Journages

JOURNALS & VOYAGES

Category: Remote Work

How I Lived Happily in Outback Australia On $75 Per Week

Cleaning rooms in a rural caravan park in Katherine, Outback Australia, I was more content than I remember. Plenty of free time and surrounded by nature, I had all I needed despite earning very little.

My job search in Darwin had turned into weeks of adventures and drunken nights out. I’d been searching for rural work that would count towards my second year working holiday visa application. One of the criteria for applying is (bizarrely) three months of specified work in a rural location in industries such as agriculture and construction. Quite different from my usual office-based jobs!

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JOURNEYS & REVELATIONS: FROM LONDON OFFICE TO LIFE ON THE ROAD

This blog is about journeys of self-development and exploration of smarter ways to travel, live and work. A place to reflect and record stories of travel adventures and realisations that happened along the way. 

Many question the nine to five urban existence with a package holiday twice a year and have a sneaking feeling that we can live more logically and sustainably, with more leisure time, focussing on what we care about. I’ve been exploring alternative ways of living, travelling and working, meeting people who have escaped the ‘norm’ and live differently. Testing out how realistic and sustainable they are.

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My favourite things about Fremantle

We raced to the coast just in time to catch the huge red molten sun dipping below the sea in a split second. My first glimpses of Fremantle were an exciting mix of tropical paradise and some kind of old Western town;  historic character pubs and buildings, red dusky sky and desert-like climate. So exotic and different to the urban European vibe of Melbourne.

I peered up into the squawking Norfolk Pines to see if the nesting birds were starlings, and was amazed to see hundreds of bright rainbow lorikeets rustling and nesting for the day. I’d never seen such colourful birds, and so many!

I’d gone to Freo to visit Rob, who I met at a festival near Melbourne where I was living at the time. Rob’s neighbourhood of South Fremantle is a short walk to an amazing sheltered beach with turquoise water and white sand. (South Beach) Swimming there was like swimming in a warm blue pool.

Exotic flowers such as frangipani and hibiscus are everywhere in front gardens.  There’s an arty feel to the ‘hood, with colourful street art on many walls. Tamer and neater than Melbourne street art.

Going for walks at night I imagined living in one of the cute special Federation houses. Many are painted with lovely subtle colours such as teal and peach. Homely glowing interiors, fairy lights and cute cosy porches hinted at how linked the outdoors and indoors are here. Exotic floral scents like jasmine and honeysuckle smelled heavenly on the warm night air.

At dusk we cruised through the cappuccino strip which has the vibe of a Mediterranean island holiday in summer with its busy restaurants and enticing outdoor seating. I just couldn’t believe people LIVED here!

Wafting through Fremantle’s trendy shops and pretty markets on a dry sunny Saturday we felt high on life. Dipping in and out of Rob’s regular haunts to pick up his ‘essentials’ seemed as far from my weekly plod to Brunswick Coles as things could get. We dropped by the ‘oil lady’ for essential oils and Frankincense incense sticks…visited the herb and spice lady in the markets who clearly had a crush on Rob and let him scoop out his own herbs as he was a special customer…Locals interacted with real warmth and openness everywhere we went.

It seemed like everyone noticed us, caught our eye and smiled. The woman in the deli gave us a knowing smile and asked how our day was going while Rob picked up his organic coffee beans, and we exchanged some cheeky banter with smiles and nods.

It’s amazing how people engage with you when you’re happy and open. I inspected the delicacies and special chocolate in pretty wrapping. Everything seemed special and easy. In bed that night I closed my eyes to see colourful patterns of dresses and chocolate bar wrappers I’d browsed.

Organic cafes and health food shops stocked amazing arrays of products I’d never seen. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. The Raw Food Cafe is a great space with cool industrial decor and some incredible dishes. The ice cream is the best I’ve ever tasted – vegan and sugar free! The rose and rich chocolate stick in my mind.

Fremantle Markets sell colourful fruit and veg, healthy (and not so healthy) food, and pretty homeware and gifts. It’s crazy to think the famous Fremantle Prison housed convicts from the 1850s to as recently as 1991. How very different life must have been for them compared to the healthy wealthy residents of the town today.

Jogging south one day from dog beach along the beachfront path which winds through the dunes and trees I found an old shipwreck off Coogee Beach jutting out of the water near the shore.

Further down the beach this incredible old abandoned power station came into view with an eerie green pond in front of it. It’s a super quiet area with almost nobody about except the odd dog walker. I cautiously snook inside and snapped some photos of the graffiti-ed walls, ignoring signs threatening to keep out.

Another great thing about Freo is that you can get the Ferry right over to Rottnest island in only half an hour. It’s a small island with little coves and lovely beaches, with a view of Perth in the distance. We hired clunky bikes and cycled round the island. We met some inquisitive quokkas – cute little marsupials that were mistaken for giant rats by the early Dutch settlers, hence the island name of ‘Rat Nest’. If you put some water in a cupped hand they come and drink it!

The sunsets in WA are incredible. The sun melts down right over the ocean horizon with incredible colours. It’s one of the best places on earth for sunsets I’ve been to, along with the Northern Territory. It’s even better than India which was pretty amazing. One night we even saw the moon set over the sea in a smudge of dark brownish clouds – something we’d never seen before!

