Out of the Outback
This is the last post from our outback diaries. It’s been almost two months since we left our work place in the outback. So, what have we done so far? First, we went to the The Northern Territory, where we visited Darwin, the beautiful Kakadu National Park and Katherine Gorge. After a week in the Northern Territory, we actually drove back to where we came from and we even visited the place we worked to meet up with friends. We continued our travels to the West Coast to Broome, Coral Bay, Exmouth and Karijini National Park. A month ago we drove to Perth, where we still are, and will be untill we leave for Nepal.
However, this post is not about our travels. It’s more of a little rewind to the times of us working in the outback. It’s been a big part of our trip; six months in total. Our time working will probably be the experience we remember the most when we think back to Australia. Feel free to read our previous personal blogposts about our experience in the outback: Outback Diaries Part 1, Outback Diaries Part 2, Outback Diaries Part 3 and Part 4.
Honest about our experiences
I wasn’t sure how honest I would be when I would write about our working experience. At times it was quite hard. I knew there was the possibility of our managers to read everything online. Purposely, I barely used the exact name of the town; Halls Creek, and I also never, and still won’t, used the name of the hotel. But yeah, there are only two accommodations in Halls Creek, so it’s not hard to guess.
But now that we are out of Hells Crack, as people like to refer to this little town, I can write a little more freely about the whole experience.
Okay, so here it is. The first month or two it was quite hard for me. We just traveled Australia for three months without obligations and suddenly we stepped into a hotel where we worked more hours per day than I ever did. Luckily we got payed by the hour. In the end the more hours, the better pay, but mentally and physically it was very hard on me.
Stressed and unhappy
After the first week Jeffrey and I often worked six days a week, he as a bartender and I as a housekeeper during the day, and as waitress at night. Soon I got weird symptoms, such as numb fingers, painful legs and pain in my stomach. When I went to the doctor he told me it could be that I’m suffering from anxiety and stress. When he approached me with this possibility, I just started crying, what made it quite clear that this was the answer.
Jeffrey, on the other hand, was completely fine and he didn’t mind the hours at all. We were there to work, and we were there to save money. The more hours, the better. I knew this, and I told him that I just couldn’t control my feelings. To be honest, I never felt like that before. Usually I’m stronger than that, or at least I feel stronger. I always feel I can cope with pretty much everything. Now, I just felt lost.
Backpackers in Australia
Especially during housekeeping I often had a lot of trouble with the way I was treated, and each and every other co-worker in housekeeping felt the same way. Housekeeping is probably one of the most unappreciated jobs anyway, no matter in which hotel you work.
The first two months we were understaffed big time, and when the manager set up a staff meeting I expected a motivational speech and that he would get more staff. Well, that wasn’t what we got at all. What we got was a negative speech, one that even started with the line “I only got negative things to say”. He complained that he didn’t like the vibe among coworkers and said that if we didn’t want to be here, we could just go.
I didn’t always agree with the way the management worked anyway. They treated us like children, they would actually try to “punish us” when we “misbehaved”. Nothing dramatic, but for instance exchanging all the normal plates and cutlery with plastic plates and cutlery, because one person didn’t do their dishes.
It is actually quite a common thing for backpackers in Australia to have work conditions that are bad. There is mostly a lot of trouble with backpackers that work on a farm. I often realized that those conditions would probably be a lot worse.
In this case, it weren’t only backpackers that worked in the hotel. We had Australian co-workers too, and we were all treated the same way. The difference was mostly in the department you worked in. When you worked in the bar or in the restaurant, you were treated with a little more respect – although of course sometimes customers can be a pain in the *. Also, the duty managers we had in the bar were great.
But, so many people come and go in Halls Creek, so perhaps some of the regular workers – so people that actually stay longer than just a few months, like the managers – just don’t know how to manage everything. If someone is not satisfied with the place, they just leave to the next place. I can imagine that might be quite frustrating.
It does get better
Why am I telling you this? Not to make you feel sorry for me. We could go whenever we wanted, it wasn’t as if I had to stay there. After my doctors appointment I told Jeffrey what had happened, and he said that we could pack our bags and leave. Whenever the managers were being dicks, we could just quit that same day. We could find a new job, something easier, maybe in a place that isn’t so remote like Halls Creek. But I didn’t want to give in, because I really just like to finish what I start. When we got there we already knew that we wanted to stay for six months. And to be honest, the money was really good. We would reach our goal a lot faster than in most places.
I’m telling you this, because 1) don’t always believe all the pretty pictures, 2) traveling (or in this case working abroad) isn’t only awesome and wonderful and 3) most of all: sometimes bad situations really get better.
When you get out of your comfort zone, it can suck big time. I thought I had left my comfort zone plenty of times in my life, by traveling through Asia and Australia, by going on exchange, by doing internships, or taking on new jobs. But traveling is something I love, so apparently that’s not really stepping out of my comfort zone. My exchanges and internships were always in the field I’m interested in, so that’s not stepping out of my comfort zone.
Whenever I started a job in hospitality, I always quit after a week or even less. I have always lived in a city. So apparently, living in the outback and working in hospitality full time, that was getting out of my comfort zone.
The days passed quickly and I got used to the work. Also, I started loving the place we lived in. Yes, I missed certain things such as eating out or shopping at a normal supermarket, but living there was also quite peaceful. Soon new people arrived and we were no longer understaffed. We were with a big team, often even got into trouble for being too loud when having drinks at the back of our accommodation complex. We played card games, talked, and played pingpong.
It got better, I had just stepped out of my comfort zone and had to find how to cope with this lifestyle. When I finally knew how, it opened my eyes and I saw that it wasn’t all so bad as I thought.
There were many things I still disliked. But I wasn’t feeling unhappy, now I was just fed up with the work. Even Jeffrey was those last few weeks.
One thing I really wanted to share was how proud I’ve been of Jeffrey this whole period in the outback. Not only because he pulled me through the first two months. During these months I was also reminded what a great guy he is. So many people came up to me to tell me that he was so easy to work with, and even customers came up to me to say how great he was. The night before we left a sweet old Aboriginal lady came up to me to tell me that he has always been so kind to her, and that she will miss him dearly.
I’m also proud that we stayed, even when we had some hard times. If we left sooner, we would only have a bad memory of the place. Now, when I look back, I’m really happy that we lived in Halls Creek, and experienced the real Australian outback.
In most places in Australia, we still felt as if we were close to home, because of the Western culture. In the outback, we finally experienced another world and got to know a bit more about the Aboriginal communities and their art. Furthermore, we have seen so many beautiful spots. Places we would never have seen if we didn’t spent so much time in the Kimberley!
Check out our images from the outback