Our World Wanderlust - there's no known cure

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

It works its way into you and, well, just stays there. These eight WA adventurers all have the travel bug.

Christina van der Kooij, 48

Travel has been Christina’s obsession for 30 years. Her most recent trips include backpacking through Central and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, an overland trip through Patagonia, safaris in Africa, travelling the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, roaming in Vietnam and Cambodia, and trips to Canada and the US including Alaska.

Encouraged to travel by her parents when she first started working, she hasn’t stopped since.

“What I love most about travelling is finding places that are so different from home,” Christina says. 

“Interacting with people from different cultures — the Vietnamese and Iranians are the most welcoming people I've ever met. 

“Seeing interesting styles of architecture — Islamic is my favourite, and Iran and Uzbekistan blew my mind.

“Encounters with wildlife are so incredible, Africa delivers. 

“I love the adrenalin rush of doing something wild, like abseiling waterfalls in Vietnam, paragliding in the Swiss Alps, canyon swinging in Zambia.”

While choosing a favourite makes Christina feel disloyal to the others, at a push she names her last trip to Canada as “a cracker”. 

“I’d always loved the thought of experiencing an Arctic winter but I don’t cope well in the cold, so I’d given that idea away. My Canadian friend suggested I come and that she’d provide me with all the cold weather gear I needed. 

“We dog-sledded for three days near Whitehorse, tenting at a frozen lake, and saw the Northern Lights in Dawson City. We drove up the Ice Road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, and walked on the frozen Arctic Ocean. We spent days skiing and snow-shoeing in magical scenery.”

Christina plans much of her own trip — “figuring things out myself adds to the excitement” — but uses Flight Centre to book most of her flights.

Looking ahead, Christina hopes to head back to Norway soon and up to Svalbard to find polar bears. Japan is also on the agenda, along with more skiing in Canada. 

Ashly Evans, 30 and James Grabski, 31 

“There were a few points during the trip that we pulled the world map out and said ‘hmmm, where to next? That was nice,” says Ashly, who with fiancee James is just back from a six-month trip through the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Cuba, Morocco, Kenya and Tanzania.

That “let’s pick a spot” tactic works well for the self-confessed disorganised couple. “We only booked a one-way flight, our van in the States, and our first week’s accommodation in New York. But it was great because we had complete freedom to do whatever and go wherever we desired,” Ashly says.

They spent two months road-tripping through the US, the highlight being a blues trail through Mississippi, before heading south.

 Despite another highlight, “galloping on horseback through Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s old stomping grounds in the cowboy town of Vinales, Cuba”, they felt Central America was a “beaten old path” so changed their plans and headed for North and East Africa instead.

“Oh and how could we not put the feeling that East Africa gives you? For some strange reason, going to Africa feels like coming home,” Ashly says.

Despite Ashly having lived in London in her early twenties, and she and James both being well-travelled, the couple are happy they waited until they had saved enough and had a bit more maturity for this trip.

“I lived in London but it was only until I revisited 18 months ago that I realised what a beautiful city it is, there’s so much more to it than one big party. It was the same for this trip; I think we appreciated it for what it really has to offer. 

“Absolutely, we had some very big nights but we were also tucked up in our van by 8pm some nights, so we could wake up for a sunrise hike in some beautiful national park.”

Ashly and James are both passionate about learning about other cultures — the more different from home, the better, as well as loving the freedom travelling offers.

“We love reflecting on experiences that happened along the way, both good and bad. I think travelling makes you a more compassionate person,” she says.

Next, the couple hope for a van trip around New Zealand, or perhaps to revisit Mississippi for the Juke Joint Festival, and “of course there’s always Iceland and Mongolia...the list is endless". 

Lillian Trent, 52

In 2006, Lillian embarked on a three-month around-the-world trip with her three children and husband John. Her previous trips had been limited to the odd sojourn to Bali but with a world trip the travel bug bit.

Since then she has made at least one trip a year, increasing the frequency over the past five years with an early retirement.

Speaking from a cruise ship off South America after partying it up at Carnival in Rio, Lillian says: “Right now we are ticking off a whole lot of bucket lists, before grandchildren come, and while we are fit enough to do most things. We truly love to see other parts of the world and have encouraged our kids to do the same.”

Asia and Europe have been her main stomping grounds, as well as touching on the fringes of the Middle East and into the USA and Canada. 

