Road Trip Battle: East Coast Australia vs West Coast USA
I love road trips. No, you don't get it. I LOVE ROAD TRIPS. It's something I can't explain but I think it's because I love movies like Easy Rider, Little Miss Sunshine and yeah, why not, We're The Millers. Simply being on the open road, not knowing where to stop to have lunch. That's my kind of adventure. Motels, gas stations and random places to discover strange tourist attractions. Are you starting to get picture?
I'm ready to go on a road trip any day, anywhere. For a photographer, a road trip is the ultimate visual challenge, capturing daily life and scenes on the road. I've been on the road in Africa and Europe and it's always epic. But... there's something about a road trip in the United States of America. The US. 'Murica! A lot of people will agree with me and it's probably those movies I mentioned that make road trips in America so different and intriguing, especially for Europeans. Addictive almost.
I went on road trips along the Mississippi, in the Southwest and all the way up Northern California. They were all different but equally awesome. Nothing beats an all American road trip for me but sometimes there's a new kid on the block: We made a road trip along the East Coast of Australia, from Sydney all the way up to Townsville and back.
Now, let's compare four aspects of the road trip in Australia with the classic road trip from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Las Vegas we made next: The car, accommodation, food and sights and scenery. Do I have a new favorite country for road trips?
And of course, I’m a photographer so… there's a photo comparison in the end too!
Renting a car in Australia: Left vs right
Renting a car is easy in the United States and it's no different if you want to go on a road trip in Australia. Go online, compare prices and reviews – don't forget to research if you need extra insurance – and book. That's basically it.
A few things we've learned from booking a car in Australia is that some car rental companies don't hold up the car if you're late. The company we rented from closed at 8pm and we arrived literally at 8:05 so we had to return the next day. No problem you would think. Well, BIG problem! “I'm sorry sir, the car is gone.” What do you mean gone?! Argh!
Ok, in the end we were able to rent another car for around the same price. It just took a few hours and a lot of being annoyed, stressed and in a bad mood. Still, we left Sydney at noon that day ready for an adventure.
Now wait a minute! I'm used to driving on the right side of the road, with the steering wheel being on the left side of the car. In Australia they drive on the left side with the steering wheel on the right side. On top of that, we were in the Southern hemisphere all of a sudden. Not that it had anything to do with driving but still... something to think about.
The first days I was a bit nervous to drive. I had to stay focused not to switch to the right side of the road when turning or entering streets. It took a few days to really get used to it and then, it wasn't that bad. My brain adjusted well and soon I felt like it was normal to drive on the left side.
Road trip score. East Coast Australia: 1 – West Coast USA: 1
Road Trip Accommodation in Australia and America
Now here's where it gets really different. In Australia, we mainly booked Airbnb rooms. It was the cheapest option and there were a lot more places available compared to hotels and motels. It was a great experience. We still mention it whenever we tell about our adventures in Australia and it really triggered our interest in Airbnb. It's a great way to discover and experience a country and 90% of the rooms we had were good or even great.
When arriving in Los Angeles we also stayed in an Airbnb but when heading into the desert to Palm Springs, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley it became difficult to find cheap ones. It turned out motels in the USA are often cheaper than Airbnbs. I didn't mind at all because I love motels. And when I say motel, I mean a real motel. The kind where you say: “Wow, it's like being in a movie.” Old (I call it ‘charming’) and sometimes borderline shady (I call it ‘personality’).
Well, Australia can't beat America when it comes to motels but I must say the Airbnb experience made up for that. I'll have to give the same score again.
East Coast Australia: 2 – West Coast USA: 2
Road trip food AKA gas station grub
A very important deciding factor on whether I have a good or a great road trip is the gas stations and the food and drinks they have to offer.
In Australia we discovered the meat pie. Oh my god. What a discovery indeed. The fact that we could by small sized meat pies called 'Traveller Pies' in every gas station made us convinced that the Ozzies really know how to pamper their road trippers. On top of that, all bathrooms were spotless in every gas station. Shady looking or brand new, spotless.
The gas stations in America are different. Especially when venturing into the desert and coming across a town, population 51, and you're out of gas. Of course, there's only one gas station and it looks like one from the movie Wrong Turn (Just check it on imdb or watch it. Up to you). Well, you know I like motel so it's not hard to believe that I love these shady looking gas stations. Personality, remember.
Another thing that Americans do better is iced coffee. Australians mix a bucket of milk and sugar, add a drop of coffee and call it iced coffee. If you want real iced coffee with... ehm coffee, then you're going to have to do your road trip in America.
Again, both +1, that makes 3 – 3. We're coming to the final battle here: Sights and scenery.
A road trip in America or Australia: Sights and Scenery
Ok. This is specifically a comparison between the East Coast of Australia (Sydney to Townsville) and West Coast USA (Los Angeles,Palm Springs, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley,...)
One of the first things I said to Joanna after hitting the road in Los Angeles was: “Doesn't this feel more like a real road trip? I can really feel it here.” Well, I felt like that from beginning to end in America. I'm not saying the East Coast of Australia is ugly or anything but when I compare it to the West Coast of the US, well, I just can't describe it. It just inspires my photography.
The East Coast of Australia didn't give me that feeling. Everything we saw was pretty much the same and didn't surprise us. Our road trip in America really tingled my senses and emotions again, even though I'd been there two times before. The scenery changes every hour and there are so many surprising, strange and interesting stops to make. Of course, this all very subjective. I suppose it depends on where you go. Plus, We've only been to the East Coast of Australia so I might change my mind if we visit another part of Australia. For now, America is still my number one road trip country.
My final score:
East Coast Australia: 3 – West Coast USA: 4
So, what do I recommend? Well, just see for yourself and decide what you like best. Here's my photo comparison to help you decide where to do your next road trip. America or Australia.
Feel free to try and change my mind or share your favorite in the comments…