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Our Story

Reading some other stories about how travelling came to be, it occurred to me that there are lots of you out there in this spectacular world who have no idea who I am nor how I came to be a nurse and travelling Australia.

So this is our story.

Tim and I met way back in 2010 and I moved in with him in 2011. Initially we decided we would like to buy a few acres and a house somewhere on the outskirts of our hometown Albany in Western Australia.

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I was working as a personal care assistant in aged care and Tim was (and is) a boilermaker working for a locally owned company. In 2011, I was offered a scholarship by my then manager to become an Enrolled Nurse. Working towards this goal, I also worked full-time while studying part time. As is required for many areas of study, I was required to attend clinical placements at hospitals so I used all my annual leave attending these full-time placements.

Tim and I loved to go away on weekends (or whenever I had a few days off, working shift work and all) and one particular weekend in 2012, we camped at Bluff Creek, a beach further up the coastline from Cheynes Beach WA. Sitting under the black sky scattered with bright stars and a warm campfire burning next to us, I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Albany paying off a mortgage having never travelled. I told Tim that I wanted to travel when I finished studying (both my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then Bachelor degree in Nursing). Tim said he would do it with me, so that night, we decided that when I had finished my degree and Tim was due his 10 year long service leave, we would pack up and become nomads. That year, so far in the future, was 2018.

For the next 6 years, I finished studying my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then my Bachelor of Nursing all the while working full time. I spent every hour of my accrued annual leave to attend clinical placements which left me feeling really exhausted and pretty burnt out.  However I left aged care and began working in Mental Health, an area I have and always will be passionate about. I was extremely lucky to have a brilliant manager who encouraged and supported staff studying so I was able to attend clinical placements when offered and even travelled to the Northern Territory for a full 2 months of clinical placements in various Aboriginal communities. I had the best time of my life in those 2 months and it ignited a deep and profound respect and passion for providing health care to Indigenous communities. I had wanted to be a Remote Area Nurse for a long time and this placement cemented my goal to become one and work all around Australia.

We set a date of 17th August 2018 when we would be driving out of our driveway and on the next part of our lives. This date was quickly creeping up and we had heaps to do.

We listed all our furniture on Facebook Buy & Sell groups and were surprised at how easily and quickly we were able to sell everything. The house became more and more empty until the final night was spent on a mattress on the floor.

We had saved money and added the dosh from selling our belongings to our travel kitty. I had paid off my debts over the years and Tim had chosen a real estate to lease his house through.

I didn’t have much furniture, having given away or sold a lot of it when I moved in with Tim. However it was harder for Tim emotionally as he was selling everything he had worked hard to buy especially his beloved motorbike, couch and TV.

We had a cat Leila and dog Izzy as well. Leila has gone to live with Tim’s dad and reports back are saying Leila is loving being a lap warmer and spends her days snoozing on ‘Grandad’s’ lap or under his bed covers! Izzy is staying with Tim’s sister until we settle in Alice Springs. Tim’s sister has 4 kids, the two younger ones being at home more and are loving playing with Izzy. We feel so comforted and grateful that our pets are being cared for so well and in homes full of love and attention. Of course we could have taken Izzy with us however we really wanted to see a lot of National Parks and decided it would be kinder for Izzy to remain in Albany rather than having to spend time in random kennels while we are on the road.

So that was how we came to travel, in a nutshell. Of course there were a lot of emotions going on. I had been living back in Albany for 12 years and Tim had lived there all his life (apart from stints living away) so we were leaving friends, family and pets behind, not to forget stable jobs! However now we are on the road, we keep in touch regularly via social networking, phone calls, texts and postcards!

I’m sure many people who travel, both overseas and around Australia are often told how ‘lucky’ they are. But luck has nothing to do with it. Travelling and having the funds to travel requires a lot of work, sacrifices and dedication. For seven years while I studied both my EN and RN I never had a holiday, not to Bali, not over east, not one holiday. Tim and I took little breaks for a day or two but otherwise I was either working and studying full time and/or attending clinical placement in hospitals (full time shifts).

We both had our sights set on becoming free from the daily grind and worked hard to achieve it. Once I finish my grad year in Alice Springs, we will be back on the road picking up nursing/welding work to fund our travels.

