Tuesday, April 08, 2014

On four failed attempts to leave Perth in my twenties

When you grow up in a city as isolated as Perth, Western Australia, it's not surprising that you get the itch to leave, at least for a while. From the time I graduated from university (just a little while back now ...) I was looking for opportunities to leave Perth for a while and see something of the rest of the world.

But I hadn't quite realised until recently, looking back, how desperate I was to leave, because I tried all kinds of ways to do so!

Heading north to Newman in the Pilbara

My first try was to follow a (then new) boyfriend when he got transferred for work up to the Pilbara region of Western Australia. I have to say that living in Newman wasn't quite the leave-Perth-adventure I had in mind but it was still a great experience and we made the most of travelling around the Pilbara region to amazing places like the Karajini National Park and towns like Karratha and Tom Price. Just as I was settling in (I think six or eight weeks in?) his company abruptly sent him back to Perth. That was the end of the Pilbara escape attempt!

Hamersley Gorge in Karajini National Park, not too far from Newman in the Pilbara

Heading east to Adelaide, South Australia

The same boyfriend soon took a transfer to Adelaide and I spent a month there when he first started work - I was writing my Honours thesis and walking on the beach at Glenelg. (More beach walking than thesis writing, I think). Adelaide also wasn't the place I'd imagined escaping to - bigger than Newman, but still smaller than Perth, and only slightly closer to anything - but I genuinely enjoyed it. But what do you know - his company retrenched him after a month because he was the newest employee and they were cutting back at every state office. Another failed attempt and I was back in Perth!

Glenelg Beach in Adelaide, South Australia

Trying to volunteer in the Solomon Islands

I guess this was enough for me to take things into my own hands. I found out about a volunteer program run by the Australian government which actually still exists, the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD). This, I decided, could be my way to get out of Perth! At the time I had been working as a research assistant mathematics education and there was a need for someone with this skill set in the Solomon Islands. I was accepted into the program but after some time, for some reason which is lost to the channels of history, the organisation in the Solomons stopped accepting volunteers and I never got there.

Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, and a place I nearly moved to for a while

And almost volunteering in Cambodia

But never fear, of course I had another plan. This time I persuaded my boyfriend at the time to apply for AYAD with me and we found a Cambodian organisation which was looking for two volunteers (although they were in towns a couple of hours apart, if I remember correctly). The organisation must have been quite religious and I remember that we agreed we'd get married before we left (oh yes ... did I mention I was desperate to leave Perth - I was probably only 23 and would have got married way younger than I'd planned just so that I had a way to move abroad!). But I think that was the start of feeling uneasy about the arrangement. And then ... well, this is how I remembered this whole story, recently I was reading a piece by Walter Mason about his new book Destination Cambodia: Adventures in the Kingdom when a short paragraph really hit me.
Cambodia is a country that has enchanted and fascinated me since I was a young man. I first travelled there in 1996, for the express reason that my mother had begged me not to go there. It had seemed like the ultimate dangerous destination, but after a few days there I discovered that, like anywhere else, it was filled with complex, moderately happy people seeking to lead lives of quiet comfort and occasional joy.
This was nearly me, except I decided not to go to live in Cambodia for a year, partly because I was kind of nervous about the whole deal and partly because my well-travelled mother had also expressed her concerns that it could be dangerous to move there! We backtracked out before we committed to any volunteering and although now I wouldn't have a problem with volunteering in Cambodia, I think that courage has only come about thanks to all my other travel experiences.

And finally, I moved to Japan

You probably know the end of the story. In 2001 I finally got a job teaching English in Japan and moved there, beginning the exciting phase of living abroad in three different countries. I finally escaped Perth! And of course, I returned too, proving that it always was a great place to live - but I still want to keep travelling.

If you could leave your hometown now ...

What about you? If you could easily leave your hometown now to live somewhere else for a while, where would you go? And why?

Or have you had failed attempts like I have?

Photo credits: Karajini National Park - Graeme Churchard; Glenelg Beach - Heather; Honiara - Jenny Scott.


  1. Yer can't permantly leave Perth, its the end!

  2. I'm guessing you had a lucky escape and didn't marry that one then?

    1. LOL you are quite correct Rae!!! More info at http://www.notaballerina.com/2012/09/zagreb-bus-station-croatia.html

  3. Fifth time lucky for you! You were obviously committed to getting out of here! Are you glad you came back?

    1. Haha yes very committed indeed!
      As to whether I'm glad I came back ... a good question indeed! I think I would have enjoyed it either way. I'm happy to be near my family and have made lots of brilliant new friends here too since I had my son. So I don't regret it! I just wish Perth was a *bit* closer to the rest of the world!!

  4. Really liked this post Amanda.Our first travels are the beginning of our independence

    1. Oh yes - very eloquently put, Hilary!


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