• Countries Visited: BRB Counting. Lived in 4 countries, approx 36
  • Travel Wishlist: Taupo, Cape Reinga, Tauranga, The Crown Mines, Oakley Creek Waterfall, Musick Point, South-Pacific, South America, South Africa, honestly the list is endless….
  • Locked down in: Auckland, New Zealand

“I made it to the top of the headland and looked back at the beach and the lake, I thought to myself ‘Why the hell have I never come here?’”

Original Post 29th November 2020

Breaking free of House Arrest: A new perspective on travel in 2020

By Kristie Bennett

Edited by Erica Harrison, my talented dear friend.

Knowing I created so many incredible global travel experiences before 2020 makes me feel so grateful. It also reminds me that being geographically bound to the country I live in now provides a great opportunity to travel. Now, hear me out before you start listing all the external forces and rules you feel are being placed on yourself. If you open up to what’s in your control, I will help you see a new perspective on travelling in 2020.

There is an intrinsic link between travel and creating the type of life you want to live. In my beautiful lifetime, I have lived in France as an exchange student, travelled around Europe for six months, backpacked south-east Asia several times, lived in a Samoan Jungle for 55days on Australian Survivor, and visited Canada and the US. I now live in New Zealand, and consider myself to have lived in 4 different countries in my lifetime: Australia, France, Samoa, and New Zealand. You could say travel is a pretty integral part of my life, and certainly something I have no intention of stopping any time soon, Coronavirus or no Coronavirus. Let me explain how.

I moved to New Zealand over a year and a half ago. Yes, there are sheep everywhere, but New Zealand is the greenest place I have ever seen! New Zealand’s initial beauty came from the pure richness of the environment: rich green foliage everywhere you looked. Could have sworn I was wearing green-tinted glasses or Instagram filters had intercepted my eyes, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a stark contrast to the grittiness and sunburnt nature of parts of Australia, where the red earth crumbles as you dig into it and grass fights to keep its moisture after decades of drought. So when I saw the rich vitality of New Zealand’s nature, I was in awe. To me, it symbolised surviving in your own element.

People often search for beauty in the world and a sense of self-discovery far from where they choose to live. For now, much of the world has had to limit the extent of travel that was readily at our fingertips not long ago. We feel the effects of the restrictions placed on us, we live them every day. It’s thrown us into a sense of uncertainty about if we will ever experience the world around us as we once did, which often makes us question whether we will ever experience finding our own sense of self in a similar way. But I know there is so much more travel, adventure, and exploration for me in the future. I do believe that I will be able to return to the South Pacific, that I will be welcomed into Canada for skiing, that I’ll visit the wild kingdom of South Africa soon.

For many, travel is seen as a necessity for leisure, mental health, and overall happiness and I believe you will be able to utilise travel to achieve these things despite the current restrictions the world is facing. The rush and discovery of travel is not only within you, it’s all around you. You do not always have to get on a long flight to be able to unlock all the incredible benefits of travelling, because you can travel to another world in your own backyard. After I won Australian Survivor in 2016, I immediately wanted to buy a campervan and travel around Australia because I realised that millions of people travel over 24 hours on a plane to come to Australia, and there is an amazing reason for that. Beyond that, when I was travelling overseas people would ask me about the beauty of Australia, and I found myself feeling guilty that I had barely been anywhere in Australia. I couldn’t even explain to people what Australian things really were because I hadn’t chosen to travel and experience my very own backyard.

I came to realise that your own backyard can easily be a destination someone else has dreamed of visiting their whole life, and I was living proof of that.

I grew up in a suburb called Newport on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. For years I lived a 20-minute drive from Palm Beach, a stunning location with an epic peninsular tip that has a roaring beach on one side and a smooth lake with a lighthouse on top of a headland on the other. It is the epitome of picture-perfect and sees tourists from all corners of the world come to experience its beauty and serenity. But do you think I’d ever visited it before I turned 21? Not really more than a drive in the car in the area. I had never walked up to the lighthouse to whale and dolphin watch, never gone for a swim at the beach, never sat down for a picnic, or run along the sand barefoot. I’d never taken advantage of this gem that was in my own backyard.

I know this is easily said when you live in a beautiful coastal town, but this truly can be applied anywhere in the world. I have stayed in very dingy places in the past, only to find out when I left that right around the corner was where the winner of the best cheese in the world was made! Or to stay in a den of an Airbnb, surrounded by highways only to find out there was a huge botanical garden 10 minutes away that did incredible free walking tours.

I decided to change my mindset around travelling in my own backyard, and this coincided with a newfound love for running. My goal was to run 5kms, which for me at the time was no easy feat. More importantly, I decided I wasn’t going to be one of those people who ran on a treadmill indoors and who couldn’t maintain the habit because it becomes boring. I was going to run somewhere damn beautiful. This is what finally led me to explore Palm Beach. I half ran, half walked, half felt like dying, half felt I had never been so alive, and when I made it to the top of the headland and looked back at the beach and the lake, I thought to myself ‘Why the hell have I never come here?’ Because I never believed that travelling included exploring your own backyard. 

From that moment it was decided, I must buy my campervan and explore my own backyard in Australia. I’m not waiting until I retire to find this beauty in my life again.

So here we are, many of us feeling forced to coop up in our homes, hiding from the world outside our front door because of COVID. Of course, there is good reason to, but there are also excellent reasons to not feel like our home is a jail cell. No matter what restrictions you are facing right now, you can always treat your own backyard like a gem still waiting to be discovered and explored. I want you to be curious about your surroundings and know that the external physical travel limitations are only temporary if you choose to make them temporary. If we believe that we will be able to explore the world again, it will happen. In the meantime, do not lose that love for exploration, adventure, sightseeing, discovering yourself, and finding the beauty in the little things around us. Your own backyard can be just as incredible as anywhere in the world. You just need to open your eyes and choose to run towards it.

Update 16th February 2021


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