I am sitting at my laptop at a place called Cygnet Bay on the Dampier Peninsula. It is a balmy evening and I’m sipping on icy cold apple cider, looking forward to what tomorrow brings. In a couple of days we will be doing the Gibb River Road then heading to Darwin for my graduation ceremony on the 12th October.

So if you want to travel, anywhere in the world or around your own country, you CAN do it! It doesn’t need to be expensive and you can do it on a budget. Just work hard and save as much as you can, you can always pick up work on the road if you need.

There are heaps of Facebook pages that are really informative and helpful. I have found quite a few really helpful, here are some links:

MY RIG Adventures

Not Grey Nomads

Trekking Downunder

Seeking the Serenity

Thanks for reading! – Rachel xoxox

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Bluest of blue!

Hi! I’m writing this under our annexe overlooking the blue water of Cape Keraudren, north of Pardoo. I have never seen such turquoise blue water and we can’t wait to go swimming tomorrow! We have set up and relaxing after a week of no-so-great holidaying!

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We packed up from Shark Bay and were hoping to check in at an AirBnB in Coral Bay but alas, ’twas not to be (for the fact Coral Bay has bugger all AirBnB’s) so we decided to camp at Warroora Station. We stocked up on supplies in Carnarvon and one of my brother’s rang and suggested we visit Gnoolara Station so we set off there.

Turning right at big sign saying ‘KING WAVES KILL’, we drove the second most corrugated road we had ever driven! Arriving at the camp, we looked around in dismay at the dusty, windy, crowded campsite swarming in surfies while overlooking reefy, rough ocean. We’d come this far, it was getting dark and had to camp the night. Not happy Jan.

The place was interesting if wind surfing, surfing and whatever else is your cup of tea. But for Tim and I, give us swimmable water and beach access any day of the week. So we stayed one night listening to the howling wind batter out camper, packed up the next morning and took off like a bat out of hell. Our number plate ripped off so Tim had to tie is back on with zip ties! That’s how corrugated the road was!

The blowholes down the road were awesome and we had a look at the lighthouse and humpy camp over the other side.

Planning on camping at Warroora Station, we stopped at Milynup Roadhouse where I made the executive decision to drive straight through to Exmouth and stay in a cabin for a couple of nights to feel a bit more civilised!

Exmouth is a gorgeous town with amazing crystal beaches and so much to do. We had plans to snorkel, go on a glass bottom boat, fish and swim swim swim! However that afternoon I started to feel lethargic and achy. Over the next two days, it developed into a stomach bug where I was left with horrible abdominal cramps and … let’s just say, ‘the tummy bug stuff’. We did go for a drive to have a look around and watched the sunset one night which was beautiful. Tim went out by himself one afternoon and saw whales breaching in the ocean.

After three nights in Exmouth, I started to feel slightly more human and we set off to Miaree Pool for the night on our way to Broome. We left there this morning and are now at our current spot.

The place we are camping now is pretty quiet with beautiful views overlooking the ocean. The tide comes in and out regularly, with the next high tide due, according to our neighbours, tomorrow around 2.30pm. We’ve just had a walk down to the water with the tide out and the sand feels like that magnetic sand and really sinky! Tim and I had a race back which was hilarious with our feet sinking deep into the sand with each step!

It was nice staying in a chalet for a few nights but it’s also nice being back on the road especially in such glorious weather. And feeling well and healthy is not something I will take for granted! We have just over 3 weeks to make the trek to Darwin in time for my graduation ceremony and there is a lot we want to see on the way so getting north of Broome is something we’re keen to do. But until then, we’re just enjoying each day and night.

Tim and I get along well, most of the time. Spending 100% of our time together can wear a bit thin and we have our moments, but overall we know we’re stuck together (plus Tim says he keeps the car keys in his pocket so I don’t do a runner! haha). Snappy words are often just left to dissipate in the air rather than arguing over. Travelling and camping together, just the two of us, has taken co-existing to a different level and as much as we can irritate each other, we rely on each other, both for our skills and company. Trying times are overcome when we find somewhere that is paradise and we celebrate pushing through the annoyances of getting there.

