Expectations Versus Reality 

Seven  weeks and 7,000km later I’m back in Sydney and settling into a somewhat normal routine again. I’ve brushed the knots out of my hair, discarded the ragged shorts and packed my backpack away. I now live in Randwick, close to the city and throw on a pencil skirt, heels and a blazer every morning for my new office job. I already cannot wait to get back on the road again and see more of this beautiful country!

When I speak to friends and family at home, they tell me how lucky I am to be travelling Australia and living “the dream”. Of course my East Coast Road Trip was amazing but so far, people have only seen what I let them see, via social media.

Social media can be an amazing thing. Sun Scribes keeps family and friends up-to-date with all the latest, as well as (I hope!) giving other backpackers some ideas and tips for their own adventure. But as we all know, social media can be very deceiving!

I’ve posted pictures of serene beaches, surrounded by nothing more than sand and palm trees. But in reality, what Sun Scribe readers didn’t see were the many, many beaches we visited that were over-crowded and packed with tourists.

I’ve uploaded sun-filled selfies, and deleted ones taken with a muggy sky and grey background.  I’ve had pictures taken with beautiful waterfalls as backdrops; and failed to mention the forever patient boyfriend behind the lens as he snaps the fifteenth take!

I’ve cuddled koalas but forgot to tell everyone about the long queues and thirty seconds of actual “cuddle time”. I’ve be written about the exquisite wildlife here and even posted selfies chilling with kangaroos. But the other harsh reality of the Aussie bush is watching your footing for poisonous snakes and shaking out your shoes to avoid a fatal bite from a redback.

People were under the impression that my nomadic lifestyle was full of camping on beaches and sleeping in hammocks, when in reality we slept mostly in car parks, creepy forests and overcrowded campsites!

I have posted pictures of beautiful, remote areas where we camped, but never showed pictures of the rest stops on the sides of motorways where we slept plenty of nights!

While my trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I want no one to be under the illusion that it was full of sunshine, cocktails and palm trees 24/7. There were time where it rained so hard we couldn’t step foot outside the car. Our bathroom routine was a flashlight and the forest floor, and as far as a beauty regime went, I didn’t see a hairbrush for two months.

So, as not to give everyone the wrong idea my road trip, I’ve put together a few pictures: one’s that made it to social media and others that didn’t quite make the cut!



Australia has 10,685 beaches. That means you can visit a new beach everyday for 29 years. Unfortunately, not all those beaches are those deserted white sand beaches you dream about. The first picture is Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsunday Islands. This picture went straight to Facebook. The second picture is of Coogee Beach on Bank Holiday and didn’t make it anywhere near social media!


Travelling along the east coast we saw a hell of a lot of sunrises. But rarely did we see really spectacular sunrises. For every one breathtaking sunrise we witnessed, we saw twenty mediocre ones. Here is an unbelievable sunrise I saw one morning while surfing. The next morning I woke up to see the same amazing sunrise and take more pictures, but instead found nothing more than a dull morning and grey skies. Guess which one made the Instagram cut?


Yeah okay go ahead and laugh. The first time I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, it was a choppy day so a life jacket was required. Also we were made wear a gross stinger suits as there were jellyfish in the area. The waves were huge, the water cold and I was seriously out of breath: all the perfect ingredients for one ugly snorkel selfie! The second time we snorkeled conditions were much better and I snapped a Facebook worthy selfie!


It’s been on my bucket list since I was a kid. I’ve seen perfect pictures the Great Barrier Reef and the colourful coral. The bright blues, vibrant purples and luminous yellows, I couldn’t wait to get down and snap a few pictures myself. I was lucky enough to snorkel and scuba dive four times in the Reef and each time was different. The picture I showed friends and family was, of course, when the coral was at it’s most clear and colourful. However our last time snorkeling, the water was muggy and sandy and my pictures weren’t exactly awe-inspiring.


Obviously I had to try surfing when I came to Australia! Now I knew I wasn’t going to be Demi Moore in Charlie’s Angels surfing, but I thought I’d give it a decent go. Wrong. Surfing is hard; very hard! It’s not really a talent, you don’t just hop up on a board and you’re a surfer, it takes a hell of a lot of practice, commitment and time!


Before I left for Australia I was adamant to visit Cape Hillsborough to see the salty kangaroos at sunrise. I googled and googled and was in awe of the gorgeous pictures I found of silhouetted kangaroos against an orange backdrop. We drove for hours to get to this remote beach and camped out for the night. When we woke the next morning it was raining and a scarce amount of roos pondered down the sand. Determined to get the quintessential beach kangaroo picture, we stayed another night. The second morning there were lot more kangaroos but the sun still stayed firmly behind rainy clouds.


