Lessons from a self-imposed exile

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Welcome to the Australian Outback, a place where the temperature regularly soars to the high 40s (Celsius), the landscape is sparse and breathtaking and prehistoric creatures such as the Bungarra are our friendly neighbours. Welcome to my home.

We’ve been living out here for just over 12 months now and I have recently taken the time to reflect on the major lessons that I’ve learnt during that period.

Social Isolation Offers Opportunities
Although we do live in a small town, I have found it very difficult to connect with many people. This is partially due to major differences in values, and sadly, the simple fact that neither my husband nor I drink a lot of alcohol has made us into social outcasts. However rather than leaving us to dwell on loneliness, the past twelve months has been an amazing uninterrupted time of self-discovery and precious time with our baby girl.

My Husband is My Best Friend
Is it the same for you? We’ve always been closer than a lot of couples and have enjoyed taking on challenges together, but this self-imposed in exile / purgatory has brought us even closer together. We have laughed, bickered, plotted and planned all while really only having each other as support.

Two legs, a heartbeat and a pram can cope with weather extremes
In the summer, our temperature reaches up to 50 degrees Celsius. In the winter, the unpaved footpaths are often muddy, bitterly cold winds sweep in off the desert and the rain can chill to the bone. Despite this, our car only comes out of the garage if we are leaving town (our next closest place is 160km away). With a soaked fly veil to ward off the heat in summer and cosy blankets to line the pram in winter, we have walked almost everywhere.

There is no substitute for civic engagement
By far the biggest challenge has been the lack of opportunity for civic engagement. Both of us are committed to serving others through volunteer work and as this is a mining company town with all amenities and services provided by the mining company, there are no service organisations of any description. Upon our return to civilisation, we are both headed straight for the nearest Rotary meeting!

Self-reliance is liberating
On our drive to the nearest city (900km if you’re interested) there is a 230km stretch between isolated outposts along deserted gravel roads. There is no roadside assistance available, no phone reception and no radio. Yet, far from being daunting, the need for complete self-reliance is liberating, even in 49degree heat, on my own with a 4 month old baby. It’s empowering to know that I need (and have) the skills, common sense and resilience to ensure our survival in a harsh and unforgiving environment.

Eggs are the new (and the old) takeaway
Needless to state, we are not awash with takeaway options, particularly those of the gluten free variety. However, like everyone, there is the occasional night where cooking is just way too hard… On those nights eggs have become our saviour. Omelettes, frittatas, curried, poached, scrambled… Although it’s not quite a gourmet pizza; eggs are a quick and easy get out of jail free card!

Time in exile can provide focus and clarity
Our time out here has allowed us to clearly identify our values, priorities and dreams. This process has been helped through meditation, endless hours of conversation and the study of some inspirational blogs.
In the next six months we will be welcoming our second baby and returning to civilisation by relocating to Australia’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Although we are both very excited about returning to the real world, we are grateful for the lessons that we have learnt out here under the scorching sun and would recommend a period of self-imposed exile to anyone.

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