AE 289 – Expression: To Go Walkabout

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of Aussie English where I teach you to use TO GO WALKABOUT like a native!

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AE 289 – Expression: To Go Walkabout

G’day guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.

I am Pete, your host, and this is the podcast, the number one podcast, for learning Australian English.

So, whether you want to learn how to sound like an Australian, to speak like an Australian, or just to understand Australians when they speak English, this is the podcast for you.

I’ve just gotten back from a little café run. I’ve ran out to the cafe with a friend.

It was a quick run, a quick stop off, to a cafe. We went and had a coffee.

I had a muffin. It was choc-chip. It was pretty nice. He also had a muffin.

This is my friend Dave who lives in Geelong. I went to high school with Dave.

He just dropped in, came past, said hello, and asked me out for coffee.

So, I went out to do that.

We had a nice little coffee, had a bit of a chat, a bit of a yarn, just, yeah, caught up overall.

I just got back. It’s pretty cold outside.

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and I thought it would be the perfect time to record this week’s episode.

So, this week’s episode is going to be focusing on the expression “to go walkabout”, “to go walkabout”.

So, as usual, we’ll dive in and we’ll define the words in the expression “to go walkabout” first.

So, obviously, the verb “to go” is to move from one place to another.

It’s to travel somewhere. You can go to work. So, you can go from home to work.

Or you can go away for a holiday. So, you can travel. You can go away.

You can go on a trip, on a journey, on a holiday.

“Walk”. The word “to walk”, or the verb “to walk”, or it could also be a noun, “a walk”.

This is to move at a regular pace, putting one foot in front of the other.

So you might walk to work. Or you could use it as a noun. You might go for a walk to work.

That’s the word “walk”.

“To walk about”. We can turn this into a phrasal verb.

So we can add the word “about” after the verb, “To walk about”.

And I might also add here that you can also see this with the word “around”, “to walk around” or “to walk about”.

And often these can be used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

So “to walk about” means to walk around, to walk in many directions, to walk with no real destination, to walk with no purpose.

So, if I go outside and I walk around, it’s kind of like I’m outside walking, but I have no real purpose.

I have no real destination. I’m just out the front walking in many directions.

I’m walking about or I’m walking around.

So I might be out walking around in my garden or I might be out walking about in my garden.

So hopefully you get what that phrasal verb means.

If you walk, that’s the action of walking, but if you add “about” or “around” to it that is walking, but in many directions and with no real purpose.

So that’s the phrasal verb.

It can be turned into this noun where we connect “about” with “walk”.

So, it becomes one word, “walkabout”, “walkabout”. This has a really really cool origin guys.

This is tied in with aboriginal culture. I couldn’t really find where it first came from.

I probably need to try and research that more deeply, but when I was trying to google this I couldn’t really find how these English words became used by aboriginal people to mean what it does.

And so, when this is used by aboriginal people, when aboriginal people go on walkabout or they go walkabout typically this is a journey, originally on foot, where Australian aboriginal people, the native Australians who have been here for fifty thousand years, they would do this in a sort of traditional manner, often as a rite of passage for young boys.

So, young boys in a tribe of Aborigines would go off on walkabout, they would go away on walkabout, into the bush, and they would have to survive off the land by themselves for a certain amount of time, and this amount of time could be upwards of six months.

So, it could be six months or more. And so, this was their initiation into adulthood.

It was when boys, if they could do this then they would become mature adults and they would be considered men.

So, they could show that they could survive on their own, in the wild, in the bush, in the outback, and survive by living off the land, effectively.

So, that’s the traditional sense of “walkabout”.

So, make sure that you check out this episode’s transcript, guys, because I will also add in some extra links for you to read more about “walkabout” and this culture that aborigines have with going away for this long period of time when they’re kids to sort of become adults.

But we’ll go through now and define the expression, “to go walkabout”.

So, “to go walkabout”, obviously, originally meant for a young aboriginal adolescent, a young boy, between the age of about 10 and 13 to go away and survive in the wild for six months or so.

So to become a man.

So “to go walkabout” in that sense would mean to pass through (to*) manhood in the wild, live off the land, for a period of time.

