Looking Back

As my time in Australia comes to a slow and somewhat painstaking end I find myself reflecting on the last 9 or so months here. Have I enjoyed it? Yes. Will I return? Yes. Has it been as amazing as I had hoped? Well no, not exactly. Most of you will gasp at this and I am sure that this would annoy a lot of people too but in all honesty Australia has been a whirlwind of ups and downs and highs and lows I have almost forgotten which way round I go. Sounds a little crazy and probably is but it is so true. Ultimately I came here to catch up with my brother, get to know his in-laws and watch him get married which I did in true Ollie fashion. There were fights a plenty, many a drunken nights and one hell of a lot of what am I doing here moments. Days of laughter, weeks of tears and moments of brilliance although not so many of these I must add. All in all, it’s been a tough nine months.

I probably should have left Middlemount a long time ago and I definitely should have travelled Australia more. There is always hind site to everything and you can always do something better. I possibly should have made much more of a conscious effort to get stuck in to life here but found myself more just stuck than getting stuck in. Firstly and these may seem like excuses but life here is expensive. Leaving Middlemount alone felt as though selling a kidney would be a viable option and doing anything even remotely expensive was totally out of the question. I have had expensive moments because sometimes you just have to but believe me I am paying for it now. Being a little more money savvy should have been my first priority but I came all this way I was hardly going to be a penny pincher everyday. Secondly getting anywhere took twice as long as normal thanks to the endless amounts of outback you need to get through to go anywhere. Can’t really do much about this, Australia is big and short of slicing the edges off nothing is going to change this. Living in central middle of nowhere also made things tough, it just took so long to get to anywhere worth seeing and not enjoying the luxury of much time off I couldn’t really escape for too long either making even the quick trips to the beach seem rushed and unworthy, looking back now they were not rushed an unworthy in the slightest. Even though I have only seen the smallest fraction of Australia I have done a lot of what was on my bucket list. Surprisingly. Besides, now that my brother has become a true Australian and settled down here I will always have a reason or many reasons rather to come back and reasons that I plan to use as much as possible. So for everything I have missed off my bucket list there will be plenty of time to catch up soon I am sure.

Will I ever be going back to Middlemount? Yes. To live? No. For as long as the Matheson’s are making sandwiches and selling bed nights I will have a reason to return and unless they are strapped for people for work I will only be going for a short but sweet holiday. Middlemount as a town could be worse, I have to be realistic. As towns go it has everything you could need, a library, post office, pharmacy, a bank, a teeny tiny supermarket, a couple of bars and now a Subway. So really why would you want to go anywhere else? What Middlemount makes up for in amenities it lacks in things to do. You don’t really have much of a life there, well at least I didn’t. I worked most of my time and spent the rest of my days catching up with the sibling or watching ridiculous amounts of Leonardo DiCaprio movies. Up until my brother left I think I had been to the pub twice, golfie once and out with friends less than a handful of times. Being somewhat of a social butterfly this really was a less than social life. After my brother left for adventures in the real outback, I found myself getting more stuck in with life; outings to the pub were more frequent and more alcoholic, I renewed my membership at the golf club and I even enjoyed a farewell party there on my last night. I had even managed to make it out for the ANZAC day two up festivities and an after party for the footie, things were looking up. I had more friends and coffee mornings became something of a tradition I guess. That always happen when you leave somewhere though, people start to squeeze in as much time as possible with you before your departure and you generally let your hair down and go all out crazy subconsciously knowing that no matter what happens the likelihood of seeing these folk again are minimal so does it really matter how much of a fool you make of yourself? For a moment I found myself thinking that if I stayed it wouldn’t be so bad. The truth was I think I was looking at Middlemount through beer goggles. As much as I have appreciated all that the Matheson’s have done for me and what Middlemount has provided for the last few months I just wasn’t enjoying myself. I had done and seen all I could and the adventure had ended long before I had even started my countdown.

