Step by step, I think back and reminisce over the month I spent in my van.
I set out, destined for adventure, destined to find true serenity, and found it in so many different things, things that opened my eyes to the mystery the every little speck of life holds. Everywhere I looked there was something, a little something that completely blew my mind could even exist, let alone that I could see it. I wanted to have an open mind, to see everything as if it were for the first time.
Starting off the trip one afternoon, straight after work, I jumped in the readily-packed van, turned the music on and headed off, immediately lost in the beautiful Australian landscapes. Time danced by, and about 6 hours, 2 rest stops, 1 self-timer photo, and a bottle of caffeine later I ended up inland from Coffs Harbour, at a place called Never Never.
“Never Never”. It sounded daunting just to say the name of it.
Being a 20 year old girl travelling alone, there is a constant choice as to whether you let fear into your mind, or not. I always choose to block it out. I didn’t want to think of it on this trip. All I wanted to do was come to a point of completely embracing what was actually around me.
After cooking a light meal on the stove top, I jumped onto the roof of my van and lay down, staring into the star-lit sky, in complete awe of just how small I was. Not one sound of humanity, just nature, I looked up in wonder and grew more excited for what I was about to experience, who I was going to meet, and what I would learn along the way.
I woke up to the most stunning display of colour in the sky, packed a little bag and headed into the bush surrounding my van. Walking through the most vibrant green rainforest, everywhere I looked there was life in it’s most natural form. Hearing running water, I remember being so excited, sprinting in the direction of the sound to find the coolest little waterfall. I was surprised that it was so small but completely amazing and couldn’t help but wonder at how this beautiful little thing was right here, just for me to enjoy. It blew my mind.
The only drama when travelling by yourself is that whenever there is a moment for a photo, you can’t take it without making yourself look stupid by taking a “selfie”. So, I set up my phone on the flattest rock I could find and took a self-timer shot. I had to have a memory of this little piece of art.
Leaving there, I found another 2 waterfalls by the day’s end. A day of complete adventure, finding some of Australia’s most secluded spots. At the bottom of one of the waterfalls I found myself completely breathless, speechless, wordless by what I was experiencing. The only thing to come out of my mouth was this yell of excitement and awe at what I was seeing.
The days flew by, and I was finding more and more peace wherever I went. Heading north for a fair few hours, I crossed the border into the QLD and ended up at a friend’s house on the Gold Coast (the current World Champion of long boarding, may I just add), just in time for Christmas eve.
That night, I lay there in my van, looking up at vibrant blue fairy lights shaped as a peace sign, trying to still my thoughts from sending me crazy. In this moment, I thought, “Why am I rushing to the next spot? Why am I trying to see so many different places, without completely embracing the last, seeing it for ALL it has to offer, instead of just the main attraction?". I’m glad this thought came to me so soon, because from that moment on, the whole trip changed.
I started to just sit still and embrace. I found more peace that I had ever imagined, making every magical place I found so much more meaningful, and utterly mind-blowing.
I spent a week on the Gold Coast, being completely astonished at everything, and took time experiencing things. It was a jam packed week of surfing and sharing amazing moments with amazing people, constantly making new memories with new people, and more memories with the people I already new.
Starting the New Year off with nothing but pure happiness, and still having three weeks left on the road, I left the Gold Coast and headed north.
Setting up camp on a mate's property late arvo, I decided I'd use the two magical trees beside my van as holding posts for my slack-line, and put my right roping skills to the test. Not being any bloody good at it, I stopped after about an hour of pure persistence, absolutely stuffed, ate a peanut butter sandwich, and hit the sack.
Waking up, I opened my door to the smell of green trees on a damp morning, and only 1 thought came to mind, PANCAKES! Being a little kid at heart, I put some music on and was amused for a while, trying to flip the perfect pancake.
I messaged my friend Louis, whom I had met on past travels, and we decided to go see what Noosa was providing on the waves front, and pulled up to see the smallest little lines coming through. We decided to go get a juice and wait for low tide. The wait was worth it, as we returned to see the sickest little lines coming through and we were out there.
We had what felt like a week straight of non-stop surfing. Noosa got better and better as the days went on, and I spent 5 days with the biggest legend out, just listening to his stories, sharing his wisdom, and creating a friendship like no other. I couldn’t have picked a more talented person to hang out with. I was able to be a part of his photography, listen to his amazing music, share endless laughs, and surf with such a legend long boarder. I was having an absolute ball.
Leaving Lou’s after the best week ever, I headed inland, taking with me a Spanish traveler I had met along the way. We set of for a few hours, getting to know one another and sharing stories of places we had traveled. He told me he hadn’t seen much of Australia since he’d been here, only Noosa. And so, I made it my decision to show him as much as I could in one day.
Out first stop was Budgerim Falls. A little waterfall just a small detour away from our route. We ended up at 3 different waterfalls and finished the day off with a challenging but rewarding sunset climb up Mt Tibrogargan. A mount with no walking track, just rock face. My Spanish companion turned to me and said in his broken English, “This is a day in Australia that I will never forget.” It made me so incredibly happy to be able to open up a new dimension for the world to someone. To be able to experience it for the first time with him kinda made it feel like a first for me, too. Sitting on the top of that mounting, looking out over so much, I just couldn’t be more thankful for the world I live upon.
After a few days travelling around the hinterlands, I found myself returning south. Realising I was on the last leg of my trip, and in complete awe of what I had experienced already, I thought, “Could it get any better?"
I spent the next few days alone on the road. Travelling around, discovering more unknown waterfalls and exploring new places the whole way down the coast. I adventured through the National parks, found time to relax, read books, and even do a bit of fishing.
My trip ended as it had begun. Just me, my van, and an open road.
I was returning home. I was returning to the life I had set out from, only now, it felt different. I wanted adventure, and found it. I wanted true serenity, and now have it.
I am different, and that mystery is not as mysterious to me anymore.
It is a full life.
Madison "Mad" Jeffrey hails from whatever spectacular corner of Australia her van adventures take her. (We estimate she's somewhere near Crescent Head, NSW right now, most likely scoring great waves without us).
When she's not 'on the road', Mad can be found in Sydney's northern beaches and is always up for hugs, laughs, and any adventure you're game for.
You can follow her adventures on Instagram @madisonjeffrey.