Following on from last week’s post about tourist excursions, I thought it only fair to follow up with a post about the “do it yourself” equivalent. DIY outings tend to be my preference over more touristy outings for various reasons. That’s not to say they’re better, I just tend to do it that way. On a side note, I’m back out volunteering again, and thus have limited/slow internet, so I’m afraid posts will be a little picture light for the foreseeable future.
The first major benefit of DIY excursions are that they’re generally less expensive than tourist excursions. As a student/traveller/general unemployed person, I’m always counting coppers (money, not police), and so if I can spend a day without spending my life savings, it’s generally a good thing. If we take for example, a recent trip I took to Noosa National Park, entry to the park cost me nothing, travelling to the park cost me nothing (Noosa national park is right next to Noosa town… as in just “there”), and I spent a full day walking the various (well maintained) tracks, and enjoying the (remarkably natural) ecosystem. However of course that’s not always the case. For many of the national parks you need to travel there (bus fare/petrol costs), then you may need to pay to enter the park/reserve/attraction itself, and then if you’re doing anything other than just walking around (for instance if you’re visiting a museum or something) you might well have to pay entry to that.
And that (sort of) flows smoothly into my next point: getting to where you want to be can be difficult. Indeed one major limitation as a solo traveller using public transport (carbon footprint conscious… and cars are expensive), is that you can only go where the transport takes you. If there are a few of you with a car, you have total flexibility to go anywhere you want, any time you want. In many cases this is pretty easy, because if you look around there is usually plenty to find around where you are. However if you do fancy a more extravagant wander to more remote locations, there will be costs and/or difficulty associated with them. Many of the national parks in Oz are totally off the tourist trail, and so getting to them is a case of having a car, which has ruled me out of them pretty much entirely (unless you happen to find someone with a car who fancies going off into the hinterlands… preferably not a psychopath).
Next up is either a pro or a con, depending on what sort of person you are. You need to do all of the planning for DIY trips yourself. If you like planning and researching then this can be great. If you aren’t so keen on planning then go with a friend or wing it. Now winging it, while potentially risky (you may spend a day trying to find something which doesn’t actually exist, or get horribly lost), can lead to some very good wanders, simply because you never know what you’re going to find. Usually my approach to this is to have a vague aim (to get to a particular point or something), but I often get sidetracked (or at least go down some side tracks) on the way. I don’t like to plan out a full route because then you can get lost. If you don’t know where you “should” be, you can’t get lost, you might simply not know where you are…
Another issue with sorting it out yourself is that you don’t have the local knowledge which a guide provides… unless you know someone from the local area who can show you around. This means not only might you miss out on some exciting places, but you also don’t get the historical or social commentary which a guide will provide. Of course a bit of research can give you some of this background, but nothing like the information you get from local knowledge. Whether this is a problem or not depends on the aim of your outing. Again, if you’re out walking in a national park, you can easily enjoy the scenery, wildlife, and ambience without needing any more input. In contrast, local knowledge can bring a walk through a city alive, changing it from grey repetitive nothingness (a somewhat biased ecologist’s opinion) into a rich historical and social tapestry, full of local stories. I have certainly found this to be the case in my current location, where the local bush regeneration group have a huge range of knowledge, and can tell you some interesting biological, geological, historical and/or social background about virtually every square inch of ground.
With that in mind, I’ll leave this post, and maybe next time I’ll chat about something a little more ecological. I even have a walk planned for the near future, though New South Wales seems to be a little damp at the moment, so that might have to wait.
Until next time