Two and half years ago the stars aligned in my life in a way I’m sure some people are never lucky enough to experience. The job, the house, the guy… everything just fell into place. Those stars were all pointing in one direction, and spelling out: Make the move.
The only issue was that that move was to Burragan – a 70,000 acre grazing property about 1800km from where I was currently calling home, and about 60 million kilometres towards the middle of nowhere.
You know where that big, black cliff on the edge on the world is? Yeah? It’s really not that far from there!
I had visited Burragan once before. It was the summer of 2009/10 and my boyfriend ST and I had travelled from North Queensland to visit his parents on their sheep property in far-western New South Wales. They were in the middle of buying Burragan, which was just down the road from their own place. We had a quick look at the rambling homestead which was about to become officially theirs. It did not enter my mind that I might one day be calling that house (where the ceilings were caving in and the paint job reflected an acid trip from the ‘70s) my home.
Back in the tropics and 12 months on, I’d landed a dream job in a busy TV and radio newsroom. While I wasn’t in love with Townsville as a city, I was keen to spend at least two years in my position before attempting to move on to bigger things. But my husband ST was miserable.
He’d moved to Townsville two years earlier for the sole reason of being with me. And now he was over his job, missing his family, red dirt and wide horizons. So I took a leap of love and told him, “Babe, seeing as you moved to Townsville for me. It’s now my turn to move wherever you want to go. Your choice.”
And while I envisaged selling all our possessions, purchasing some hiking boots and backpacking around Europe, ST started negotiations with his parents to join them back on the land.
I was facing the reality of total isolation AND unemployment, when, by crazy coincidence, I was offered the perfect new job: full time, online, work from home, rural reporter.
But I still cried the day I resigned from the “dream job”… and I cried the day we left Townsville and were still driving at 2am … and I cried on our second day at Burragan, when I couldn’t get the internet to work and I transformed into a monster told the telecommunications spokeswoman I wanted to punch her through the phone line for suggesting I “Just pop into a shop front to fix the problem,” when I’d already explained to her that we’d just driven for two days to get here, and the last town (population 5000) was 200km back. There would be no “just popping” anywhere, thanks lady.
Full time work was a buffer against the realities of station life. There were the obvious changes, like suddenly living in a mouse plague and stressing about not being able to escape if it rained. But for the most part I was living in my own little media world in the home office, punctuated with small doses of accompanying ST in the paddock after hours and on weekends.
But when my employer folded ten months later, I was suddenly left feeling like I’d given up everything, sacrificed too much, and wishing I was a whole lot closer to Sydney or Melbourne where all the good media gigs were going. This. Was not. The plan. It wasn’t that I had expected everything to be easy. But I hadn’t expected to feel like everything I needed, as a young, ambitious woman, was so abruptly unattainable.
In the midst of my quiet loneliness and frequent ugly crying sessions, ST asked me to marry him. With a bottle of Moet and a bunch of wildflowers thrust towards me (with the picturesque backdrop of rocky hills, rolling bushland and a setting sun), I stammered, “Oh my God! Are you serious?” for a full minute before squealing, “Yes!”
During that minute, I contemplated the future. Sure, a minute isn’t long enough to see all of the future. And I don’t want to sound like I contemplated saying no.
But I contemplated the things I would miss out on in this deal; I contemplated the reality of marrying a “farmer”, of marrying a property as well as a man, of really having to change my plans in a way that would make both of us happiest. And I wanted to sign up for life.
Yes, I miss after work cocktails with girlfriends, I miss having places to wear dresses, I miss take-away food, I miss weekends, and 9-5 working days, and ice cream and millions of things.
But if I always looked at life from the point of view of what I’ve given up, then I would sit around crying all day. If we had moved to Europe and I missed certain things, I wouldn’t fly home at the first opportunity; I’d put some make-up on and eat a chocolate croissant under the Eiffel Tower! The same idea applies at Burragan; I go outside, embrace the solitude and beauty of the landscape and watch the sunset bring out the stars.
It was a case of needing to learn how to make lemonade from lemons. Quickly. As in, before I felt like just rubbing the lemon wedges into my already open wounds. I had to play up my strengths, and learn from my weaknesses, because if there’s anything wide horizons can teach, it’s that personal baggage doesn’t really matter to the universe.
My new world is an adventure, every bit as similar to if I was yachting across the Pacific or hiking South American jungles.
There are tears… but there is also lots of love. Which I think – and hope – means the stars were pointing in the right direction.
Bessie is a journalist, farmer’s wife, and chocoholic, living and working with her husband on a sheep property in far-western New South Wales. Their place “Burragan” is 110km from the nearest town, 200km from the nearest grocery store, and 300km from the nearest major centre. When she’s not out in the paddock helping with sheep work, she likes keeping up with global issues, and writing about the strange secrets of her beautiful bush landscape on her blog.
Have you ever dreamed about moving to the country?