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Goodbye city lights… hello outback

Published 27 Jul 2018 by Olivia Hansen

Precisely a week after my husband Will, our nine-month-old son Hamish, and I had moved from Sydney to Charles Darwin Reserve in remote Western Australia, I sat crying in our new house.

I couldn’t help but mourn the life I'd left behind just a week before in Sydney – a reasonably senior marketing role at a large American firm based in the CBD, more friends than I had time to see each week, a beautiful (rented) apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour and the support of a 20-strong mothers' group.

Yet here I was, sitting in an empty house in the middle of outback WA, in 40-degree heat, feeling completely alone and defeated.

I had known Will was unhappy living the city life for a while. One night in Sydney he told me he had this really strong feeling that if he died tomorrow, he would feel like he hadn't really done anything truly worthwhile. I said what any supportive wife would say in response to such a deep and heartfelt outpouring: “Well, stop bloody whining and do something about it!”

Little did I know that a matter of weeks and a lot of job searching later, conservation organisation Bush Heritage Australia would be inviting our family to see a 70,000 hectare reserve that Will was potentially going to manage.

My first impression of the reserve was “NO WAY, just no. I could never, EVER, live here.” The thick flies. The endless red dirt. The sweltering heat. What did a city girl originally from Scotland know about living “off the grid”?

I wept that night when Will told me how incredible he thought it all was and how desperate he was to accept the role should Bush Heritage offer it. I gripped Will's hand tightly as his prospective boss offered him the role and told us how perfect we'd be for the post.

Ha! Me! Perfect for a life in the outback? The closest I've ever been to rural living is getting my camping badge at Girl Guides almost 30 years ago.

Life was a flurry of activity as we unpacked all our things and explored our new backyard. But soon the nothingness began. While Will was off getting acquainted with his new job, I was alone in the homestead with Hamish wondering how on earth I was going to get through this.

It was in those early lonely months that I recall Will telling me “only boring people get bored”. I realised I needed some purpose outside of childrearing so I slowly began to fill my days with activities.

I started a vegetable garden with organic ingredients. I planned and planted a large succulent garden. I bought six chickens. I started running through the bush. I did yoga. I got involved in work on the reserve. I made an effort to drive into town more often and in doing so I started to forge new friendships.

Most significantly, I fell pregnant again. There’s nothing at all boring about having a newborn baby in the Australian Outback!

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I feel like a much tougher and more resilient version of myself having stepped out of my comfort zone into the 70,000 hectares of rugged Aussie bush that is Bush Heritage’s Charles Darwin Reserve.

Follow Olivia’s adventures on Instagram @girl_gonebush

Olivia, Will and Hamish. Olivia, Will and Hamish.
Taking a walk with Hamish. Taking a walk with Hamish.
A family portrait. A family portrait.
Olivia with one of her chickens. Olivia with one of her chickens.
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