A Roadtrip From My Bedroom
I had just stepped off the ferry on Minjerribah – or North Stradbroke Island – when I discovered my home state South Australia had slammed the borders shut to Queensland. Bonnie, a girl I had met 30 seconds prior, broke the news, spiralling any plans I had for the foreseeable future down the drain.
“I’m sure it’ll be okay,” she said optimistically, noticing my frazzled state as we clambered into the back of the car.
Holding onto that slither of hope for the next week I ignored the inevitable, drowning out my anxieties with countless beach swims, new friends and glasses of red wine. I was comforted by the fact that people I met were also alienated from their states and even (drunkenly) accepted a job at the local bar on my last day in a bid to blind myself from reality.
Yet returning home with more sand and salt in my bag than belongings, I was sentenced to a two-week isolation period, nothing else but the warm memories of the last seven days to keep me company.
Though 14 days is nothing in comparison to what others have endured, my foiled plans and ever-present wanderlust had me riddled with the desire to see all the cracks and crevices of our sunburnt country. Even more so, I was frustrated that travel still remained a tricky task some 18 months after the conception of the pandemic.
But if COVID has taught me anything, it is to improvise, adapt and overcome. Although that saying belongs to the fearless Bear Grylls, I fancied myself the somewhat metropolitan version of the wild adventurer.
So, from the comfort of my bed, I decided to embark on a nationwide road trip.
Now I know what you’re thinking, How is that possible? And while I didn’t invent teleportation, I did enlist the help of a trusty tool: Google Earth.
Quickly, I became engrossed in my digital adventure. The darkness of my room was illuminated by the glow of my screen, with the laptop producing a droning whir as Google Earth transported me elsewhere. Free of any time and financial constraints I had the world, quite literally, at my fingertips.
Minutes turned into hours, which turned into days as I traversed haphazardly across Australia via my trackpad. There was no linear process to my trip, as wrangling the software of Google Earth proved more difficult than anticipated. Yet the chaotic approach of throwing the yellow Google man aimlessly onto the map proved to work wonders.
One moment I was standing on the precipice of the country, feeling the wind on my face at the Great Australian Bight before being submerged by water, as I swam with reef sharks at the Nguthungulli Nature Reserve in Byron. What replaced my usual quickened heartbeat at the presence of these gentle beasts was curiosity. Hoping to catch another glimpse, I dove deeper amongst the bright coral and schools of fish further north at Tydeman Reef.
I stood on top of an abandoned train as the sun set in outback South Australia and watched the camels stride across Cable Beach in Broome. I found a transmission tower with undies tied to it like flags. Underneath the patchwork of belongings rested a camp chair, where I imagined the photographer took a sunny afternoon kip.
I wasn’t alone on my journey either. People appeared throughout my exploration and, while grainy and pixelated, their adventure and lives remained permanently frozen in time. Individuals from all over the world had uploaded their images, which now formed the backbone of my journey – their memories preserved in a digitalised time capsule.
The freedom of Google Earth allowed me to trek across Carnarvon Gorge before admiring the bright yellow hot air balloons at Arbouin. The expansive landscape of the Blue Mountains was still captivating from my laptop screen, as were the pools of the Karijini Gorge in WA. Finally, I ended my trip at Uluru, the terracotta-coloured desert turning deeper shades of rust as the clouds cast a shadow.
This trip provided much-needed salvation to my solitude (and a few new spots on the bucket list), while allowing me cultivate a greater appreciation for our sweeping amber deserts, rocky terrain and underwater oasis.
I don’t know when the world will feel upright again, or when travel will resume with no qualms. But, at least my itchy feet feel scratched for a little while.
Cover by Hao Pan, first inset by Gemma Clarke, second inset by Underwater Earth, third inset by David Rowley, fourth inset by Paul Orford, fifth inset by Eric Ragusa