Tasting the Brightside in Queensland, Australia

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sailing whitsundays

The more and more I get to explore this crazy world, the more often my travel style changes and evolves.

When I first started backpacking 7 years ago, I was a bug-eyed teenager keen to see as much as possible and cram in as much as I could on any trip. The world was my playground, and I wanted to see it all.

I was more than ready to tick items off my bucket-list and collect as many passport stamps as possible. But as the years go by, I’ve changed, evolved and grown up; it only makes sense that the way I travel has changed too.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

Now I’m at the point in my life where I find slow travel more rewarding and enjoyable than bouncing around from place to place. I like to dig deeper and get to know a place so that it almost becomes a part of me. I suppose you could say I like falling in love with places, in the least cheesy way possible.

This means I often go back to places I’ve been before, to explore more of the region or just stay put and make friends and get to know how it ticks a little better.

But more than anything I’ve come to love experiential travel, where I get my hands dirty, I learn something new and I walk away knowing that I’ve accomplished something or conquered a fear.

That’s my favorite kind of travel.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

Along with this evolution of my travel style, I’ve grown quite a bit personally. Travel changes you, whether you want it to not, isn’t that one reason why we are drawn to it?

Travel has made me a more positive person.

A bold statement, I know. I don’t mean to say I was negative before I was a traveler, but let’s just say travel can help put things into rather harsh perspective, not to mention challenge you and rip you out of your comfort zone.

I’ve found that if you can’t be positive on the road when facing all of this, things just go to hell. Fast.

sailing whitsundays

Travel has been a lifelong lesson of looking on the brightside, seeing the glass to be half full and always trying to put a positive spin or twist when things start to turn ugly.

For me, and I suspect for many of you, being positive and thinking on the brightside is a key element to personal happiness. The way I see it, it’s all about attitude – we need to be able to put things into perspective and laugh. How are you ever going to be happy if you are whining and negative all the time? Especially traveling?

Trust me, I’m sure you’ve met some of those people on the road, and my god do they leave a startling impression. That’s another reason I enjoy solo travel, I don’t have to be around negative people – I can chose. And I chose to live on the sunny side of life and be around people who shine.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

A while back Lipton Ice Tea asked me about how I live on the brightside.

Fumbling over Skype as I usually do (no one has ever accused me of being eloquent on the phone) I found myself struggling with putting the words together. As it often happens to us, the hardest topics to discuss are usually the ones that are the most important or meaningful, right?

I’ve made it a point in my life to keep my balance in the positive, and I owe it almost entirely to travel and storytelling. Following your dreams and doing what you love every single day is the best way to stay positive but it’s not always easy. To keep a passion alive for something like travel and writing, especially when it becomes your job is hard work. You have to stay on the brightside.

Little did they know what can of worms they were opening up when they asked me that.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

So let me show you. Let me tell you a story.

26 and already I’m a total grandma forcing everyone around her to listen to hour long tales they’ve probably already heard a dozen times.

Humor me. Grab a drink. Pull up a chair. Stay a while.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

In February I talked my way into a very last minute trip to Queensland, Australia for three weeks.

Completely on the fence about it, I was absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of this massive region. Seriously, Queensland is all kinds of awesome. It is colorful. It is wild. It’s epic and wide. Oh, and it’s nice and tropical.

And my favorite place of them all? The magical Whitsundays. Quiet and stunning, it has everything I wanted. Amazing beaches, good seafood, cool locals, massive national parks sprawling across dozens of uninhabited islands, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the bluest water you’ve ever seen. I was there for 3 days, just a taste and way too short.

Seriously, it’s paradise – how is it NOT the icon of Australia?

Even before I returned to New Zealand I knew I’d back. There was so much left to explore, so many more chances to dig deeper.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

Then someone heard my prayers, and I was able to go back a few months later properly, and get to have my kind of trip. Learning to sail in the Whitsundays.

Growing up my stepdad had a sailboat. While he was dating my mom we used to go out on in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia in the summer. We would fish and buy blue crabs and I would all the seafood I could ever want. Except for oysters, which thoroughly grossed me out – I’ve since seen the error of my ways.

At sleepaway camp I would go sailing out on the rivers and coves in a little two person boat, practicing tying my knots in the afternoons, trying to toss my friends overboard and talking like a pirate.

Of course I’ve forgotten everything except minding your head on the overhanging boom. That’s not something anyone is likely to forget. Ever.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

But then it was 15 years before I had the chance to sail again. Or you could say sail properly for the first time since I don’t know if what I ever did could count as sailing.

But if I have adopted one mantra in 2014 it has to be this one – you are never too old to learn something new. And you are never too old to talk like a pirate.

Onward me hearties!

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

As much as I love the rugged New Zealand coasts and the frosty white mountains, sometimes a girl just needs some sunshine and warm beaches to swim around, am I right? Thank god Australia is close by!

Hot off the plane on Hamilton Island, I met up with the rest of the crew also known as my pirate partners in crime before popping up to my room for a refresh which didn’t really happen because I was completely and utterly blown away by the view!

G’day Hamilton Island!

Throwing open the balcony door, I was greeted by a couple of resident cockatoos who were quite cheeky and would either try to fly into my room or nick my cans of Lipton Ice Tea when my back was turned. Never trust a bird the size of a cat.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

Learning to sail has always been a dream of mine, ever since I was a wild kid at summer camp. Here was my chance!

