I can’t believe how different I am feeling today, after living and working 3+ months on a zucchini farm, than how I felt from the last time I wrote in June. I’ve officially finished, gaining the elibigility to apply for a second year working holiday visa. Lots of things to share:
I am currently in Brisbane on a few days transition before I begin my next round of travel with 5 farm friends. We are roadtripping in a massive 6 person campervan from Brisbane to Uluru to Darwin and I am so excited to finally get a taste of van life, to be camping and exploring the outback and to see some of the most authentic parts of Australia. Good things ahead.
Arriving in Brisbane I’ve actually felt a twinge of culture shock, and all I can do is constantly reflect on the craziness of my entire experience since May. I spent my first 4 weeks on the farm before leaving for my 2 week Cairns/Bali holiday with Taylor. Those first 4 weeks were a huge transition: getting used to the location of where we lived (90km from the closest town), getting used to the physicality of the work and our crazy boss, getting used to living 24/7 with 20+ other backpackers in accommodation that was pretty shabby. I had fun and made some great friends right away, but I went through a lot on my own, emotionally and mentally, and when the time came to leave for my trip it was much needed. I really benefitted from being able to step away for a few weeks, to regroup and resituate myself a bit with a new focus, new goals and refreshed outlook. I thought a lot about why I wanted to do the farm work in the first place, what my personal motivations were and got back feeling myself more than I had in a long time.
I feel that this is an appropriate time to comment on the nature of relationships, all kinds, while traveling and living this type of lifestyle, because that is the area that has brought me both the highest highs and lowest lows so far. I like to describe travel friendships and relationships as HOT. It is actually incredible how quickly they form, develop, grow and fizzle out. And regardless of if they last a day, week, month or forever, they are always really full on from the start because there is no other way to go about it. We are all living this fast paced, nomadic, temporary lifestyle so it’s almost like everything we do has to be all in or else it’s not worth it. During those first 4 weeks, I lost a relationship in my life that meant a lot to me and I needed to find a way to move on from that grief, which is why the Bali trip was so beneficial for my mentality. When I returned to the farm, I honestly felt like a new person and had multiple friends comment on my new attitude and approach to life in general, which only encouraged me to keep pushing forward and I felt myself gaining strength and confidence over the remainder of my time on the farm.
Side note about Cairns and Bali since I didn’t end up blogging about the trip- Taylor and I had a fabulous time! I was so happy to show her around the Cairns area, her first taste of Australia. We did a day on the Great Barrier Reef, a day exploring the local waterfalls and a day on Fitzroy Island off the coast. It was relaxing and refreshing before heading to Bali!
Neither of us had been to Asia before, so Bali was definitely a big cultural experience. We stayed in Kuta, Canggu and Ubud over the course of 8 days. Kuta being more of the touristy-tacky town, we spent the days bartering with the local vendors, finding good spots to eat, watching the sunset on the beach. Canggu was more relaxed and we had a 3 hour spa treatment, ate incredible food, did yoga, relaxed at the beach/hostel pool and went to bed early. In Ubud we enjoyed the luxury of our amazing hostel (think free massages and puppy therapy), went to the sacred monkey forest, walked the local markets and of course continued to eat some of the best food I’ve had while traveling. Mixed into those days, we had 2 days with a local private driver who took us to many of the famous Hindu temples and the UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces. I was fascinated with the culture of Indonesia, a Muslim country, and how Bali is the only area that is primarily Hindu. The temples were breathtaking, and I had my favorite experience at the Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple, where we participated in a long ritual in the soul purifying/cleansing “showers” alongside locals and tourists alike. Overall, it was a really special way to connect with the community and culture of the island. We didn’t end up riding on the scooters, which are some of the craziest drivers I’ve ever seen, so my goal is to learn how to drive one before I go back 🙂
I returned to the farm on July 7th, and was welcomed with such open arms and excitement that it warms my heart to think about. I had some of my best girl friends pick me up in town after a long work day and everything just fell back into place. I knew I would’ve experienced FOMO if I didn’t go back; I felt the need to be alongside these people as we went through such a unique experience and I felt as though I had to finish what I started. From that day on it was pretty smooth sailing for the remaining 9 weeks! We had a solid group of about 30 for that full month of July which was so special, I genuinely felt like I knew every single person and could spend time with anyone in the group with ease and comfort. I became super close with my own little group and realized these are the closest relationships I’ve had in Australia by a mile. The work was hard, I ended up working as both a packer and picker, but because we were all in it together it somehow became manageable. I’ve never been so dirty, bruised, sweaty, cut up.. in my entire life. Looking back it kind of felt good. I feel so tough, accomplished and proud of myself. It puts into perspective the things you really can do that you never imagined.