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For what it is worth, Middlemount did provide me with a few moments of brilliance. There were few and far between but one specific moment of brilliance will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures and a career of travels and writing. In December last year I had hit a massive low point, I no longer felt love for the hospitality industry and the prospect of living my life working day and night stuck in hotel prison really was not something I was willing to sign up for. I felt a little bit sad, for the majority of my career thus far I have been jumping from one hotel to the next getting all the experience I could in the hopes that one day I would be living the life I had always imagined and following in the footsteps of my family members and now suddenly I didn’t want another moment of it. I was done and done for good. This rut got me thinking, I wasn’t sure what else I was good at or how I would even get myself away from the hospitality but I had to do something and fast. Since I had started writing this blog many people have contacted me to tell me that I write well, and even long before this family and friends used to say that even my emails and letters were always a treat and something they continually look forward to. So I thought I would give it a bash. Realistically you can’t go too far these days without a degree or at least some qualification and seeing as my CV outlined one hotel job after another I figured a degree was the best way to start. So I got applying and even got accepted in to a couple of Universities. With my student loan now being paid in to my account I find myself looking forward to a life of writing and travelling and even see the idea of a novel or two. My father had written a book, never published and sadly never finished and my sister has this dream of writing too, perhaps my bloodline isn’t of extraordinary hotel managers and hospitality people but of novelists and writers? I have recently been wondering if I had been following the wrong footsteps for all these years which is why I have never felt truly happy in any job and why up until now I haven’t 100% enjoyed a days work. Funny how things can turn completely upside down and feel much better than being the right way up. With new career prospects on the horizon and a lot of student debt too I can’t wait to get going in all honesty, I haven’t been this excited about something for so long and for people to finally be telling me that I may even rock it has got me feeling even more happy and excited. My Middlemount rut wasn’t all for nothing, this could quite possibly be the best moment of brilliance to date. Many of you can understand the feeling of finally having things sorted. Many of us jump from one thing to another in the hopes that it will work out or that something great will come of it and for years I have been doing just that. Dr Seuss calls it’s the Waiting Place. I often say that the last couple of years have been the hardest for me, nothing seemed to work out and I was just going round and round in circles thinking that things would never change but now they have everything is ok. A little philosophical moment for you all: as sh*t as things seem it never lasts for ever. Everything works out in the end and if it’s not ok it is not the end. Not my words but I couldn’t have said it better myself. Hang in there, moments of brilliance are just around the corner. And if anyone needs a little more inspiration may I suggest reading “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss. It’s a great book meant for children but like every child’s book there is a lot of truth in them that even as an adult we should be able to appreciate. This book specifically explains the last couple of years for me and actually reminds me that everything does work out. It’s a must read.

I find myself digressing, as always. This is supposed to be about leaving Australia and my final weeks before I head out on the journey of a lifetime not about how I got to the beginning to the rest of my life or whatever.

So it is thanks once again to the Matheson’s I had finally been given the out from Middlemount I have been waiting for. They knew someone who knew someone who needed a relief manager and they suggested me. Not sure if I should be thanking them as I find myself stuck in what I like to call motel jail but I know that no matter how long my day is and how many times I swear at the phone ringing I am happy to be here. Where is here I hear you think. I am currently sitting in a beautiful little motel in the bizarre town of Bairnsdale in Victoria. And I am freezing my butt off. Currently clocking up close to 112 hours a week but learning what it is like living and breathing motel life. I call it Motel Jail as I am not allowed to leave the premises and sods law is that when I even think of walking down the road for my KFC fix someone else walks through the door and the phone starts to ring with someone wanting to know the price for a romantic weekend away. I am doing a two person job in one which can get tough. I’m on week 3 and starting to see cracks. Sleep is a luxury and anytime to myself is non-existent. It may sound like I am complaining but to be honest the money is pretty good and I do have a well stocked kitchen and bar at my service. Pretty luxury jail if you ask me! It has also cemented my decision to leave hospitality, the two owners have given up their life for these walls and have dedicated and sacrificed plenty to be where they are. Something they wouldn’t change for the world, but something I couldn’t even fathom doing. I have much more to do and in no way shape or form want to be living this life anymore. It’s a tough life and seriously hard work with very little reward. I don’t mind the hard work bit but at the moment it feels just that. I have no joy for it anymore and I have a great belief that if you are not passionate about something then you shouldn’t be forcing yourself to keep doing it. It’s a massive pipe dream but one day I hope to be making a career out of my passion, it may not make me rich but at least I will be happy. The long days are nightmarish though and the hardest think I am dealing with plus the fact that it’s been non stop since March this year.

