Things you can do overseas that are banned in Australia: Beware the fun police

It feels pretty wrong to begin with. Like you're doing something naughty. You wheel the bike out of the hire shop and set yourself up facing the right direction; you put sandshoe to pedal, hoik yourself up onto the saddle and then begin to ride, wind whistling past your ears, Amsterdam flashing before your eyes.

What's wrong is what's missing: a helmet. In Amsterdam, as in the rest of Europe, you don't need one to ride a bike. You can pedal au naturel, the breeze in your hair – if you happen to have any – and the sun on your face – if there happens to be any.

It's liberating, which is a little silly. Should it really feel this rebellious to cycle around town without a helmet on? Should it really be this much fun? No, it shouldn't.

But that's the thing. If you live in Australia, you have to wear a helmet when you're on a bike. You may think it's crazy, and you may think it's unnecessary, but it's also reality. You get on a bike, you wear a helmet.

See: Five things you can do in Amsterdam that are illegal in Australia

So Amsterdam feels great, just the same as Copenhagen does, and Barcelona, and Berlin. And that mini act of rebellion makes you hunger for more. What else can you do legally overseas that would be banned in Australia? In what other ways can you feel like a rebel without actually breaking the law?

As we're already talking about Amsterdam, let's do the obvious one: you can smoke pot. You can puff joints or munch cookies. You can do this in "coffee shops" of shady legality across much of the Netherlands. And you can do this, increasingly, in many other parts of the world.

You can do it in Uruguay and not find yourself in trouble. You can do it in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado and not have to worry about a thing (except the munchies, and paranoia). You can treat patients with medical marijuana in plenty of other places, too. 

There are people who will travel to these countries and states just for the chance to do these things. If you feel chafed by restrictions in Australia you're going to love the rest of the world, because there are all sorts of things you can get away with doing out there.

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You can marry a person of your own gender. That's fine in loads of countries, the closest of which is just across the Tasman in New Zealand. Such freedom! That's definitely something to enjoy.

See: Overseas destinations that are benefiting from gay marriage

Or how about motorbikes? Think riding a pushbike without a helmet is tough? In the Netherlands you can ride a scooter without a helmet. In plenty of US states you don't even need a helmet to ride a full-sized motorbike. I'm not saying that's a good idea – in fact it sounds like a terrible one. But it's something you're allowed to do, and maybe you're the type who'll enjoy it.

Want to see some more lax attitudes to things we take seriously? Try sitting on Ipanema beach in Rio around sunset. All of a sudden there's a guy standing next to you selling gigantic homemade caipirinhas​, huge plastic cups stacked with ice and cachaca​ and lime.

Is he a waiter from a local bar? A sales rep for the alcohol company? No – he's an enterprising guy who saw a need for huge, tasty alcoholic drinks and figured he'd provide them. No licence, no laws.

And you can't tell me it's not fun, sitting on the beach wiggling toes in the hot sand, drinking a delicious beverage while watching the show all around.

See: The 20 must-do highlights of Rio de Janeiro

This practice is not exactly unique to Brazil, either. You can source booze from unlicensed individuals of various levels of trustworthiness across much of south-east Asia, and in Africa, plus Central America as well. Regulations aren't so tight in those parts of the world. It's kind of nice. 

In a similar vein, there are some fairly strange foods that are deemed too dangerous to serve in Australia, but are still readily available in other parts of the world. You can eat potentially deadly puffer fish in Japan. You can dine on weird maggot cheese in Sardinia. You can guzzle hallucinogenic potions in Peru. 

You can do all of these things, and maybe you'll feel a thrill. Maybe you'll feel like you're finally getting the chance to live life as it should be, to break free of Australia's shackles and feel truly free. 

You'll enjoy that little gulp of rebellion, and then in all probability you'll come home to our own safe, ordered, rule-bound land, and things will go back to normal. 

We might be stuck being told what to do all the time here. But there's always Amsterdam.

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: How to be a better traveller
See also: The world's 10 most loveable cities

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