I sit perched on my office chair – shielded by air conditioning, enjoying a moment of quiet amongst a storm of activity here at the station. I swat two flies away – how did they even get in here? And I take a moment to jot down some words – something I haven’t had the opportunity of doing in recent months as we ease down from a hectic winter season of campers, school children, grey nomads, foreigners and organised/unorganised chaos. We’ve been travelling nearly seven months – most of which has been spent wrapped in thermal underwear and feathered sleeping bags nestled on top of a hot water bottle or two, with a billy tea in hand… But those days are gone. I swat another fly away from my face. The flies mean heat.
It’s sizzling warmth we’ve not quite experienced – far away from the humid temperatures of North Queensland, this one is a slow, drawn-out burn. So while you can’t breathe in thick moisture or feel a layer of liquid cover your skin the second you step outside, you can feel the harshness of warm, desert weather and a new season ahead.
We’ve called the station home for three months now, and in three months our perceptions of what it means to live in the outback have altered somewhat. Of course, we never expected it to be easy-going. It’s a whole other world out here. People are different. The pace is different. It’s like another planet – dressed up for the rest of Australia and the world as a ‘dinky-di experience’ for travellers, where in fact, it’s so much more.
Mark my words; I truly believe every Australian should visit this area of the country at least once in their lifetime. Words can’t describe the experiences felt out here by those who dare to venture off the beaten path. It’s something to be seen with your own two eyes…
We’ve experienced it from both ways – the traveller and the resident. So here is what we’ve learnt in three months, and something to keep in mind when you’re visiting remote areas of Australia. You totally should. It’s pretty special.
Remote living can be… lonely
Shock horror, right? …but living remotely can be really challenging. Here at the station we have staff from all walks of life, but most commonly, it’s young, domestic and international travellers keen to make a buck and experience this part of the world. They are nearly always on their own, and this can be really challenging when the nearest sign of intelligent life is more than 300kms away. There’s not really anywhere for you to get away either… You can’t just go to the shops or the beach or the park or to a museum. If you don’t have a 4WD let alone a vehicle at all, exploring the region can be difficult and dangerous. Let alone the fact that reception and internet access is scarce so even getting on to friends or family can be hard.
Out here, all you’ve got are the people you live and work with. And with that, also comes the beauty of being where we are. We are a family. We’re in the trenches together which means we support each other and have a lot of fun in the process.
So my advice here is two-fold… If you’re keen to experience life in the outback, consider working on a station. It’s near impossible to spend any money (unless you’re a keen online shopper) and it’s a good way to see this part of the world whilst making new friends from all over.
For the traveller I say this. Be nice to the staff. You’re probably the only outsiders these guys have seen all day so if you’re a dick, it makes what might already be a lonely day, so much worse. If they don’t seem super cheery, maybe there’s a good reason. So just be nice and patient, mmkay?
Remote living is just that. Remote.
Out here, everything takes much longer than it normally would in a built-up area. Should I need also mention the obvious… everything is more expensive.
The fuel you’re filling your car with has been trucked in from far away. The coffee you press to your lips has also been trucked in from far away. The burger and fries, the cutlery, the hot shower, the toilet paper, hell, the paper your receipt is printed on… It’s all been trucked or flown in from far, far away. This means of course, that prices are higher.
You’d be shocked by the number of travellers coming through who find it’s their duty to tell us how expensive things are. Thanks for that. Did you know we have to order our groceries more than a week in advance? And what if something breaks? Repairmen are far away, and their time and money are precious also. Did you know that if we suffer a serious illness or injury, we have to be flown out of here and raced to hospital more than 300kms away? It’s expensive for us, too… but it’s also part and parcel of being in the outback.
We are literally, in the centre of Australia. Imagine the shoe was on the other foot and you were the business owner trying to provide a service to the public… It ain’t cheap. If you’re a traveller, do your research beforehand and don’t come with an empty wallet or a closed mind. It’s inconvenient, yes. But stomping your feet and chucking a toddler tantrum isn’t going to change the cost of sourcing supplies to ultimately make YOUR stay more comfortable.
