I hadn’t stayed in a hostel since I first arrived in East London in September 1999. But here I was, in my mid-thirties, lying on a bunk bed in a dorm room where I was sleeping for $28 a night. I thought about what I could get for that kind of money in the city – half a manicure or a 15-minute massage. Not much.
This was a bare-bones lodge in the middle of Alice Springs. Pink walls and metal-framed beds. No room-service. No white bed linen.
I had made a decision. I was living in the Outback.
The catalyst for the move came after an Intrepid trip to Australia’s Northern Territory – a winter escape from city life. Less than 72 hours after I came back to Sydney I handed in my resignation at work. I needed this career break more than I needed anything.
Not in a million years did I think a spontaneous trip would spark an interest in the Outback and have me leaving the city for the desert. I never expected to be so taken by the bush, but it is a magical place, steeped in beauty and mystery.
Our Intrepid guides were passionate and knowledgeable. They loved the land and they loved their jobs. It was infectious; I had caught their ‘Outback bug’. I was hooked.
Over the 10 days I met extraordinary people, experienced things people dream about and learned more about the country I love so much.
In Mary River I met Craig, a Crocodile Dundee look-alike. He was our tour guide for a cruise through the local wetlands, a network of waterways home to saltwater crocodiles and many native bird species. As the sun rose, the bush birds basked in the light, the foliage a vibrant green from a heavy wet season.
Craig has worked on the Mary River boat cruise for seven years, ferrying travellers from one croc-spotting to another. He and his wife foster joeys (baby kangaroos) when their mothers are killed on the roads – not so uncommon in this part of the country.
On the trip, we slept in swags (Aussie bedrolls) under a sky tattooed with stars. We counted the shooting stars: one, two, three – they just kept appearing. I felt so small in comparison to the world above me.
It was in these moments I realised this was the ‘more’ I was looking for. I wanted to give myself the time to watch the stars and have deep conversations. This was a life full of rich experiences, a million miles away from my email inbox. A move to red-dusted Central Australia had not been a persistent dream throughout my life. As a Jewish woman, I did not grow up in the city thinking about life in the bush.
But after that trip I made the decision that I wouldn’t go back to office work; that I would do everything in my power to change my life and live it how I wanted to live it. So I left Sydney’s luxurious eastern suburbs, a beachside apartment and a job in the travel industry to move to the bush.
It hasn’t been an attempt to run away from anything. I just wanted more. More connection, more freedom, and a happier, healthier existence.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Intrepid. You’ve changed the course of my life. Forever grateful.
Sleep under the Outback stars on a small group trip through Australia.
Feature image by Lucy Piper.