Living in rural Australia was worlds apart from my experience in the bustling 'big smoke' of Sydney. Whilst Sydney is constantly rushing, life in the countryside is taken easily and at a quieter pace. Saying this, I was always busy with my life on the farm looking after animals and a household. One big difference is the sense of community. Whilst I felt connected to my fun spirited and active neighbourhood of Darlinghurst in Sydney, I fell in love with the sense of community and camaraderie in the countryside. Although our nearest neighbours were at least 7km from our driveway, I met many families as well as Jackaroos and owners of small businesses who welcomed newcomers to the area with open arms.
On my first weekend in the countryside, I was invited to meet with some fellow regional workers living in the surrounding area. This day I met Rachel and Beth, both from the UK who welcomed me into their group straight away to my great relief. Rachel lived very close to the nearest town and was lucky enough to have her own house on the family's farm with three bedrooms. This meant we each had a room to stay in on the weekends to be closer to town. Rachel was so gracious about letting us invade her space almost every weekend and it was because of this that we were able to spend weekend evenings and nights at social events around Warren.
Unlike in Sydney where it was a real debate as to where to spend our evenings out, in Warren it was almost always undisputed that the Golf Club would be our venue of choice. This space had a bar, dance floor and bizarrely a Chinese restaurant attached to the side of it! It was the hub of the town and was where many would congregate after a game of Rugby or a Rodeo. After the bar started to thin out, we would move the furniture (including an oven) off the dance floor, pop our playlists on and dance our hearts away until the early hours of the morning. I particularly enjoyed how no one was afraid to dance together and loved a dance with the local men of the town. It didn't matter if they were 20 or 80, everyone would get up and dance with strangers and it was so refreshing compared to in clubs in the cities where people don't do this anymore.
The town was full of many families but also a good amount of younger people as well. We made friends with a number of other people in the town working rural. A number were from the UK but also from Canada, Germany and Italy. There were also the Jackaroos, young Australian men who spend time on a farm learning the skills needed to manage their own farm or become an overseer. These men also made up the majority of the Warren Rugby team and together we made a great weekend gang at the Golf Club! We also became the source of much entertainment for the older members of the town and it was quiet worrying to see how quickly any embarrassing moment could spread so quickly. It was always a shock to hear your weekend escapades retold by the cashier at the IGA!
It is with this in mind that we would often tell friends to not gossip in a public place, as in a small town anything can spread like wildfire!
The community also came together to share life's joys and sadness. During my time in the country there was a huge drought destroying our region. Many drought fundraisers were created to help support our farmers during this time and many locals got creative making initiatives such as Buy from the Bush, which encourages people to support little businesses in the country to keep the economy going.
We were also able to attend parties and gatherings held on people's properties which were always well catered and full of interesting people. Everyone knows everyone at these parties so as an outsider you really stick out, but it was a sure fire way to make new friends and we would leave these parties with invitations to future nights and a cup of tea whenever we were in the area. My favourite part about these parties would be the creative use of fire. At one party a fork life truck was used to levitate the pots for the stew over the fire! (see below)
Throughout my time in Warren regional workers would leave and a new person would take their place. We would immediately involve them in weekend activities and there was never a moment where I didn't feel like there was something to do in this small rural town. As well as exploring our town of Warren, there were a number of small villages and towns in the surroundings such as Trangie, Nevertire, Narromine and the city of Dubbo. We would pop over to Nevertire to take in the scenery of a different pub which served great pizzas, to Narromine for a Coles visit and to eat at a local farm shop. A trip to Dubbo was always exciting as this involved a visit to the malls, McDonald's and the famous Dubbo Zoo. I will speak more about these towns in a later post.
Although when I decided to make the move I was worried that the experience would be lonely, it was far from it and sometimes I needed a weekend in my cottage just to have some time off! Even on the farm there was always something to do, with a lovable dog who I would often take on runs with me, endless books and movies to watch and a new love of baking to keep me busy.
Visiting the countryside of Australia should be on everyone itineraries to truly get to know these warm and inviting people. Although the land and distances may be vast, these communities are all connected by a firm bond and being able to be a part of this is an experience I am privileged to say I have had.