Where we go and why we do it

Australians love overseas travel, and there’s nowhere we won’t go. You’ll find us in popular destinations such as Disneyland and New York, and the most far flung, including Antarctica or Africa. When it comes to seeing the world, we love it all: the adventurous, the exotic and the mainstream. Australians will stay for a week, or a month, sometimes we’ll relocate for a year. Last year, we made over 8 million overseas trips, and the number continues to rise.

The facts
Logistically, travel is a big deal for Australians due to our isolated geography. The US and Britain are among our favourites, despite the fact that the associated flights are lengthy and expensive. Thailand and Indonesia are a desirable option for those seeking something more affordable, and New Zealand remains the most popular destination of all.

Last year, Australians aged between 30 – 40 years of age spent $11.3 billion on overseas travel. Most saved for around 8 months to cover the cost of their trip, and our preferred modes of travel are vast and varied. We love structured tours, but we also enjoy going solo off the beaten track. Recently, the popularity of cruising has risen, and over the past few years, the number of Australians taking a cruise has doubled.

Why we love it
Our reasons for travel are many. We travel to visit family, for work, for pleasure, and even to shop. According to popular web-site Traveller, there are a number of reasons why our love of travel has become a deeply entrenched part of our culture.

As a multicultural nation, we have many connections with other countries, and long to explore these. Our isolated location seems to work in our favour, because it necessitates lengthy travel times and this makes us feel justified in staying longer and exploring further.

We are also a wealthy country whose four week annual leave entitlement provides the opportunity to travel far and wide.

According to Traveller, the “cultural cringe” which is part of our national psyche, also plays a part. It refers to the belief that what we have in our own country isn’t nearly as interesting as what lies overseas, a kind of “grass is greener” philosophy that many Australians adhere to.

Benefits of travel
According to American author John Lehrer, travel fulfils a vital human need. “We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything”.

Travel makes us more interesting people, and almost guarantees we’ll never be stuck for conversation topics again. When someone asks what you’ve been up to, there’s nothing like coming back with “Well I’ve just returned from a trip to Antarctica where I fed penguins and slept on the ice”. The thrill of travel is such that returning can even lead to a case of the “post travel blues”, where our brain struggles to cope with the mundane after a period of constant stimulation while travelling.

Seasoned travellers become aware that there are many different ways of interpreting the world around us. They accept people’s differences and avoid getting locked in to closed mind sets. The act of going overseas to “find oneself” is often joked about, but travel, particularly when undertaken solo, can put you in touch with yourself in a way that few experiences can.

A family education
Travel also provides an education that it is almost impossible to get from school, which is why a growing number of families are travelling overseas together. This may seem daunting initially, but following some simple tips can make the experience enjoyable for everyone.

1. Ensure that everyone has a say in the day’s activities.
2. Allow plenty of down-time, even when you are in the most exciting places on earth. Schedule time to chill out at a park or in the hotel room.
3. Eat healthily and don’t have too many late nights. This keeps everyone calm and nourished.
4. Allow plenty of time – for everything. Rushing creates frazzled families. Allow extra time at airports, queues, and everything else.
5. Go ahead and do it.

Future of Travel
According to Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic Airways, there are big advances ahead for overseas travel: “I have no doubt that during my lifetime we will be able to fly from London to Sydney in under two hours, with minimal environmental impact.

The awe-inspiring views of our beautiful planet below and zero-gravity passenger fun will bring a whole new meaning to in-flight entertainment.” Others predict that tourists travelling to other planets isn’t far off. When it comes to our desire to discover and explore, it seems that even the sky isn’t the limit.