And getting to learn the basics in my favorite area of Australia made it all the more special. But I was nervous.

What if I got seasick? What if I got my fingers caught in one of the ropes? What if I fell overboard? What if I fell overboard while WITH my fancy DSLR camera?


But life isn’t about what-ifs, possible fails or destroying expensive electronics; it’s about taking the chances you are given with both hands and running with it as far as you can go. However, it doesn’t hurt to get travel insurance. I use World Nomads, who provide loads of customizable and affordable policies that fit with any travel style. Each policy is flexible, can be changed easily online and covers ALL the adventure sports. The security of knowing I don’t have to worry (too much) if something goes wrong is amazing!

Time to set sail. Ahoy!

I tried to keep my game face on as we approached our boat the next day. The Condor is one of the most famous maxi yachts in the world and has one every major sailing race twice. Now she lives on Hamilton Island with ProSail, and you can charter her and learn to sail or enjoy sailing around the Whitsundays.

So not intimidating at all. Sarcasm.

Before I knew it us buccaneers were off, getting a crash course in sailing in one of the most picturesque places to learn in the world.

It was a tough but beautiful day out on the turquoise waters, and it was nothing like I had ever experienced before.

I love the teamwork involved, and it wasn’t long before everyone was laughing and making jokes, singing while hoisting the sails and running from port to starboard to counteract the weight of the boat as we flew through the water while the swashbuckling captain bellowed “tacking!”

sailing whitsundays

After we got the basics down then we geared up for a race against another yacht.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t for sailing to be an adrenaline sport! What a surprise!

As the boats chased each other up and down Whitehaven Beach, ranked the most beautiful beach in the world, tipping 45 degrees from side to side and the captain bellowed orders at us scallywags and we scampered around like mice, I had to pinch myself that this was really happening!

What a way to experience Queensland and the Whitsundays! Arrrr!

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

After winning and doing our newly coined “Condor” dance (yes we danced like the birds flapping our arms in the wind) in triumph, it was a quick snooze and relax before heading back to Hamilton Island.

The next day we got a taste for the finer side of life on the beautiful Papillon luxury yacht.

It’s even better than it sounds.

Between the fresh oyster and seafood lunch with champagne to swimming and snorkeling around the reefs and different secret bays and beaches of the Whitsundays without another soul in sight, I was in heaven.

When you’re on a boat out in such a majestic place with so few people around you, it almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time. The wooded coastlines reminded me of those along the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand around the Abel Tasman and even Fiordland, all explored by Captain Cook hundreds of years ago.

Sailing along uninhabited island after uninhabited island, I could truly begin to grasp what a lucky place the Whitsundays were, to remain free from development for people like me to enjoy.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

Before coming back to the Whitsundays I had all the wrong impressions of sailing.

I thought it was the past time for billionaires and trust-fund babies, not people like me. I thought you had to own your own sailboat and be a pro, raised on the high seas since birth, not something that can be learned by anyone.

But it’s not true. Sailing IS accessible and it’s an awesome way to travel and get to see a place.

You can learn in a place like the Whitsundays and charter a boat yourself with a bunch of friends splitting the costs and sleeping on board or hire skippers and a crew to take you out in style. There’s options for everyone and every budget.

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

sailing whitsundays

Again I am so glad I took a risk and followed my heart back to a place I loved to get to know it better, get my hands dirty and shake things up.

My passion is more than traveling, it’s for experiences and stories that I can carry with me for the rest of my life. While trying new things in a new place is inherently challenging and can sometimes be a little bit scary, that shouldn’t hold you back.

It’s important to push past that discomfort and strive towards the goal of learning something new and being able to walk away with a once in a lifetime experience! It’s about being able to look at a situation as a challenge instead of a threat. It’s about focusing on the good moments that will happen instead of the possible negatives.

It’s about looking on the brightside of life.

Have you ever sailed before? Are you a fan of learning new things while traveling? Do you try to look on the brightside when on the road?

**Be sure to watch the videos for some cameos of moi! 

sailing whitsundays

Many thanks to Queensland, the Whitsundays and Lipton for hosting me in Australia – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect anything less from me!

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54 Comments on “Tasting the Brightside in Queensland, Australia

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  1. The Whitsundays are very high on my list of places to visit while we are living in Australia and I want to spend at least a week up there. I’m heading to Cairns for the first time Easter next year so it will be my introduction to the Great Barrier Reef – very excited!

    1. Ah cool! Cairns is neat a bit touristy but still really cool, you can go out to the reef from airlie beach in the whitsundays which is also epic, it’s where the heart reef is. enjoy!

  2. This is getting me really excited for when I go to Australia in March: I’m definitely planning on doing some sailing when I’m there, but probably on an old boat (I love them!). I sail and teach sailing in dinghies and completely agree that there are so many misconceptions around the sport. Sailing is actually really accessible, and there’s something so magical about finding yourself connected to both the wind and the water.

    So yeah, my sailing will be the last part of my first long-haul long-term solo adventure to NY, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia (leaving Tuesday, eeek!). Thank you so much for writing such a warm-hearted and encouraging (and prolific) blog. I’ve dropped in from time to time in the planning process and it has always helped me to feel more confident about my upcoming travels. There always seems to be just the right post at the right time!

    Rhiannon x

      1. I am here and heading to live in Dunelin for a long while I expect. I want to go sailing with you sometime! Or snowboarding. I love what you are doing!

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