Throughout July we transitioned into a new crop and so we had a few full days off. One night I was rostered off with 3 good friends and we decided to get in the car at 8:30 PM and drive 3 hours south to spend the next day in Airlie Beach. We booked a last minute hostel and 2-hour jet ski tour of the Whitsundays for the next day, some of the most spontaneous decisions I’ve made. The trip turned into 2 days as we luckily got another day off; we went out until 3AM both nights, lived in luxurious private rooms, gaped at the beauty of the Whitsundays, and LAUGHED like I have never laughed in my life. That jetski tour is arguably the best excursion I’ve done all year; it was 2 hours of pure, genuine joy and laughter. I have a smile on my face as I write about it. That was a great memory. To Sarah and Jamie- two of my greatest friends. I am forever thankful for your love and friendship and am planning to never let you two go.
On the farm, we celebrated another week done with Sauturday sizzles and theme parties. We had themes of Disney, Greece, toga party, festival ready. I taught all of the non-Americans how to shotgun a beer and how to play flip cup. Flip cup then became a weekly party staple which I took absolute joy in. We played music at all hours, mostly the same songs we all loved (Love in this Club anyone?). I played and danced to Pursuit of Happiness on my speaker every week when we walked from the top kitchen area to the bottom area. We turned the bottom kitchen into a “club” and had kitchen raves. We sang and danced our little hearts out in sweatpants. We wore glitter, put on makeup and dressed up each week with an excitement I never have in normal life, because we had just walked around all week in pure sweat and dirt. We found a spot at the river 10 minutes down the road and had multiple bonfire nights on the rocks. We were in the middle of nowhere with it to ourselves. There were no rules. We ate snacks all day and drank at any hour, sometimes just to get through a crappy afternoon shift. We all flirted and loved on each other every night. I know that big picture it was unsustainable lifestyle, questionable from the outside in a lot of ways and probably misunderstood, but in those moments it was just living pure life. I felt like I was able to let go and just LIVE without worry or question more than I ever have in my life. Some nights after work we sat around in a circle with music, watching the sunset and cheersing to how simple our lives were, with the understanding that the moment will pass and we will likely never live so simply again. We grew to love that farm and found home in it.
A week after Airlie Beach, I spent another day off on a day trip 2 hours south in Bowen. We had a great day, until the car broke down and we were pretty stranded. The kind mechanics sorted us out and we took a rental car home but from then I decided I needed a break from all of the back and forth off the farm. I then went 6 weeks without leaving Dalbeg; I didn’t go back to town until 5 days before I left. That gave me perspective too; I was completely fine. As long as I was able to get food deliveries from those who did go to the store, I was easily able to live without even wanting to leave. I grew to enjoy my days off lounging around. I taught everyone how to make string friendship bracelets. We colored and played cards. Simple life.
Over the month of August, the original crew began to dissolve. The old timers finished their days and moved on. It was a month filled with tearful goodbyes and transitions as new people began to arrive and dynamics changed. In those weeks, I was still lucky to have some of my happiest memories. My roomie/bestie Sinead and I got close with 2 hilarious English boys and we had s0me of the funniest nights I can remember. You simply cannot top the moment of 4 friends laughing until tears, endless inside jokes, and relationships formed with nothing held back. Sinead- you know how thankful I am for your constant support, love, encouragement. You get me and I wouldn’t have survived that ENTIRE journey without you by my side. Dec and Jonny- thank you for your love, jokes and memories that I will cherish forever. You are both so special and I am so lucky to have lived and laughed with you. Happy days to be continued.
Dec- how special of a human are you, seriously. I can’t remember the last time I’ve connected with someone’s sense of humor and attitude for living a happy life like we did during those Dalbeg weeks. Thank you thank you for every single snack shared, dinner made (those burritos though..), bear hug given, round of cards played, YouTube video watched, serious and casual chats had, stars watched, songs sang at the top of our lungs, dances in the kitchen. You light up a room and I’m glad I put that bandaid on your gross foot. Keep making yourself laugh, because it makes me laugh too.