Firstly my brother getting married was 2 weeks of constant drinking and celebrating and having my sister and her family over was the best. Such a good time for family and some shenanigans. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the Yarra Valley which was wine fuelled and full of Cider. Then it was 3 weeks of work everyday most of the day and then two days of travelling and packing and now I am here. Bairnsdale, working my butt off.

Bairnsdale is a strange little town, nothing much happening actually in town but it seems to be the central point for a lot of stuff around here. The motel is busy most nights not with holiday makers but reps for businesses and stuff which I find even stranger but it’s a happening place and I am enjoying it. I wish I wasn’t stuck in a motel unable to leave for even a stroll down the street but I did manage to sneak away on my second day with Madlen who took me for a jaunt down to the beach and a visit to the church. The church itself is incredible. Architecture at it’s finest for sure and Australia’s answer to the Sistine Chapel, just incredible from the floor to the ceiling. My photos do not do it justice as I only had my trusty iPhone with me but I think even with a good camera you kind of have to be in there to fully appreciate it.

IMG_0293Victoria is a beautiful part of Australia, the bush fires have done some damage and you can still see the effects but rolling hills and Emerald green grass do provide some wonderful driving. Lakes Entrance or Australia’s Lake District as I like to call it is a little fishing port and a huge tourist destination. I can see why, it really is beautiful and the beach is a real genuine beach with sand and sea. I didn’t brave the waters as in this country you never know what is going to get you and also because the temperature was below anything I could tolerate. Icy cold with the hint of danger was not something I was prepared to suffer through. I did dip my toes in but that was enough, they nearly turned black from frostbite so I wasn’t going to see what other damage could be done.

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There is just something about being on the beach with the sand between your toes and the fresh sea air. It’s so refreshing and replenishing to the soul or something who really knows but wondering a long in the sand I realised that Australia hadn’t been so bad and even though I feel like I have been upside down for a while I was slowly beginning to turn back the right way round. Maybe because I could finally see the end zone and my flights had been confirmed I can’t really say. I’m not sure what brought about the moment of contemplation but I recall a saying that goes something a long the lines of: The cure for anything is salt water. Tears, sweat or the sea. I think Isak Dinesen was on to something things seemed better at the beach, even the prospect of running a motel all by my lonesome was less daunting. I don’t think the trip to the beach really had that much of an effect but the last 3 weeks hasn’t been too bad. There have been some really really long days with very little sleep but I have snuck in a cider or two on the odd occasion and have even managed to sneak in a film as well. The Bairnsdale International isn’t a bad place to be and it sure is a good place to stay too. I am sorry I can’t comment much on what to do around here though, I think I will have to add this on to my list as a revisit. I hear there is a lot around here and somethings that are really a must see. If anything I need to go back to the beach, perhaps in summer when things are not so freezing! It was really beautiful down there and the views are definitely needing to be enjoyed again for sure.

So with 11 more days left to go on my first Australian adventure I am sitting behind a desk waiting for the phone to ring and the emails to come through on what will hopefully be my last job in a hotel. I say hopefully because as I student I plan to be working behind a bar or even a cafe rather than a reception desk but with 7 years worth of this work on my CV it is always a good one to fall back on so who knows. What I do know is that the last 9 months have been some of the most emotional ones for me and at times I have wanted to pack up and go but with some new directions and yet more wild adventures ahead I can say with 100% certainty that I will be back to explore more of this fascinating country and to finally cross off everything on my Australia bucket list.

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