We have both gone through the feeling of ‘gee it would be nice just being in a house for a while’ but when we spent time in the chalet, it was nice being back on the road camping under the stars and listening to all sorts of bird life, crickets, frogs and random cars driving past in the middle of the night!

I have found camping/travelling pages on Facebook really helpful and have made a couple of new friends who I will meet when we start our grad programs in Alice Springs.

One FB page of a new friend is: Seeking the Serenity – Travelling Aus which is an awesome and inspiring page of travelling! Check it out!

Keep in touch and stay posted! Love your comments and support xoxoxoxo

 

 

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She was Broken

‘For Heaven’s sake! Put that tray down and get the damn washing on!’. Her nasal voice boomed across the dining room and cut a diagonal slice through each of my ear drums. Resident’s paused midway through scooping porridge into their mouths and watched wide-eyed as the new carer was again being screamed at by the senior staff member. There was unease in the air as the young girl scampered across the faded linoleum and up the ramp towards the laundry; head down and tears again welling in red-lined eyes.

To say it was a baptism of fire would be an understatement. When I began working at the aged-care facility, I was already a wreck. Nursing a broken heart from a devastating end to a relationship and never having worked in aged-care, I was beyond nervous. My anxiety was at its peak and I even jumped when the automatic air-freshener sprayed. I had no idea that I would be sent even lower than I already was; by a person who was meant to be kind.

I have just read an article by Rachel Macy Stafford called ‘Am I Invisible?’ about being left out, or treated badly or just needing kindness, any sort of gentle kindness. It struck a nerve in me. Not to open old wounds but to appreciate people in my life who have shown true, unconditional kindness when I had nothing to offer back. People who found parts of my personality they liked and wished to get to know. People who didn’t know me at all but their inherent personal qualities of treating people with kindness and compassion shone out of them like morning sunbeams over the ocean.

There is one person out there, maybe two, three, ten, two dozen? But at least one person who has held their hand out when you were lying on your back, pinned down by insecurities, circumstances and devoid of energy to try to get back up by yourself.

I stood behind the laundry sobbing. Sobbing and sobbing. ‘Why me? I am trying my best! I don’t know what I don’t know!’ The sound of the back door opening and the rustle of wheelie frames being ushered noisily inside sparked me to wipe my tears, blow my nose and blink heavily, trying to less redden the red in my eyes.

Day in, day out I was screamed at, told I was ‘hopeless’ ‘useless’ and ‘a wonder I was ever employed because I wouldn’t be for long’. I was set up to fail by being asked to perform tasks she knew I had no idea of how to do but knowing I was too terrified to ask for help. I would go home and feel empty; no tears were left, no strength was had and no future was I looking forward to. Except the days I would drive into work and see a familiar car parked in the familiar spot. The other senior staff member was on shift and it was going to be a good day.

Tonia (pseudonym) was the absolute opposite of the other staff member and to me, in my current broken state, she was an angel. She greeted every staff member by name and let the staff organise themselves in the morning. And to top it all off, she cared deeply for her colleagues of whom she was fiercely protective. I was often rattled at work but kept it together to provide care to the people I was there to support. However, every day I was on with Tonia, she would stop me as I scarpered up and down the hallways and hug me. A big, warm, long hug. And she would whisper to me “You are doing a great job, never forget that, you are doing a brilliant job”. These moments slowly built my confidence and with the camaraderie between myself and the other carers, work got less traumatic and more enjoyable.

Unbeknownst to me, the manager was addressing the issue with the other staff member. The other staff had been reporting what was happening to not only me but other new carers and things were happening.

Personally, I decided that I would not be a victim. I would not let the nasty insecurities of one person affect me so deeply because I was giving her power. So I made a promise to my soul that I would never again let someone make me feel like that. And I would never make someone else feel like that. I worked hard at that job; really hard. And was offered a nursing scholarship a few years later.

The other day I had breakfast with the colleagues who were so supportive at that job. Four women who I will always love and admire because they suffered as well. And we laugh, hug, tease each other but most of all, have a deep respect for each other that you can see as we look at each other with admiration and kindness.

