the seven years I spent in the Central West were very difficult.
There was a lot to love about the Central West— beautiful countryside, four distinct seasons, a laid back lifestyle and country hospitality, but no beach. A trip to the beach had to be planned, and involved hours of driving. I loved road trips to other towns for lunch or a few nights away, but as the years went by with only a handful of trips to the beach, I felt myself declining. I had enjoyed my time working as a writer for a tourism magazine, and later as the writer and editor for a small newspaper, but I needed the ocean. I look back at this part of my life with some sadness— I felt lost and very alone, and I knew that I had to make some drastic changes.
I packed my car with as much as I could fit in, quit my job, and started the long drive up to Queensland. I had no job to go to, but I had savings and would be staying with a friend until I could find a place to live. I had applied for a few jobs prior to leaving, and surprisingly, two of them called to offer me interviews as I was driving up. When I had left the Central West it was freezing. I was rugged up in a coat, jeans and boots, but I had a change of clothes ready. I drove for nine hours straight, stopping only long enough to buy coffee and use the restrooms. I was too scared to stop in case I changed my mind. I had planned to stop at Goondiwindi for the night; a small, pretty town on the Queensland side of the border. I knew I was getting closer when I had to pull over to let an emu cross the road in The Pilliga, and it was then I started to relax. I waved goodbye to the black dog who had been menacing me for the last six months, I turned the music up, took off my coat, and unwound the windows. Warm air filled my car and I finally felt alive. I had forgotten what it felt like to actually be doing something I wanted— travelling, having adventures, exploring new places. Everything was unknown, and if I knew then what I know now, I wonder if I’d have made the same decision. I’m really not sure.
I pulled into a hotel in Goondwindi and was happy they had a small, air-conditioned room available for the night. I removed my winter clothing, slipped into a cool dress, and went for a walk through town. I was exhausted from the driving, but incredibly happy, and I smiled as I ate Chinese takeaway in my room. Goondiwindi is one of my most favourite little towns. It’s so picturesque, with quaint stores, friendly locals, and surrounded by a breathtaking Australian landscape. The main street is very pretty, and rising early the next morning, I ran through the empty streets, towards the Macintyre River. Lined with gum trees the Macintyre Riverwalk is three kilometres of a walking track, or in my case, a running track, along the river. I enjoyed the humidity as I had felt like I had been cold for so long in the Central West. After a shower and a light breakfast in a cafe, I packed my car again and headed towards Brisbane. I only had four more hours to drive, and I’d finally reach my destination; I was so excited!
It’s been four years, almost to the day since I arrived in Brisbane. Yes, I achieved what I wanted— I rented a small apartment by the water and every morning I would take a run along the beach running track, before work. I swam most days, soaked up the sun, and ate great food in little cafes by the beach. I’ve made great friends and had incredible experiences as I’ve explored Queensland and other countries. I still love road trips, and despite some very trying moments I’ve had since I moved away, it will still go down as one of the most important road trips I’ve ever taken.