Big cruise fans, the couple have taken numerous voyages through the Mediterranean, Baltics and South-East Asia. “We really enjoy cruising as it gives us a taste of places, and we can take our hotel with us, being the ship. If we really love a place, we make plans to revisit and stay a little longer. We don't mind a bit of adventure, but love our creature comforts,” she says.

Her favourite trip? It has to be that first big around-the-world tour. Lillian loves Egypt and hopes to return, but also names her first and second cruises among her favourites.

The couple like to cruise with Royal Caribbean, Princess and their favourite, Celebrity.

Lillian says she does loads of research into flights and hotels before each trip and uses Flight Centre Joondalup for bookings.

On the back of the South American cruise and a visit to Machu Picchu, in May she and John will take a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, flying to New York in August and making their way to Fort Lauderdale to board Harmony of the Seas for two back-to-back seven-day cruises. The couple have also already set their sights on 2018 with a visit to Ireland.

Pam, 58, and Keith Dawson, 67

Relatively recent retirees Pam and Keith have just started on the Australian grey nomad dream, towing their 8m-long JB caravan northwards in search of big landscapes and warm weather. 

Their first big trip started from their home town of Albany heading for Alice Springs. While the road was a little rough and a little wet, the beautiful bush camps made up for it. 

Pam and Keith made the trip to Alice for the Finke Desert Race — a two-day offroad race through desert country from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community.

 They also timed it with the Big Red Bash which claims to be the most remote music festival in the world, held in the Simpson Desert in Queensland.

 It was then on to the Northern Territory and Western Australia’s Kimberley region where they experienced Horizontal Falls by seaplane and boat.

“My favourite place was Mataranka in the Northern Territory. It’s just beautiful at Bitter Springs with the trees hanging over the stream, birds dashing in and out, and floating down the stream on a noodle,” Pam says.

The couple use their Albany base for small trips, recently spending time at beautiful Lucky Bay near Esperance, as well as ducking away to Walpole, Bremer Bay and Millers Point Reserve.

Despite having travelled overseas and having spent 10 weeks in Europe, which included Pam taking her mother for a visit to her original home of Germany, it’s Australia where their travel ambition lies.

“Time is getting short. There is so much to see in Australia, this country has so much natural beauty and you just have to see it and experience it,” Pam says.

This year Pam and Keith plan to head back up to Darwin. “You never have enough time somewhere. Every time, there is somewhere you wish you had seen and there is always something new to see.” 

Rob, 63 and Lyn Banks, 63

What motivates Rob and Lyn Banks to travel?

“The excitement of preparing for a trip to somewhere new but also revisiting places we have loved,” they say. The couple have been travelling extensively since their honeymoon in Tasmania in 1984 spurred on by their desire to experience a country’s “history and architecture, tasting regional cuisines, seeing snow-capped mountains, the fresh air and pure water”.

They have combined big overseas trips with Australian adventures including Queensland, Barossa Valley, Hahndorf, Broome, Sydney and Melbourne.

For the past seven years the couple have completed at least one big trip a year, cruising the Inside Passage on their tour of Alaska and Canada (“our first taste of halibut and fresh Atlantic salmon”), self-driving on Norfolk Island, river cruising from Budapest to Amsterdam with Prague and Paris extensions, and completing a coach tour in Eastern Canada before cruising from Quebec City to New York then enjoying the spectacular autumn foliage in New England. 

In 2014 Rob and Lyn combined a tour of Scandinavia’s fjords with a tour on France’s country roads, backing it up in 2015 with a Picture Perfect Italy coach tour that focused on photography before embarking on another river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam.

Last year the couple chose a Cathie Rice Travel escorted tour of Malta and Croatia, including a private motor yacht cruise of the Croatian Islands.

Rob and Lyn say their favourite tour operator is APT and choose Holland America Line for cruising. 

Looking ahead Rob and Lyn plan to return to Canada and Alaska, including the Rocky Mountaineer rail journey, rent an apartment in Paris and explore the city by foot, cruise the coast of Norway to Tromso with a few extra days in Copenhagen and Stockholm, visit Cornwall and self-drive Ireland, and spend more time discovering Australia. 

Top picture: Got the travel bug? Just keep exploring. Rural Vietnam sounds like a nice treatment. Picture by Niall McIlroy


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