Valentine’s Day is a prime example of a day dedicated to celebrating romance and showing appreciation for our loved ones by showering them with gifts. Many take this opportunity to escape on a romantic getaway, usually taking the form of an all-inclusive hotel with pool and spa. However, imagine trading such luxury and comfort for a rough, low-budget trip. Such an idea may seem preposterous and completely unfitting for such an occasion… or perhaps, it is exactly the kind of trip you should be choosing.

The idea of a couples retreat typically implies time to relax, be spoilt, and spend time with your partner. Businesses will take advantage of such an opportunity by offering hotel deals and discounts to entice many to buy as a gift for their significant other. Admittedly, there is a great attraction towards this illusion of being able to fully unwind in a 5* hotel, but the likelihood is you will be in a building surrounded by many other people. If an overly crowded environment does not appeal to you, your option for more privacy is going to cost significantly more. In reality, your romantic getaway for two may be shared amongst a sea of fellow couples who had the same initial idea as you once did. We are sold the idea and made to believe that this is the kind of scenery to provide a blissful way to enjoy a romantic retreat. However, the charm behind its appeal is solely based upon a materialistic, commercialised façade. I won’t deny it would be enjoyable, and if it appeals to you it will certainly be worth your money. However, alternative and less popular options, and therefore cheaper ones, can also provide an idyllic getaway.

We live in a commercialised world, not always appreciating what our planet truly has to offer us. Instead, we surround ourselves with excessive amounts of unnecessary possessions and products we feel we cannot live without, which often affects how we treat one another. There seems to be a certain expectation for how we are to prove our devotion to another person: by spending money on them with expensive gifts. I have learned that connecting back to a natural setting can help us to connect better with ourselves, and therefore with one another.

My experience comes from travelling the West Coast of Australia with a friend. Although this was not on a romantic level, the lessons learned and better understanding for another person is easily relatable to any couple seeking an escape for some quality time together. Going back to basics could allow you to bond on a far deeper level than on a high-cost retreat.

Opting for a getaway that involves nothing more than you, your partner, a fully equipped car, camping gear and a road trip itinerary may not have the same blissful appeal as a hotel, but is one that will leave you feeling refreshed. Choosing to ‘freedom camp’ (camping in nature without external facilities) can often be far more valuable than choosing caravan parks, as you will get to experience nature in its wildest form. Unlike a hotel where everything is provided, you have to be fully self-contained, carrying all your belongings, food and water wherever you drive to and decide to camp for the night. Camp must be set up every night and packed away every morning, and the sleeping arrangement will consist of a thin mattress in your tent. There are no chefs to serve wonderful meals at any given request; instead you will have to cook for each other outside on a portable stove. This may sound like hard work rather than a holiday, so why choose it? Ultimately, it will enrich you both on a greater level as all the materialistic distractions have been eliminated. The beauty of camping may not be for everyone, but it is certainly an experience I encourage you to try.

The main reason for choosing a minimalistic, camping road trip will be the personal growth you both gain. Stripping your environment back to a natural format and travelling via a remote route will automatically force you to work as a unified team, where you must ensure appropriate planning and carry sufficient quantities of supplies. Spending 24/7 with anyone is enough to put any relationship to the test. This teaches us so much about each other’s quirks as you begin to develop a true appreciation for who they are as a person. However, being in the presence of each other’s company for such long periods of time will undoubtedly bring arguments and irritations, but despite some unpleasant moments, you realise you would not have undertaken this trip with anyone else. Despite its roughness, the experience can still be one that is romantic. For example, as light pollution is non-existent, the stars light up the entire night sky; a scene that would never be visible within a city. There is something extremely peaceful about watching the stars illuminate and shoot across the sky.

Romantic experiences can be achieved on a low budget. Travelling down the West Coast of Australia we saw white sand beaches with the clearest turquoise waters. As opposed to the popular spots which are sold to tourists, these isolated beaches meant we only had to share with the local wildlife! The stunning gorges of Karijini National Park rewarded us with breathtaking views and vibrant colours. Snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef was extraordinary as we came so close to marine life by simply swimming a few metres out to sea; and all this could be experienced for free. If you have some extra money, spend it on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Booking a snorkelling tour with Ningaloo Reef Dive & Snorkel® in Coral Bay or Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim® in Exmouth was a highlight. These eco-friendly tours ensure high animal welfare, with as little interference as possible, and allow you to swim alongside manta rays, whale sharks, humpback whales, turtles, sharks and other marine life. It is an unforgettable experience that justifies its cost, as opposed to spending money on an easily forgotten bed in an expensive hotel.

A romantic getaway doesn’t necessarily mean spending a chunk. Spending less on materialistic items and being exposed to nature essentially makes us richer in each other’s company. A natural setting brings us back to our rawest forms, providing the opportunity to connect on a much deeper level – and what could be more romantic than that?