'I Left My Job To Drive 25,000 Kilometres Around Australia'
“It’s always been one of those dream things. But always too hard, too big, too much to actually do. Until you sort of realise, well no one is going to do it for you."
Born and bred in Sydney’s western suburbs. Studied engineering at Sydney University. Has always had an office job.
Andrew Franklin, 32, doesn’t fit the stereotype of a rugged, tanned outdoorsman. What sets him apart is he couldn't ignore the yearning many of us feel to just leave work and get away from it all.
After 12 months of planning, he started a journey of almost 25,000 kilometres around Australia.
“I’m doing this. I didn’t ask... if there’s a job when I get back, that’s brilliant. If there’s not, thanks for everything.”
Andrew walked into his boss’ office determined to have a one-way conversation. His way or the highway, which in this case literally meant the same thing. But with his boss being one of those cool bosses, bravado was not required. Andrew was just given the ultimatum: tell his employer exactly how much leave he needed, and don’t be late coming back.
Andrew’s wife Emma was far more worried about his bravado. Apart from a three-week leg the couple would spend together, the balance of the three month trip he would spend alone, with only a drone to hold the camera for him. (You can watch his spectacular footage in the video above.)
In early 2019, Andrew set out in a Ford Ranger packed with a canopy, a rooftop tent, 60 litres of water storage, 40 litres of extra fuel capacity, and around $9,000 in the kitty for costs on the road.
“I was conscious I was out there by myself. So whenever I got tired, I just had to stop, and I wouldn’t push on.”
Driving clockwise around Australia, Andrew rationed driving to about three hours per day. He snaked southwest from Sydney, hitting the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The 900 kilometres across the Nullarbor was the biggest travel day, taking advantage of the extra daylight as he chased the sun west over the plain.
From Esperance, he followed the Western Australian coast up to Perth where Emma had flown in to join the trip. The couple then continued up to Broome and cut inland to Kununurra, before they took different routes home; Emma by plane, Andrew by driving a diagonal line through the corrugated dirk track of the Tanami Desert, and then through the middle of Australia back to Sydney.
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Days were filled with sight-seeing and local attractions on the journey, everything from hiking gorges to snorkelling the Ningaloo reefs. Nights were spent in hotels or in his rooftop tent above the truck. Boredom was limited by audiobooks, music, and the Case File and Joe Rogan podcasts.
"If I got bored, I reminded myself why I was there, and how this is exactly what I wanted to do, so I would appreciate the scenery instead," he told 10 daily.
“Pulled up at camp, absolute pitch-black. Not a soul around.”
Andrew encountered much of Australia’s trademark wildlife: emus, crocodiles, wedge-tailed eagles, and multiple near collisions with kangaroos bounding across the road. But he would also learn the creepy feeling of being “properly stalked” by a predator.
In Central Australia one evening after a long day, Andrew had planned to reward himself by cooking up a proper dinner. But as he swung his torch across the dark landscape he caught two glowing eyes staring back at him, unflinching. He pointed his car’s headlamps at the eyes and saw a dingo, lurking in the bushes, making proper dinner plans of its own.
"I put the tent up as quick as I could, grabbed a packet of crackers and jumped in. That was dinner for the night!”
Fortunately neither Andrew, nor any other animals, were harmed in the making of this story. He even survived a night alone at Wolfe Creek, made infamous by two horror films and a television series.
His trusty Ford Ranger also survived relatively unscathed, not once getting a puncture or running out of fuel. This was thanks to good preparation, good care, good luck and “good quality tyres. Anyone that’s thinking of doing this, that’s the first thing you need to do”.
The outback was in a much worse state.
“Seriously dry. Everything you hear on the news, is true.”
For many city-dwellers, the drought drifts in and out of our collective consciousness. But rarely do we observe the effects as Andrew did on his journey.
“Driving through many towns you go to the service station, and there are signs that say ‘Do not ask us for water; we don’t have any water'," he said.
However, community spirit remained evident, with locals and travellers alike willing to share stories and give advice about the roads and terrain ahead.
“That’s the Australian quality. Everyone’s pretty friendly in general.”
“Take more than 20 downloaded songs on a three-day trip into the desert”.
The Simpson Desert made the biggest impact on his memories: “Stunning, but utterly remote”.
At four hours drive each way from civilisation, and then another two days to loop through the desert, Andrew only had two regrets: not downloading a longer playlist on his music streaming service, and not taking more than three beers for the journey, where “over every sand dune there’s just a hundred more sand-dunes."
The rest of Andrew’s trip highlights he explained in colours.
The white beaches of Esperance with pristine, turquoise water. The Kimberley, where the red of the outback, the blue of the sky, and the greenery of the wet season all combined on the same canvas.
“Anyone can do it. There’s so much to see out there, and so many different changing landscapes, that I’d highly recommend it for anyone. Before you head off overseas again, get out and see Australia.”
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