We’re staying at a delightful Airbnb in Palmerston (30 minutes outside Darwin). Our hostess has a fascinating story of migration and how to change your life successfully in your mid thirties.
Ela grew up near Frankfurt but told us “She never felt German”. She was shy and remembered how the formal German language and customs inhibited her. She spent her twenties doing two degrees, but longed to travel. A friend suggested Australia.
So she came out here eight years ago. She back-packed around the country and fell in love with Australia and the people. “They are all so laid back, helpful and generous” she told us. She loves the English language because “It’s an informal language and therefore communication between people is easier”.
She now has her own 3 bedroom, detached house in Palmerston and runs her own successful business on advising potential immigrants how to emigrate to Australia. She loves the outdoor life, camping, endless sunshine, BBQs and the relaxed way of life. Australia has changed her life and her, “It’s made me a stronger person. I’m confident, I talk to people and I now lead the life I really want”.
Ela’s story made us reflect. To find themselves, how many people need to change their country?
Here in Sydney, we are fortunate to be staying with Liz and her family in lovely Manly.
Hilary first met Liz 29 years ago when they were both in Sydney on round-the-world trips. Because she fell in love with the swimming, sailing and outdoor lifestyle, Liz applied to emigrate as soon as she returned to the UK, and moved out in 1992.
Her boyfriend of the time, Robert followed her out here, and after 25 years of marriage they now have two girls who have followed in their parents’ sporting footsteps.
Manly is a sought-after Northern Beach suburb reached by the famous Manly Ferry, a scenic 25 minute trip from Circular Quay. Who needs to pay for a tourist harbour cruise when this trip takes you past the Opera House and then out to the Northern Beaches.
If it hadn’t been cold and raining in Pucón, Chile when we finished a trek, we wouldn’t have been sitting, five months later, with Nic and Norden in their sumptuous Sydney apartment.
Nic and Norden were such great company in January when we entered their lodge, high up in the forests, like drowned-rats. So we were delighted a couple of weeks back when they contacted us, via this blog, and invited us over for dinner.
After taking us for a tour of South Head, secret beaches, and million dollar properties, engaging Nic cooked, whilst Norden talked about his passion for teaching maths.
We all agreed, the best thing about travelling isn’t the landscapes or the famous buildings. It’s meeting people who enrich your lives. Thanks for a great evening guys, and the amazing FourPillars gin and tonics.
Across Maui we swam in three very contrasting beaches. One hippy and rocky (Olowalu). One commercial and picture-perfect (Kapalua, pictured above). And the third isolated and unspoilt (Hāmoa).
Now we understood why even Californians would take their vacations here; the water was a marvellous temperature, so much warmer than in the Golden State. However the heavy swell and surf make swimming difficult. So it was particularly great we were able to do some snorkelling.
We got a warm welcome and more at Mario’s little cafe and bakery in Ferndale.
Mario (pictured above with his son) moved here eight years ago. It was a big decision – friends told Mario he was mad to leave his San Francisco lifestyle for an isolated, rural area so different in social values.
On the one hand, he’s gained so many new friends who have rallied around in his hours of need. On the other, he hates the lack of diversity here and is more fearful for the future of America and the world than ever.
Keen to do his bit, he signed up to the A Place at the Table for Everyone initiative and has been pleasantly surprised that the sign (so far) hasn’t been defaced or removed.
“As it’s after 4pm, you’ll need to park the car and walk up, but it’s a long way…..” said the Ranger at the Lava Butte just south of Bend. However, it was glorious weather, so we decided to walk.
At the top, admiring the wonderful view, we got a big shock from Joey’s voice above, inviting us to join him in the look-out tower. We entered a world of large-scale maps stuck to the ceiling with low-tech string lines from all the various look-outs. There was constant walkie-talkie chatter, reporting every tiny smoke incident for miles around.
As Joey described his work, we discovered what had seemed a very calm and uneventful pine forest was full of events! Joey loves his job and spends up to ten hours a day up there in the fire-risk season. And he told us horror stories about Trump’s plans to allow digging in the National and State Parks.
“We’ve just spent a wonderful five days with my Cousin Kyle, his lovely wife Courtney and two gorgeous young children, Kathleen and Clara at their home in Portland, Oregon.
Three years younger than me, Kyle and I didn’t do a lot of playing together as kids. And since he moved to the States 25 years ago, he has literally been a distant relative. We’ve only kept in touch through brief chats at family weddings, funerals and birthdays.
So these days together have been very special. It’s been brilliant having in-depth conversations with Kyle (the sort you don’t get at family gatherings) and learning all those things I’d never thought to ask. He has a fascinating story to tell.
It’s been great to get to know Courtney, their children and the Portland lifestyle much better. But the best thing is that I’ve found a new friend in Kyle.”
Growing eggplants, kale, radishes, beetroots and other wholesome vegetables in a plot of land just across from Houston’s unique Rothko Chapel is Roy Rogers. He’s a refugee who arrived four years ago from Gambia.
Hilary grows vegetables at home, so she got talking to Roy and learnt about the innovative Plant It Forward initiative that’s been launched across four city centre sites. It’s a simple idea to build on the subsistence farming experience that many refugees bring with them.
Thanks to land denoted by a local University (St Thomas) and free business and organic farming training, Roy and others now grow and sell vegetables to earn a living. Apparently, the locals are happy to pay a small premium for Roy’s vegetables at the market each Saturday.
Interestingly volunteers are also encouraged to support the refugees by giving up a few hours every week. If you want to know more, click here.
We were impressed; surely these sorts of initiatives have the potential to offer fulfilling lives and better integration with host communities.
At our hotel we asked about a coffee tour. And guess what, our host’s father owns a farm just up the road. Apparently 90% of all coffee production in Costa Rica is done by farmers with less than five hectares.
We understood this was going to be a short drive in a 4×4 with a nice view at the top. But something must have been lost in translation. Francisco arrived, complete with his machete, and asked us if we had enough water and bug repellent for a two hour trek.
At first his farm looked to us like dense jungle on a very steep hillside. But with us panting for breath, Francisco soon revealed a large area of coffee bushes – they look like small laurels with tiny white flowers.
He explained, prior to the 1980s there were many more bushes here. Since then government grants have encouraged farmers like him to re-forest their land. So for Francisco the coffee (and the bananas) are now just a small cash crop.
Coffee growing was introduced into Costa Rica in 1779 direct from Ethiopia. In the 20th century it was fundamentally important to the economy, and locally grown beans were considered some of the best in the world. But today it accounts for around 11% of exports – well behind electronic chips.