I think we can all agree, 2014 was the year for duck-face selfies, 2015 the Snapchat selfie, and 2016 has well and truly been taken over by the animal selfie. I’ve always wanted to swim with a wild turtle. But my obsession with social media had added more to my wish: I now wanted a picture with a wild turtle, just like the ones I’d seen posted on Instagram.

I had gotten what I wanted, seen the turtle, swam with him and even taken the picture. But a little spoiled voice inside me could help but be disappointed when I saw the picture hadn’t turned out like I wanted. I quickly told myself to get over it and be glad I had the experience, picture or no picture!


If you have a chance, search #MillaaMillaaFalls on any social medium and you will see the same photo over and over again. Why do we do it? Everyone claims they want their own unique travelling experience, but the first chance we get, we jump at the cliche, over-done poses that every other backpacker in the world has done.

For those who don’t know, this waterfall is where the Herbal Essence advert was filmed. The model flicks her wet hair back in slow motion and it’s become an essential picture to snap if you visit here. While it was hilarious trying to recreate this pose, it was freezing, my neck was getting sore and out of at least twenty pictures taken, I was really only satisfied with one.


Okay come one, we’re all guilty of this one. You step off a plane, sweaty, tired and in need of some fresh clothes, but the first thing we do when we reach the hotel? Whip out the camera, take a picture of the pretty hotel room, and upload straight to the Internet for everyone to marvel at. Of course I was no different when we opened the doors to our five star room on the Whitsundays. But the reality? Three days later, we packed up and went back to our car bed!


It’s true, Australia has some beautiful weather. It’s tropical, sunny and hot. By it also rains. A lot. Our first trip to Whitehaven Beach was pure paradise. Our second trip? Not so much. People at home would message me saying I looked like I was living in a movie, but only because I conveniently didn’t take any pictures on the days it was dull and raining.


As soon as I got my hands on a koala when I was five-years-old I fell in love with them. I couldn’t wait to see one in the wild. Most of my social media posts have been about the  amazing wildlife I’ve come into contact with over here, but what I haven’t shed too much light, on is the sad fact that a lot of the wildlife is put in danger by human contact and our everyday habits.

Driving along the highway you’re sure to spot roadkill littered the whole way along. Nearly every car here comes equipped with a bull bar in case you hit a kangaroo. Koalas and cassowaries especially are now endangered or under threat due to human contact.


I’m not sure what it is about our generation these days, but we love taking pictures of our feet and our backs facing away from the camera. Whatever happened to the good ole’ standard waving at the camera picture?

Anyway, I felt arty and uploaded a picture of my feet in some crystal clear water. A few hours later we found ourselves hiking through a steep rain forest in just flip flops, which evidently didn’t make it back to the car. You can be sure the muddy feet pic didn’t make the cut!


I snapped this picture of Darren walking back to our campsite after taking a dip in the water. The picture looks serene, with blue water and tanned skin. Little did people know he was heavily sunburned with a bad, BAD hangover!


Come on admit it, who’s the annoying girlfriend/friend out there who always wants to take the perfect selfie?? We say it’s to keep as a momentum, but who are we kidding? It’s to upload to Twitter or Instagram to join the fifty other pictures that look the exact same.

We mean well, but we rarely take a good picture. This first one is currently my profile picture on my private page, and the second one…well I think it speaks for itself why it hasn’t seen the light of day yet.


On my travels through Australia, I take a lot of pictures. And I keep them all. Not one picture gets deleted. The good, the bad, the prett, the ugly. Because when I’m seventy years old, I’m going to want to remember every single day I can of this trip, whether it’s 30 degrees and sunny or pouring down rain.

Social media can be a great thing, but don’t get too down-trodden if your experiences don’t turn out like that girl’s with the 100k followers. Don’t delete a picture just because they don’t look like the guy’s with the $5,000 camera. And most importantly, never, ever be disappointed if something didn’t go as you hoped. It probably happened for a reason, and at the end of the day, every experience good or bad is a memory to keep.

One more for the road…….

Keelin Riley
Keelin Riley

Keelin is an Irish travel writer with a degree in journalism and a background in the Irish media. Keelin’s travel writing has been published in various media publications, and when she’s not off gallivanting around the globe, she enjoys keeping Sun Scribes up-to-date for all those fellow budget travellers out there!

Find me on: Web | Facebook


Leave a Reply