The 12 Apostles, the Great Ocean Road

Bad Travel Days and the Ocean Road

Most days on the road are good, really good. A few are the rare kind that you remember for years;  days that were so amazing it almost hurts to remember them – like skydiving in New Zealand. Then, inevitably, there are the days that aren’t so good. Just as in normal life, sometimes we’re exhausted, sick, pissed off or just feeling inexplicably flat. Unfortunately, I was feeling a mixture of all those things the day we set off on our Great Ocean Road Trip.

Driving the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Driving the Great Ocean Road

After an amazing few days visiting Melbourne I had been excited to get out and explore the Great Ocean Road. I’d heard stories of wild kangaroo and koala sightings and seen pictures of the road itself winding alongside turquoise waters and beautiful beaches – it was time to see a slice of real Australia, I thought.

The reality was somewhat different.

The day we were due to drive the Great Ocean Road I forced myself up at the crack of dawn with an aching stomach, even though the sky was grey and leaden, a mist of rain obscuring the view. Naively, we’d expected Australia to be full of non-stop sunshine but instead we felt like we were back in the UK as we drove into the grey with the heat turned up, promising each other that things would improve.

London Bridge Rock Formation on the Ocean Road

‘London Bridge’ Rock Formation on the Ocean Road

Mile after mile I scoured the roadsides and peered into the trees looking for wild kangaroos and koalas, growing more disappointed as they failed to appear and then hitting rock bottom when we saw a dead roo at the side of the road. At each stop I dragged myself from the car, searching for that sense of amazement, for that moment of awe that would make it all worth it – but all I could see in each cliff side and beach was piles of rock and acres of moody, churning water.

The 12 Apostles, the Great Ocean Road

The 12 Apostles, the Great Ocean Road

The weather cleared up and finally, we reached the climax of our drive, the 12 apostles; rock formations carved from years of patient sea and wind erosion. Looking at the photos now I can’t understand why I wasn’t moved at all by the sight of those apostles; I remember looking around at all the other tourists there seeing the appropriate expressions of amazement on their faces – why didn’t I feel it too?

Why Bad Travel Days are actually Good

Looking back on it now, I can see why I felt so cold and removed from our Great Ocean Road experience. The combination of having one of those stand-out amazing days in Melbourne and crashing in exhaustion from weeks of hectic travel contributed to my bad mood, as did the stormy weather, my high expectations of the journey ahead and my aching stomach – but there was another factor at play – the legacy of New Zealand.

Since we left I’ve been realising more and more just how incredible New Zealand is, just how truly spectacular it looks. In comparison, the Great Ocean Road, which for a large stretch doesn’t even run next to the sea itself, looked mediocre. I’m afraid that I’ve been spoilt by all the amazing drives we took in New Zealand, incessantly winding up and down hills, on the edge of ragged cliffs, through spectacular gorges and valleys, surrounded by towering mountains, rolling fields and vast lakes. In my opinion New Zealand just beats Australia hands-down on the scenery front.

Realising all this doesn’t make me feel any better about not loving my experience on the Ocean Road though; it doesn’t stop me from feeling ungrateful and spoilt. On bad travel days like that it’s hard to remember the version of me six months ago who would have been awed by the sights that now left me cold, the person who ached to travel and would have traded anything for that day on the Ocean Road.

However, I have to remind myself that not every day of our trip can be incredible; I won’t love every place we visit and I won’t feel great all of the time – but that’s ok. I’ve come to the conclusion that there have to be some bad travel days because ultimately, they keep me appreciating the good days.  This new lifestyle we’re carving for ourselves can’t be an endless procession of one awesome day after the next – there have to be some dull days amidst the blinding brightness of the rest, there have to be times when we simply sit still and do ordinary, dull things like the laundry. Above all else what I try to remind myself on those rare, bad travel days is that even the worst times on the road are better than the best days of my old life and whatever happens:

I am so happy and grateful to be living this life of travel.

  • Mig
    Posted at 14:08h, 09 May Reply

    It’s nice to take a step back and reflect. There will be sunny days and there will be rainy ones. The journey as a whole makes it worth it.

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:03h, 09 May Reply

      That’s so true Mig – the overall journey so far has been incredible, so I’ll gladly take those rare bad days too.

  • Charlie
    Posted at 15:40h, 09 May Reply

    It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy the Great Ocean Road – I absolutely loved it! – but, you’re right, some days are good days, some are bad and everything balances on a lot of factors. And the bad days make the good days all the more amazing!