It can be confronting
Along with the loneliness and the expenses, sometimes living in a remote location can also mean being forced to face situations you wouldn’t ever expect to. We are located within 40kms of a major tourism destination. This means, that during certain times of the year, the highways can be teaming with traffic and more often than not, drivers who aren’t used to the road conditions.
Accidents occur semi-regularly. Whether it’s a foreign driver who isn’t used to driving out bush, or a split second of inattention by someone who should know better… Car accidents happen. Driving around here at dusk or after dark is also a no-no. We have thousands of brumbies, wild camels and cattle roaming these parts, and they all like to cross the road at the same time. Doing 110 km/hr on the highway when no one is around might seem fairly innocuous, but when scores of wild animals are about, your somewhat ‘carefree’ car trip could turn to tragedy very quickly.
Triple zero also works differently out here. We have medical attention nearby, yes. But any emergency care requires the Royal Flying Doctor Service – which means having to wait longer than a couple of minutes for attention. Add to this, zero phone reception. What would you do if you had an accident out here and you had no phone reception? This is how it normally goes:
- Accident occurs
- Person waves down passer-by for assistance
- Passer-by drives ‘X’ amount of kms to our station to call for help
- We call triple zero and report the accident – sometimes we might even have to attend the crash to help where we can.
It goes without saying. You have to be bloody careful out here. As staff on a remote station, we know how unpredictable a day can be, and we are always willing to help you. Even if it’s just a breakdown… Our guys often drop what they’re doing to come and offer help where they can. Sometimes this can mean forcing them into a confronting situation. On top of an accident itself, it could also mean we’re forced to put an injured animal out of its misery. So please, do your bit and drive super safely. It’s not just your life that can be affected by road trauma.
Don’t come out here without a two-way radio. Don’t come out here without spare tyres, oil, a jerry can of spare fuel, spare parts, and some basic mechanical understanding. ALWAYS carry a map (in case you need to work out where you are). We’re here to help, but it’s not our job to help you out of a situation you could/ should have prevented.
Remote Australia is an experience unlike anything else
I must say, there was a period recently, where I felt trapped, stressed, alone, and sick to death of working out here. I was tired and angry. Situations are dealt with so differently out here and I couldn’t comprehend it. The work couldn’t be further from my actual career, so I was getting annoyed about being stressed (at least in your chosen career, the stress can seem worth it). We visited home (QLD) in recent weeks, and if I’m honest, I felt nothing but dread returning to the outback and our temporary home on the station.
I remember pulling in the driveway – a storm was rolling in – and it resembled the feeling in my stomach… But… As we edged towards the station, our little family came running. They were so excited to see us! My heart leapt and all of a sudden, I felt at home. Seeing their goofy smiling faces, being bombarded with questions about our holiday and thrown a bunch of crazy stories which occurred during our time away… Being told to get to the pool house because ‘we’re throwing you welcome home drinks’!… Now that was special – and the storm in my stomach quickly passed.
The friends we’ve made here in just three short months… It makes it all worthwhile. These are the best people you’ll ever meet. People who work hard, are hungry to explore Australia, learn new things, be there for each other, help when you need it, listen to you complain, make you laugh when you feel like crying, love you for who you are, and expect nothing from you but friendship and an occasional drinking buddy at the end of the day… This is why we’re doing this.
In three months, we’ve slowed right down. Yeah, it’s about earning some money to fund the rest of our travels, but it’s also about experiencing a phenomenal part of Australia and meeting some damn amazing people along the way.
My final tip – visit Outback Australia. The scenery is one thing, but the people and the personal growth experienced by visiting an area like this one, will do more for you than you’ll ever know.
Yes it’s expensive, yes there are flies, yes it’s hot and yes it’s in the middle of nowhere… But take the time to venture away from the comfort of populated areas. Take the time to say g’day to those who live and work out here. Listen to us when we give you advice and remember we’re just like you – travelling and experiencing this bloody awesome country we call home.
A lover of the written word.
Journalist by trade, writer by hobby. Writing fuels my soul and I promised myself I’d string words together more often, so here I am.
A collection of pieces that describe the inner workings of my mind.