Woman who travelled through the Australian Outback alone decided to leave her lucrative job as a fashion editor to take a ‘gap year’ at the age of 32.

Melissa Mason had always loved road trips and exploring, finding one particular instance of driving from her hometown of Sydney to Broken Hill, which would take 13 hours from the CBD without stopping, awe-inspiring.

In October 2018 the now 33-year-old was at a point in her life where she felt as though she could comfortably uproot herself and go travelling for four months.

She didn’t have a partner and had been working as a fashion editor for years, so she felt like taking some time off wouldn’t be a detriment to her career, and her bosses were happy to hold her position until she returned.

While the traditional gap year is taken by students who have just finished school and want to take a break before they settle into further studies or a full-time job, Melissa was happy with her timing.

‘I think the difference with this was that it was more about experiencing different cultures within Australia. States like Western Australia and the Northern Territory have completely different lifestyles, values and ways of living from what I’d ever experienced,’ she told Domain.

Melissa packed up her belongings, hired a four-wheel drive car she nicknamed Georgia and covered 39,768km touring every inch of the Australian mainland.

The longest stint she did on the road was a record 10 hours from Darwin to Alice Springs, which she found to be more cosmopolitan than urban legends had led her to believe.

‘I think a lot of people think the Outback is really dangerous but most people you encounter on the road are inherently good,’ she said.

According to Melissa our highways are dotted with plenty of rest stops, petrol stations and tiny towns so even when there isn’t reception you’ll always feel like there are people to call into for help.

When she ran out of diesel at an inopportune time she found a small mine with workers who were willing to give her the petrol she needed to get back on the road.

If she ever broke down on the side of the road there would always be another person driving by within 15 minutes to flag down.

While she learnt about spirituality in the Northern Territory and its sacred land, Melissa also had to understand basic first aid and how to check her oil and water in the car.

One of the most vulnerable places she found herself was at the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater in Western Australia because she had to navigate through lots of unsealed, isolated roads to get there.

When she saw a car in the distance she hurried to leave, only to realise that it was a family with two young children coming to see the hole in the ground.

The 100 per cent humidity in the Top End also took its toll on her, with Melissa describing the feeling of 40 degree heat as ‘unbearable’ and helping her to appreciate living by the sea in Sydney.

While her parents and friends ‘weren’t sure if she’d even make it back’ to them, Melissa has no regrets about side-stepping her comfort zones and venturing into the dusty red centres.

While not every country’s citizens have the privilege of taking a gap year 25 per cent of students in Australia are choosing to hit the pause button on university for the sake of travel.

Some go overseas to work part-time (28 per cent), others go over for some form of training (10 per cent) and others purely travel (six per cent).

Melissa certainly encourages others to take the plunge later in life so long as they have ‘practiced’ travelling on their own, if that’s their plan.

That way they won’t feel isolated in certain areas if they find themselves without someone to speak to.

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