I was happy being broke and cold in Australia
It wasn’t quite the Aussie dream I imagined, but life in rural Tasmania was bliss
‘I was surrounded by green fields, wandering wombats and more peace and quiet than ever before.’
It was July 2014 when I found myself living in a remote area of Tasmania. Daylight barely filled nine hours of the day and temperatures regularly dropped below freezing.
In the rural town of Fingal, with a population of roughly 400, jobs were as rare as hen’s teeth. To complicate matters, I was attempting to turn a dilapidated shack with no running water or electricity into a cozy country home. In short, I was unemployed, running out of money and constantly cold - not quite the Australian dream I imagined when I left home 18 months earlier.
How did I end up in this situation? I asked myself that question many times. But despite the mounting challenge, I was completely content with this simple life.
I emigrated with the masses in 2013. After completing a degree, master’s and two internships, I obtained a part-time job as a broadcast news journalist. It felt like an uphill struggle, but at the time I was sure I was on the right path.
After several months though, I developed a terrible sinking feeling. It seemed the previous five years of study, good grades and unpaid placements distracted me from the fact I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was disappointed, deflated and unsure what to do next. Had I wasted all this time? Should I persevere and hope it starts to fall into place? Or book a flight and see what New Zealand has to offer?
A year-long stretch in the “Land of the Long White Cloud” was enough to make me forget my worries about future employment in Ireland. Instead, I threw myself into all manner of backpacker jobs on both the north and south islands.
The most memorable by far was my time working outdoors as a farmhand on a beef and sheep station, and a possum fur harvester. Over six months, I acquired new skills I never imagined possible. I learned to pluck possums, navigate through the bush, drench sheep, wean lambs, muster deer, draft bulls, drive a tractor and a quad bike and (thankfully) live to tell the tale.
I worked, camped, skied and hiked my way through this spectacular country and became very comfortable living an outdoor lifestyle, something alien to me in Ireland.
New Zealand was always on a countdown and as my visa expiration date approached, I was not ready to return to Ireland. I weighed up my options and decided to cross the water to rural Australia.
The first 48 hours in my new surroundings were a true test of character. I met wild dogs and massive goannas, almost stepped directly on a venomous black snake, and disturbed a paper wasp nest resulting in several painful stings. In the sweltering heat and high humidity, I was apprehensive about my future down under.
After this interesting introduction, I headed for Sydney to look for work. I didn’t share the excitement of so many other Irish I met in the city, and it took some time to adapt after backcountry New Zealand. Sydney felt overwhelming, so after a few months of city living I made the move south to beautiful Tasmania, where I lived in the aforementioned shack.
I was surrounded by green fields, wandering wombats and more peace and quiet than ever before. It was here I really started to think about Ireland. When do I return, and what will I be returning to? I was growing increasingly dissatisfied working jobs I did not enjoy, so I decided at this point to study again.
The next year and a half was spent living in Tasmania, moving back to the mainland, working, saving, travelling and training as a natural therapist. I settled into Australian living and started to feel very at home with the subtropical lifestyle of the mid-north coast.
But as Christmas 2015 drew closer and my studies were nearing completion, I decided, after great consideration, that three years of living abroad was enough for now. I spent a month packing boxes, organising flights and saying my farewells.
I could always see myself back in Ireland at some point. But as most people returning know, coming home to your old life can raise some questions. Where will I live? What will I do for work? Who is even still at home?
I decided to take my time and make the most of the uncertainty. I headed for Sri Lanka to learn as much as possible about Ayurveda, the natural therapy in which I qualified. This was followed by a brief South American adventure which exceeded all expectations and was the perfect end to this chapter of travel.
Now, back in Co Kildare, I feel very much at home and am excited to put roots down in Ireland. Many friends have shared their enthusiasm to also be back after their time abroad, and most who stayed in Ireland are employed and enjoying their work. Opportunities seem plentiful and the overall attitude I was greeted with was one of positivity. It feels like a very different Ireland to the one I left.
Someone once told me that travel is the best investment you can ever make in your life. I’ve taken that advice quite literally and I understand it’s not for everyone. But it did help me learn that a linear life is not the only option. You don’t always need to tick certain boxes by a certain age. Take the time to find what makes you happy, and if in doubt… travel!