You see, you don’t have to ‘stand up for the underdog’ all the time. You just need to be compassionate. Often a kind word or gesture can be all it takes to remind someone struggling that ‘things will be okay’.

I will always strive to be like Tonia. I don’t think I’ll ever get to her level but if I come even slightly close, I will be happy.

Take care and be kind to each other.

  • Rachel.
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Please don’t go, I love you so.

It’s crisp here in Denmark, Western Australia, a small town on the south coast. Crisp, fresh, bracing, refreshing… I am a thesaurus! I’m here by myself for a couple of days in a really cool AirBnB on a lake, with iridescent blue wrens with round little bodies skipping around just beyond the glass sliding door; so close yet so far.

How have you been? I think about you, even though I don’t know you. I wonder where you are sitting as you read this blog. Are you happy? Do you know if you are happy? If we don’t have troubles now and then, how would we know when we’re happy?

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That brings me to Anthony Bourdain. Yesterday, Friday the 8th June 2018, Anthony was found in his hotel room in France after taking his own life. Death by hanging. Anthony was a celebrated chef and food writer, featuring in foodie shows such as No Reservations, The Layover and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. He was never afraid to try what us Westerners would call ‘ugh, really weird food that I would never try in a thousand years’ or ‘I can’t believe he is putting that in his mouth!’.

When I hear about suicides, I feel a pulling gnarly feeling in my heart. My eyes start leaking and I have to look away from whatever it is I’m reading or whoever it is I’m talking to. I’m not a stranger to having suicidal thoughts or, dare I share it, an attempt. When I become aware of a suicide, I feel drawn straight back to the empty blackness that filled my being when I truly believed I was better off out of this world and maybe, in my void of rationality, being reincarnated as someone who is immune to the dark feelings.

Who wants to talk about people killing themselves? Not many, but we need to. We need to not focus on the celebrity ‘live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse’ but how to reach out, connect with someone; hold their hand, hug them, let them hear you pour out all your reasons of why you think you would be better off not here. And we can let people listen to us, nod their heads, cry with us and purge feelings we have kept suppressed for so long. Feelings that have festered and turned toxic. Feelings that have become imbedded in who we think we are and who we think the world thinks we are.

This too shall pass. 

Yes, I work in Mental Health and I am passionate about mental health. But I know people who don’t work in mental health but are just as passionate about supporting people going through a tough time. You don’t have to have a mental illness to go through shit or feel like shit or wish that shit would just get better.

I can’t sit here and write sentiments like ‘Things will get better’ or ‘You are special, the world needs you’ because although those things can be true, what good is it going to do right now? But what I can say, from my own personal experiences, not quoting anyone but myself is that it is sometimes damn hard to forge ahead, especially when you resigned yourself to being 6 foot under in a matter of days. It is damn hard but a problem shared is a problem halved, and when I reached out to a good friend, when I let her know how low I was and how I needed someone to look out for me; she did. And every day I was above ground, I worked hard at achieving small successes. I went to work even though I hated being there because I was saving to find another job; that helped. I made myself see friends, go to coffee dates and contact my family. I tried to laugh and when I tried to laugh I started laughing because my fake laugh sounded so stupid it was funny.

As I think back, 10 years ago when I was at one of the worst times of my life, I bring myself to the present; where I am now, typing this to thousands of people of whom I have never met and may never will. I’m in a good place, through hard work and determination, through times and events that I thought I’d never recover from; I’m in a good place and I’m going to stay here even if things aren’t good all the time.

The sun will come up tomorrow and you’ll be here. I’ll be here and we can be shoulders of strength to people who truly believed the sun wouldn’t come up. And we can show them it has. Because it will.

There is always someone to listen, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you or someone you know may need help. 13 11 14.

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Take care.

Rachel.

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Un-culture shock

I’ve been back in WA for two weeks today. I’ve caught up with a few friends and my Mum, returned to work and entered a few short story competitions (finger’s crossed!). I greatly miss the NT and it has been difficult keeping my mind focussed when I keep daydreaming about being back there!

Life in Albany has gone back to how it was before I left and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve changed, as I keep saying, but Albany hasn’t because it didn’t need to – I did. I often think back to places I was living in the NT and the people I go to know there; what they are doing right now and if they are happy. Fortunately Facebook has enabled some of us to stay in touch which is a blessing.

