In short: we've gone overseas.
I was chatting to an English mate of mine the other day, who was planning a few mini-breaks in Australia. It made me realise once again how little I've seen of my own country.
"What do you reckon about this ... Uluru, is that what you're calling it now?" he asked. "Is it worth going to?"
"Oh yeah, for sure," I said. "Because, um ... I hear it's great."
And that's all I could say, because I've never been there. In fact, I've never even been to the Northern Territory.
Same goes for the rest of Australia. I've been to Angkor Wat, but never Adelaide. I've driven England's M1 a few times, but never the Great Ocean Road. I've visited the Taj Mahal, but never been to Tasmania. I've mustered cattle in Argentina, but I've never been to Longreach.
Why? Because like most Aussie travellers, I find travelling in Australia pretty boring.
Australians are known the world over as passionate travellers. It's pretty much impossible to visit any city, town or run-down shack in the middle of nowhere that hasn't already been overrun by our globe-trotting brethren. Every single country in the world is full of Aussie backpackers ... except, that is, Australia.
So why do we have this passion for overseas travel? Partly, I'd like to think, because of an innate sense of adventure, but it's also because our homeland doesn't have a great deal to offer us. Tourism Australia, rather than asking where the bloody hell everyone else is, might be better off questioning where the locals keep going.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 5.1 million Australians headed off overseas in June this year. That's a phenomenal amount, and Australian tourist operators would have dearly loved a few more of us to have stayed at home to spend our Aussie bucks.
But therein could lie the problem. With the dollar so strong at the moment, and international flights so cheap, why would you stay at home? Why would you spend the money to fly to Perth when you could get to Bangkok for the same amount? Why lash out on a holiday in Queensland when you could check out Osaka instead? (Banana fritters or nori rolls?) It's a no-brainer for me.
The problem I have with Australia is that it's all so samey. I love travelling for the unplanned joys, for the experience of trying to communicate with someone you don't share a single common word of a language with, for the taste of a previously unheard-of food. You can't get that here.
There's also the lack of cultural diversity in Australia. It's a massive country that costs a lot of money to get around, and you could drive for 20 hours, hop out of the car, walk up to the first person you saw on the street, and have a conversation about your local footy team.
There are no secrets in Australia, nothing bizarre or unique to uncover. Drive 20 hours in Europe and you've probably been through four countries that all have different languages and completely different cultures.
Most of us take the odd short break in Australia, but I've only got two friends who've ever spent longer than a few weeks holidaying here. They did the classically English thing of buying a van in Brisbane and driving (the long way) to Perth. While they had a ball, they still speak far more fondly of their time driving around Europe and living for a few months in St Tropez.
Many readers of this blog are expats, who might be able to put another spin on this as well: why do so many of us choose to not only holiday overseas, but live there as well? What is it about Australia that makes travellers want to up and leave on a semi-permanent basis?
For me, I've always got it in the back of my mind that I'll travel around Australia. Just not right now.
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