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:00h, 09 May Reply

      Yep, I think on another day I might have loved the Ocean Road too, especially if I hadn’t just spent a month in New Zealand, which has got to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

  • Patti
    Posted at 00:44h, 10 May Reply

    It was funny to see your photos as we have the exact same ones! We did the Great Ocean Road in a marathon 12-hour day, but we hired a guide to take us and it was really a good way to do it because we didn’t have to worry about missing a turn or getting lost, or looking at the road instead of the scenery. The 12 Apostles are beautiful, but having lived in CA for 30+ years we had enjoyed our share of beautiful coastline! I think for those who don’t have prior ocean experience, it can be even more special to see the 12 Apostles. Our guide also knew where to stop so we could see those sneaky wild Kangaroos and Koalas. It was a bit pricey to have the guide, but in the end we felt it was well-worth the extra cost because he also knew the history of the area. Keep taking 1 day at a time and don’t forget to give yourself permission to take a day or two (or three) off from traveling.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:59h, 10 May Reply

      That does sound pretty good Patti, it seems as if you do need to know where to look for the wild kangaroos and koalas! A few days off every now and then is probably a good idea too – we’re starting to slow down a bit now.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 03:11h, 11 May Reply

    One of the pitfalls of long-term travel is that you cannot help but compare each experience to the ones that have come before it! When your vacations are spread out, I think it might be easier to just appreciate and enjoy where you are RIGHT NOW, but when you’ve just spent the last month having amazing experiences and then you head to another destination that offers up something similar, it’s hard not to put the two side by side. We’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how famous an given attraction is if we aren’t in the right mindframe for it!

    For instance, when we were in northern Vietnam, we decided after some deliberation to skip Halong Bay. Most travelers wouldn’t dare dream of doing such a thing—it’s Vietnam’s most famous attraction!—but we realized that having just come from the Adamans in Thailand and having gone to El Nido in Palawan, we had already seen some really beautiful bays with limestone karsts and we just weren’t that interested at this point. Not a day goes by when we regret that decision, and I’m glad we’ve learned that everything is good in moderation, but it really is possible to have too much of a good thing! (Except travel. You can never have too much travel!)

    • Amy
      Posted at 07:54h, 11 May Reply

      That’s so true about comparing experiences, it was impossible for us to travel in Australia without comparing every place we visited to New Zealand; you’re example from Vietnam is a great one. You’re absolutely right too – you can never have too much travel!

  • Alyson
    Posted at 17:51h, 15 May Reply

    You know what, I don’t fancy the Great Ocean Road at all, it just doesn’t interest me, cars are for getting around IMO not sight seeing. We have one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever seen up here between Port Douglas and Cairns. I won’t be making the trip down there.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 07:20h, 16 May Reply

      The drive from Cairns to you was pretty good, probably better than the GOR, I have to say though that the New Zealand roads beat any others for scenery we’ve seen so far. I even think some of the Welsh roads have some scenery to rival the GOR.

  • Jess
    Posted at 22:40h, 15 May Reply

    I have to keep reminding myself of the importance of downtime when I’m traveling. My instinct is to do as much as possible – because really, what’s the use of going places if I’m not going to make the most of it? But it’s hard to appreciate even the most amazing things if you’re worn out, or stressed, or getting sick. Taking an occasional day off ends up being worth it in the long run.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 07:22h, 16 May Reply

      Hi Jess, we’re definitely learning the importance of downtime. We can’t do things all the time or we’ll never last. We do need a day off every now and then.

  • Catherine
    Posted at 16:18h, 09 June Reply

    Hey Amy,
    Hope you’re ok again. Remember you are living a dream there and of course there have to be bad days too otherwise you’d lose measure;) Take time to sit back in a coffee shop or so and reflect just for yourself. So many impressions will just overwhelm you after a while, especially when you had a great time at one place and then too high expectations for another place get disappointed.
    Hopefully you won’t meet bedbugs again though;))))
    Maud and I were just thinking of you today. You’re doing the right thing!

    Have fun, enjoy!

    Catherine xxx

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:12h, 10 June Reply

      Hey Catherine, great to hear from you and thanks for the advice. I have been taking a bit more time lately to relax and try and fully appreciate the trip – overall I am loving it (apart from the bedbugs!). I still miss London though; love to you and Maud, I hope you’re both doing well x

  • louisa klimentos
    Posted at 13:20h, 30 October Reply

    i can’t beleive how you can compare the great ocean road to New zealand .two different sceneries .Maybe you should have done the great ocean walk and you would have seen beautiful beaches etc and scenery you would not have seen if you have driven.To appreciate Australia,you need to travel it extensively.Hire a four wheel drive and take roads that have been less travelled.Recently I went to see Kangra walls in NSW and on the way back we took the road that leads to Jenolan caves.The scenery is very beautiful.You are driving through plateaus that have been disected,with steep gorges and canyons.No one really drives on this road.Maybe it is because the roads are winding and narrow.So you are best to drive slow.What about Wilsons promontory in Victoria ,or the kimberleys in Western Australia or West Mcdonald ranges in Northern territory ,or the Flinders ranges in South Australia.What about the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia,or Shelburne Bay in Cape york Peninsular.It is a shame you judged the Great ocean road so badly.It is still a nice drive and if you did the walk with a guide you would appreciate it more.If New Zealand is so much better than Australia,then it is even more better than England.

  • louisa klimentos
    Posted at 14:34h, 30 October Reply

    When you travel a country ,never arrive with expectations.Keep an open mind and then you will appreciate it.I hope you will find a part of Australia that will touch your heart.Enjoy life now ,while you are travelling and never underestimate the beauty of Australia because you never Know what is around the corner.Remember ,go off the beaten track.

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