Life: Backpacking Australia in the 1990s

Photo Above: Remnants of a bush fire in northern Western Australia.


I’ve always had more interest in Australia than anywhere else. More so even than Japan or the U.K. My goal in my youth was to get as far away from the U.K. as possible. It had nothing to do with the U.K. I just wanted to be free.

It’s at this time of year when I usually escape the horrendous humidity and heat of August in Japan and head for the cooler and drier winter climate of southern Queensland. Not this year though. This year we are all staying put.

In the mid-1990s I saved up £2000 for a working visa and spent a year travelling and working there. Knowing full well that for most people the goal of a trip to Australia was standing in front of the Sydney Opera House or, at that time, climbing Uluru, I chose to fly into Perth forcing myself to travel the whole continent to get that important snapshot of the Opera House to boast to friends back home.

It worked. Perth to Broome to Darwin. Darwin to Adelaide to Melbourne. Working to replenish funds in the Dandenong Ranges then on to Canberra, Sydney and up the east coast to Cairns. Back to the Dandenong Ranges again for more work before an epic journey back to Perth across the Nullabor. Tasmania neglected. A wrong to one day be righted.

The emptiness of Western Australia still inspires me today. I miss it so much. I miss that long empty road betweeen Carnarvon and Broome. Memory is fading but Triple J on the clanky radio (could I even get Triple J way out there?), The Cruel Sea blasting through my headphones when on the bus.

Tom driving his old Holden heading to Darwin. Photographs can be so important.

It was such a different life to the one I lead now.

I’ve recently rediscovered Trent Parker (how can you forget Trent Parke?!) and am rereading the novels of Tim Winton. The Shiralee, an absolute classic, too. Some of The Cruel Sea still holds up – Rock reggae (Roggae? Reggock?)

It’s the closest I can get to the nostalgia of that trip 25 years ago and small compensation for not being there this August.

Tom’s Holden

Cycled since I was a kid, moved to Japan in 2001, bought my first 'serious' camera in 2005. Spent the later half of the 1990s travelling in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Japan, and the Philippines and wish I'd photographed a lot more back then.

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