Go with an empty esky. It was the directive that prompted a collective exhale of breathe during Australia’s Black Summer bushfires. Sure, the heart-wrenching damage was already done – loss of lives, land, homes and wildlife – but here was a clear and simple way that we, everyday Australians, could contribute to the recovery.
Friends Erin Boutros and Eleanor Baillieu felt the same, so they got in the car on a sweltering Melbourne day, empty esky in tow. “We wanted to do something to help and thought that actually giving these fire-impacted towns the foot traffic that they’d lost over summer would be beneficial,” recalls Baillieu. “We started an Empty Esky Instagram account, but at the time it was really just for us to document our trip. We did one post and woke up the next morning and had nearly 10,000 followers – and it’s just grown from there.”
Today Empty Esky curates conscious itineraries and encourages its audience to visit regions doing it tough – following not only the bushfires but COVID-19 too – and stock up on produce and wares from local traders. “The little purchases make the biggest difference,” explains Boutros. “It’s about stopping at a café in a tiny town and going in and chatting to the owner and showing genuine interest in their story. Purchase some snacks for the road – it’s not going to completely transform their business, but it’s a real morale boost.”
Empty Esky’s latest project is a collaboration with Audible: seven bespoke road trip itineraries that geniusly incorporate free audiobook downloads. Simply scan the QR code at a particular pit stop – be it a surf shop, bakery, winery or even a camel dairy – then download the soundtrack for the next leg of your journey. Think cruising the Western Australian coastline listening to The Great Gatsby, or through New South Wales’ Upper Hunter Valley while Michael Caine recounts true-crime tales.
Boutros and Baillieu are now keen to get back on the road and partake in their own Great Aussie Audiobook Adventure, especially having been cooped up in Melbourne for much of the year. They’ll be exploring the south coast of NSW, as well as doing the Tasmania itinerary which features Highland Getaways, a luxury farmstay where you can meet and pat Scottish cows. We mean…
The pair’s top road-trip tips? Stay hydrated, and pack dry shampoo.
Oh, and an audiobook. Which brings us back to the Empty Esky x Audible itineraries. Here’s a taster of five (of the seven) to try; visit Empty Esky for the full itineraries.
A 1-2 day drive through the Huon Valley, punctuated by stops at apple orchards, country bakeries, wineries and yes, those cows.
A beautiful beachy itinerary in the Sunshine Coast – from Kuluin to Mt Tamborine.
A quintessentially Aussie road trip through coastal surf towns (from Avoca to Erina). Food features heavily, from locally made cheese to donuts and oysters.
A charming itinerary covering Daylesford, Gippsland, Mansfield and Bright. In true Victorian form, you’ll stop at a brewery, cider factory, winery and two coffee shops.
Take in the exquisite WA coastline from Yanchel to Geraldton, stopping off at a wildlife park, sand dunes, a lobster shack and jaffle shop.
The Great Aussie Audiobook Adventure runs until 4 January 2021.