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Albany at night. Unsure of who took the photo so can’t acknowledge sorry.

So I don’t actually have any news or exciting things to tell you! The day I flew into Perth I got obnoxiously long sparkly nails which I got removed yesterday – for the sole reason of being able to pick my nose without scratching my brain! – and I feel liberated by typing one key at a time!

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View of Perth city from our hotel room.

I am loving cuddling my dog Izzy. I appreciate her more than I ever have. We just snuggle into each other and breathe the same chilly Albany air, promising to each other that we will cuddle all the time. It has been the opposite with my cat Leila. We have lost any semblance of a relationship we might have had and she looks at me with disdain every morning I get up as if to say “Gee I enjoyed those two months you were gone”.

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We are packing up the house and organising renovations because we aim to leave around early August to go up the coast of Western Australia and hopefully get to Darwin in time for my graduation ceremony. Graduate position applications  for Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek open on Monday so I’ll be getting everything ready for that. As I said, I have two excellent people willing to be referee’s for me so I doubt I’ll have a problem getting one of the positions. Plus my aim is to live and work in remote Northern Territory. Wish me luck though!

The next couple of months is going to be pretty quiet but please stay tuned because I will update regularly (with far more interesting content!) when Tim and I begin our next lot of travel!

Before I go, I do want to thank the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, particularly Jessie Anderson who was extremely supportive and bent over backwards to ensure I was safe, supported, housed, transported etc etc. She was always happy to have a chat and help weigh up options with sound advice and a genuine interest in students having a positive and varied experience. I don’t want to sound gushy, however for someone who is away from home and alone in remote areas, having someone who knows where you are at all times is comforting. If you’ve ever thought about experiencing placements in the Northern Territory, give the Centre for Remote Health a ring, you won’t regret it!

Love to you all. – Rachel 🙂

P.S I had a few bumper stickers made which my three brothers have agreed to put on their vehicles! Here is one of my nephews, Archie, displaying it!

P.P.S AHPRA registration came through so I am officially a Registered Nurse!

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My gorgeous little homey Archie John modelling my sticker!

 

The Scribbling Nurse

And that was that! (for now)

It’s done. Or in the fine vocabulary of Vicky Pollard “I DUN IIIIIT!”. 326171

I have finished my Bachelor of Nursing degree and now waiting for my registration with AHPRA (the governing body all health clinicians need to be registered with in order to practice [legally]).

It was a bittersweet ending to my time in Hermannsburg. As is usual with student placements, you just get to know the staff better and feel like you’re fitting in just a little bit more then *woosh!* you’re leaving. You say heartfelt goodbyes to staff you came to admire and enjoy being around, but they will soon have another student to fill your place and the merry-go-round starts up again; same moves, same motions, same things to sign-off.

The Hermannsburg Ntaria clinic staff, like the Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Canteen Creek staff, are all a really wonderful group of people who I would love to work with in the future so maybe this student might return one day!

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Most of the Ntaria Health Clinic staff!

There were a couple of people in Hermannsburg who I spent time with who I will miss and look forward to seeing again when Tim and I return to the NT.

Ems is a strong and determined new student, who was a pleasure to sit with and rehash knowledge even I had forgotten. She reignited in me the excitement of new beginnings and a sense of self; ‘Why am I doing this’? Ems knew, she’s known for a long time why she is doing this. And being around her, listening to her story and sharing mine, I remembered why I was doing this as well. Thank you Ems.

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Ems, Fran and moi!

And Lulu. Lulu is a magical dog because for some reason I have this crick in my neck and every time I move it, I hear a voice say “Lulu HAS to be in your blog! I’m not writing it down because I just said it. Lulu HAS to be in your blog!”. I’ve never been afraid of a midwife before but I have heard urban legends so Lulu, a rescued pound dog who has white fur that gets stuck in your clothes and is way older than she looks, has now been mentioned in my blog. And I get to keep my womb and any other bits midwives deal with. Lulu’s Mother is a midwife and she isn’t afraid to travel in her new little car.