I stayed with Rob for a week in February – the height of WA summer, then for a couple of months in winter. They were some of my most memorable times in Australia. The first time was not long after I met him, in a whirlwind of summer love. The second was a more realistic taste of what it’s like to live together. But that’s another story…We remain close friends to this day, and chat when we can. He’ll always be a special part of my life, and taught me many important lessons about love, life and relationships <3

ON THE WAY TO A DREAM

Margaret River in Winter

The Margaret River region is famous for its wineries and stunning blue shoreline. Winter is a great time to avoid the crowds if you’re lucky with the weather. We stayed in an eco campsite right in the centre surrounded by woods.

While Lindsay and I were based in Perth freelancing in June I borrowed my friend’s car and drove there for a week’s stay. It’s just under a four hour drive from Perth. There are some incredible scenic wooded roads from Perth to Margaret River and beyond.

Camping in the woods

We stayed at an awesome eco safari-style campsite called Wharncliff Mill. I love eco accommodation and being surrounded by trees, so it was perfect. Great location, quiet and chilled yet in the centre of the Margaret River region so we could use it as a base to explore.

The first night we got some great cheap red wine from a bottlo down the road and got trollied in the tent! (well, I did!) I took extra layers as I was worried we’d be cold as it was June (winter), but it wasn’t too cold at all. But beware; we left food uncovered in our tent and just as I was drifting off, a rodent of some sort scurried over my bed. Luckily rodents don’t worry me and I was drunk enough to be mildly amused by it and fell back to sleep.

Cycling around Margaret River wineries

Getting around the region by bike is so much fun! The countryside is beautiful and there are roads that are quiet and bike-friendly. Obviously it’s important not to overdo the wine tasting while cycling. But cycling round in the sun in stunning surroundings whilst slightly tipsy was so much fun!

There’s a bike path from the camp site called Rails to Trails, which winds through woods and stunning scenery. We cycled to three vineyards and tried some top Chardonnays. I always thought Chardonnay was the worst type of wine in England, but there are some amazing ones here. Especially the oaked varieties which have a buttery, woody taste. The wineries we visited were all great: Stella Bella Wines, Watershed Wines and Leeuwin Estate. We were pretty sozzled by the time we got to the Leeuwin. They have beautiful grounds with well-kept gardens. We tried the whole range of wines including some really special reserves, and had some great banter with the staff.

Coffee tasting

Walking into Yahava KoffeeWorks you’re greeted by amazing coffee smells from the big roasting machine. They have tables for coffee tastings where you can sit and try different types of coffee from around the world and Australia. We were suitably manic and hyped after tasting them and headed out into the sunshine loving life! I generally try to avoid overdosing on stimulants like coffee and sugar as they aren’t great for the immune system. But when ‘on holiday’ I make an exception and go crazy!

Chocolate tasting

After the coffee place we stumbled upon a lovely rustic little chocolate shop next door. They make the chocolate in a little factory attached to the shop where you can look through a window to see it being made. They had some divine flavours and we made good use of the generous samples. Given I generally avoid eating stuff with sugar in, when I do it’s like having crack cocaine! So on top of the coffee I was pretty hyped up. I stocked up on some delicious sugar-free chocolate including a great mint flavoured one. It’s sweetened with maltitol which is some kind of barley derivative. The good thing about sugar free chocolate is, I dont feel like I need to brush my teeth right after it. Plus it’s less addictive.

Cheese tasting

We also tried some delicious locally made cheeses. There are such amazing local foods produced in the wine regions in Australia. Unfortunately, it’s all the stuff that makes you fat. And you leave laden with goodies and in need of detoxing!

The ocean is soooooo blue!

The beaches in Margaret river are stunning! The sea is super-blue with light sand. We even saw some sting rays at Hamelin Bay which swim in really shallow water so you can stand on the rocks and watch them.

At the time we were ‘being digital nomads’ and working remotely from wherever we happened to be staying. As part of the branding for Aldesko we took some shots of our laptops in random locations. We definitely weren’t working there, but they made for good shots!

The first shot was taken shortly before my ancient beast of a laptop toppled down the cliff! It sustained some cosmetic injuries but amazingly still worked fine. It’s been through the wars and round the world, and still going!!

Doing Margaret River region in winter was nice and quiet and I imagine waaaay less touristy than summer. We had a mix of sun and rain. I’d definitely stay at Wharncliffe camping again. The stars at night were incredible as you can see in the photo Lindsay took, below. And the smell of wood smoke from the camp fire with a bottle of wine is unbeatable.

Wharncliffe Mill Campsite at night

I love this amazing photo of Wharncliffe campsite at night by Lindsay Buckley!

I completely went overboard with wine, coffee, chocolate and cheese and felt stodgy and unhealthy by the end of our trip. It was amazing to see how healthy and energetic I felt after a couple of weeks of detoxing once I got back to Fremantle. I cut out booze, sugar and dairy and had every superfood I could get my mitts on. Add daily jogs along the beach to that and I felt the best I’ve ever felt!

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