During my last few weeks I began to write down little notes and reflections that I wanted to share about the experience. Some of this is repetitive but it is true stream of conscious thoughts and reflections that mean a lot to me:
- We have such a Strong group of girls- all solo travelers, big range in personalities, all strong in our own ways. Every single girl in our original group brought something special to the table and it was a such a treat to be surrounded by such powerful women. I gained strength and confidence from you all. Thanks for being the #1 hype team of all time.
- Have never felt so “me” around a group of people I’ve only known for a short time. The girls are so supportive and complementary to each other I feel like I can be 100% myself and appreciated for it unconditionally. No shame, no embarrassment. Feel like I can push the boundaries of social limits I’ve put on myself in the past, as I’ve considered myself an introvert. I’ve acted more extroverted here than I’ve ever felt. I found a quote the other day that resonated here… “I used to think I was introverted because I really liked being alone, but it turns out that I just like being at peace, and I am very extroverted around people who bring me peace.” For 3+ months I was truly never alone. As I left the farm, I dreaded the 8 hours I would have to be alone while traveling to Brisbane haha.
- MUSIC!! I have loved the never ending music that plays every single day. Old tunes, new tunes, things I’ve never heard before. UK popular songs and artists. Garage music??? Songs that will forever remind me of these moments. Cried to sad songs, belted out happy songs. Have DANCED my heart out every single day; on the tractor, on the field, in the kitchen, anywhere. Everyone says I’m a good dancer?? Cracks me up. I’ve somehow managed to feel comfortable enough to literally dance like no one is watching.
- Have learned so much new lingo and banter from the UK/Ireland and feel like I relate to the humor a lot, have a hard time remembering how it is at home for comparison but I know it’s different and feels more me. I like the men’s UK/Australian fashion a lot more than what you see at home. The tight jeans! The boys are also a lot more openly sensitive and expressive with emotional things and moments, they love on each other just the same way all the girls do. I love it.
- Have survived such minimal living with hardly any issue. Dirty kitchen, dirty showers, cold nights. My immune system must be at an all time strength. Have found ways to cope and got used to all of it that now it all seems like “home”. No shame in looking terrible 6 days of the week but getting so excited to see each other dressed up for a night on Saturdays. Hyping each other up for how good we all look.
- I’ve drank more here than anywhere in Australia (100%) and potentially more than any other time? Crazy? I’m embracing the fun times even though I don’t have the healthiest habits here. Eat the snacks, drink the cider. You can make up for it later but it’s fun now so live a little.
- I’ve laughed so much. I’ve laughed until my entire body aches. With Sarah and Jamie, with Dec, Sinead and Jonny. These friends make me so happy and make me laugh harder than I can remember in a long time. It feels so good.
- I haven’t thought twice about public affection towards anyone/everyone. There is no shyness, everyone knows everyone’s business anyways. So unlike me, but somehow it is me because I don’t feel uncomfortable. I am just living on my own terms and accepting and embracing every aspect of it.
- Spent more time on the farm than any other place in Australia. I’ve never been so closely connected to such a large group of people. Never alone at any moment and I actually loved it. I feel lonely as soon as I have a minute to myself. There is no concept of time. Weeks feel like months. I feel like that lifestyle was all I’ve ever known as everything else became so distant.
What a whirlwind!!! I felt like so much emotion was trapped in my head as I finished my last days in Dalbeg and it is still hard for me to process the highs and lows, the things and people I’ve gained as a result. I am so thankful that after a few genuinely difficult months it has all worked out the way it did. I gained lifetime friends and memories. I have 3 girl bffs who are going to do South East Asia with me next year, I have an idea for how I want to spend my second year in Aus.. so many great things. Plans that will likely change and adjust as we go but that’s what it’s all about and at least I have more of a vision for my days ahead than I have before. Happy. Thankful. Filled with Love. Life is so short but so good.
As November approaches my first year is winding down and I simply cannot process that it has already been 10 months. I’ve booked my flight home for mid-November and will celebrate my return with USC friends at the A&M game in College Station straight off the plane from Sydney. Talk about a welcome home. I’ll spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, giving myself the chance to regroup and catch up. I think I’ll know when “enough is enough” of this ride but it’s not time for me yet. In January I’m heading back out to South East Asia, where I plan to travel with a group of friends for a few months. I’ll likely head back to Australia for my second year in March/April/May. Who knows, but it all has me really excited about the future!
Thanks for joining me on this ride, friends and fam!!! Love you all long time, even if I’ve been MIA these past few months. All part of the journey. Sending love always ❤