This week has been a countdown to the day I finish. I was on-call with two RAN’s (Remote Area Nurse, in case you forgot) on Anzac Day and attended a few call-outs with them. I still love remote area nursing and working/living in Aboriginal communities.

Wednesday night, I went to a BBQ down at Fink River with Fran, Lulu’s Mum. There we joined a group of people and sat under the stars, chatted and enjoyed watching the little kids run around. The serenity was, in my opinion, better than Bonnie Doon (sorry Darryl). Everywhere I go, I make a mental note to come back with Tim and Izzy and spend more time there, get to know more people and learn more about ourselves, even if it is sitting quietly and being in our third space.

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Picnic on the Fink River bed

Thursday, we had a lunch together at the clinic and one of the visiting clinicians had made a lime cheesecake to say goodbye to a RAN called Marcia and a congrats to me for finishing. So lovely and appreciated.

This morning (Friday) was my very very last day as an RN student. I went over to the museum to have a look around at the history of Hermannsburg. I took some happy snappys and had a cool drink at the tearoom. Hermannsburg is beautiful little community with lots of places to visit. I’m keen to go back and see Jesus’ footprint near Fink River and just spend more time enjoying the area without rushing.

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Everything seemed slightly surreal as I wandered around waiting for my ride coming into from Alice Springs to take me back. Unfortunately, the driver of the car who picked me up was the most rude, obnoxious piece of work I’d encountered in a long time. I don’t usually draw attention to negative experiences however I am managing to find the funny side in the situation. I’m very assertive and choose when to enter into swapping words, but because I didn’t feel like being left on the side of a desert road with no phone reception and a warm can of Coke Zero, I ignored her comments!

After 8 weeks, moving 9 times and working in 6 different facilities, I have met and worked with some of the most genuine, hardworking, loving people I have ever met. I feel so blessed to have had this experience in the Northern Territory and can’t wait to call it my home, again, but for longer.

I just went and watched ‘Gurrumul’ at the cinema. It is about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind Aboriginal man from Elcho Island who is a musical and singing prodigy. He has a haunting and powerful voice that can take you to different parts of the universe. I’d highly recommend seeing this documentary.

I had the entire cinema to myself and as it was playing on my mind, I thought I’d quickly check to see if my last two units had been marked. I squinted at my phone and saw I had passed my last two units meaning I now had my degree. I turned my phone off again and sat in the darkness, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks as the rich soulful euphony of Gurrumul’s music swirled around the theatre and caressed my heart. ‘I did it’ I thought proudly, ‘I did it’.

– Rachel

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Photos courtesy of Fran!

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To be human.

I feel compelled to write this. For everyone, especially other students.

I was chatting to a brand new nursing student today who is at the very start of her journey. She is still navigating around the learnline website (online university ‘blackboard’ with all the resources, assessments, grades etc), flicking through great big text books and trying to memorise everything she reads – bless her heart. She said feels overwhelmed. She stopped and looked at me; quietly, just watching to see if my expression changed… hoping to hear some reassurance that it was okay to feel overwhelmed. That things get better – get easier.

What did I say to her? Well, right now I am sitting in Hermannsburg with tears streaming down my face. I’m exhausted. Overwhelmed. I’m days away from finishing so I should be feeling on top of the world, yeah?!

I told the student that it is perfectly normal to have melt-downs. Cry, scream, throw something, yet keep going. Have a break then finish that essay. Go each day to clinical placement even though every inch of your being just wants to stay in bed. Write that damn objective, reflect on that reflection and post a discussion on the discussion board. Tick all the boxes because each day will pass and you’ll be closer to your goal. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day … you get the drill.

We push through study and clinical placements as well as our normal lives whether it be looking after children and households, working, friendships, marriages / partnerships, family, hobbies, aspirations, health and self-image. Things can crack and make you feel like shit. It’s cool, you’re not the only one.

I’ve texted a good friend of mine with so many swear words and angry emoji’s that she has sent back a full text page of self-help advice and loving words.

Keep going. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, just keep going because it will get better. And when you get there, it’ll be all the more sweeter.

Take care.

– Rachel 🙂

“She was never quite ready but she was brave, and the universe listens to brave”