It can also be used for adult aborigines today who decide to go away and seek sort of like spiritual enlightenment.

So, they might want time away from Western culture.

They want to sort of reconnect with the land, seek a bit more spiritual engagement, a bit of spiritual enlightenment.

So, they might refer to that as “going walkabout”.

However, the sense of this expression that I’m going to hear most commonly as someone who lives in a city away from, you know, land where there are a lot of aboriginals that are practicing culturally, most of the time and I hear this it means for something to disappear, for something to be misplaced, for something to be lost, for something to not be found, that you can’t find something.

So, as usual, we’ll go through some examples, guys.



Imagine that you’ve met an aboriginal who has literally gone on walkabout or is going on walkabout.

He might say that he is about to go into the bush and seek spiritual enlightenment, reconnect with the land.

So he’ll go off into the bush for a predetermined amount of time.

It could be weeks it could be months. Maybe it will just be the weekend.

But he is going to go into the bush, into the outback, and potentially live off the land for a bit, reconnect with his roots, reconnect with the culture.

Maybe he’ll be eating native animals like roos, possums and goannas.

He’ll be taking part in cultural rituals. It could be alone, it could be with people.

But it can be used in that sense. He’s gone walkabout or he’s gone on walkabout.


A second example, could be that say I’ve gone out for the day, and my parents don’t know where I am.

So they might say, “Oh, Pete’s gone walk about.”, meaning that Pete has disappeared.

We can’t find him. He’s gone out.

We know he’s gone out somewhere, but we don’t know where, we don’t know for how long.

He’s disappeared. So, he’s gone away for an undetermined amount of time today.

“Where’s Pete?”, “Oh, I dunno. He’s gone walkabout.”


You could also say this if you couldn’t find, say, your car keys.

So, imagine that you’ve lost your car keys, you can’t find it, you can’t find them*, rather.

You might say to someone, “I can’t find my car keys. They’ve gone walkabout.”.

So, this is just a way of saying that they have disappeared, they’ve gone missing.

“I’ve lost my keys. They’ve gone walkabout. I can’t find my keys. (I) Dunno where they are.”.

So those are three examples, guys, to explain the expression, “to go walkabout”.

As usual, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise, guys, where we’ll go through using the expression “to go walkabout”, and it means, in this case, to go missing.

So listen and repeat after me, guys.

Listen & repeat:

Walkabout x 3

I’ve gone walkabout.
You’ve gone walk about.
He’s gone walkabout.
She’s gone walkabout.
We’ve gone walkabout.
They’ve gone walk about.
It’s gone walkabout.

So, hopefully that was a good exercise, guys.

It’s also contracting the verb “to have” in the present tense.

When we form that past tense with “gone” the past participle of “to go”.

So, hopefully, that’s a good exercise for you guys.

As usual, let’s have a quick chat about the pronunciation and connected speech in this section.

So, you might have noticed that when I say “walkabout”, “walkabout”, I kind of really quickly skip over the “a” in the middle.

So, I don’t say “walkabout” I say “walkəbout”, “walkəbout”, walkabout.

So this is the schwa vowel sound, guys.

And you’ll often hear this in quite a few words in English, but “about” is the perfect example here.

In fact, I’m not even saying “about” I’m saying “əbout”, “əbout”. So, “walkabout”.

So, let’s practice the schwa sound five times. I’ll say the word “about” five times.

And then I’ll give you five sentences with the word “about” in them.

Let’s go.

Listen & repeat:

ə x 5

əbout x 5

I’ve gone walkəbout.
What are you talking əbout.
It’s all I thought əbout.
What are you shouting əbout.
He’s just walking əbout outside.

So, that’s it for this episode guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

And remember, if you want all the bonus exercises for this episode that are going to go over things like phrasal verbs including the words “about” and “around”, I’m also going to go deeper into pronunciation of the schwa vowel sound, and then in the grammar section we’re going to also practice more phrasal verbs as well as tenses, but phrasal verbs with “about” and “around”.

Remember you can sign up to be a member on the Aussie English website.

And you can try it for a dollar.

So give it a go, and let’s take your Australian English to the next level.

Anyway guys, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, and I’ll chat to you soon.

See ya.

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