Ana has always been curious about living in another country and is currently living in Glen Helen Gorge, an Australian desert. This is a place so different from where she’s been before and while it has its share of ups and downs, it has definitely exposed her to the most unique experience of her life.
We truly believe there is no better way to learn about a new city, new country or a new culture than living there. Our Living Abroad series is designed to tell stories of living overseas and show people that the world is really not such a scary place. We hope it inspires more people to pack up their bags, travel slow and see what it’s really like to live in a different place. If you’d like to tell your story, there’s more information at the end of Ana’s story.
Here’s what Ana Marco had to say about Glen Helen Gorge.
Where do you live?
At the moment I’m living in the Australian desert, literally in the middle of nowhere, the name of the place is Glen Helen Gorge and the closest city is 135km, so it’s the most isolated place I’ve ever been in my entire life. What in other places is the simplest thing in the world, like buying a pair of pants, here you have to plan it with 2 weeks in advance. Besides, there’s no tv, no phone, and a very limited internet connection.
Where are you originally from and what did you do before?
I’m from Spain, I was born and raised on the Mediterranean Coast and before coming to Australia I had my own business related to education and also I was working as a freelance translator.
What work do you do there?
My job title is front desk assistant, which means I have from a receptionist to waitressing duties, or even pumping fuel. It’s a small family business with just 15 workers so we all do a little bit of everything.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’ve never been a morning person and here I start working almost everyday at 6.45am, it doesn’t matter if I go to sleep before my nana, I’m never going to get used to this! The good thing is as I live in the same place where I work, I just need to wake up few minutes before I start working, although my brain needs a little longer to function correctly.
After my work, as a good Spanish, I like to have a little “siesta”, you never have to lose the good customs 😉 and later, I do a little bit of exercise or I go to see the beautiful sunset.
Another crazy thing that I’m never going to get used to is that we have dinner at 5pm, while in Spain I used to do it 4 or 5h later. Then, it depends on the day, I read, talk with my family or friends back home, watch a movie, work on my blog or have a few beers with my mates till my bed starts calling me again.
Why did you choose Glen Helen Gorge?
The main reason why I chose this place was that it looked like the perfect spot to save money for my travels as the wages are pretty good and there’s nothing to spend your money on unless you drink an inordinate amount of alcohol.
Also, I thought I’d like to see and experience that other part of Australia that not so many people know about. For a foreigner, the typical image of an Aussie is a tanned and good looking bloke with long blond hair and blue eyes and a surfboard under the arm, and you’ll find heaps of those if you go to places like Byron Bay, but Australia is much more diverse than that.
What do you love about living in Glen Helen Gorge?
I love the nature here, it’s simply amazing!
What are the local people like?
Funny thing is that I don’t know so many locals here. Both my colleagues and guests are from everywhere in the world, so I’m always in contact with a bunch of international people. Although, this is the place of Australia where I’ve seen the bigger amount of aboriginal people and I have to say that when I first arrived I was quite shocked about the huge discrimination in the society against them. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a really complex topic and probably I’d need more than few sentences to describe the situation.
What is it like to live in Glen Helen Gorge as an expat/ foreigner?
I don’t think there’s much difference about living here being a local or an expat, the only one may be that I sometimes struggle on the phone when people call and look like they talk with a potato in their mouth :P.
What is the cost of living in Glen Helen Gorge?
For accommodation and food I’m spending 400 AUS a month (approximately €270), in Australia, this is crazy cheap!
What’s the availability of short term accommodation in Glen Helen Gorge?
Well, I’m living in a lodge, so there’s quite an availability of short term accommodation, although now the high season (winter) is starting so it’s necessary to book in advance. My accommodation is basically a donga, Aussie term for a relocatable (tin) building. My first thought when I arrived here and saw it was “this is a shit hole” but now, after redecorating it a little bit, I even painted the walls with some travel-inspiring drawings, it looks like a cosy place.
What is the food like? (eating out & the quality of supermarkets)
Haha restaurants? Supermarkets?? what’s that? As I said before, I live in the middle of nowhere so we don’t have of those, just the one that belongs to the lodge, which is pretty good as the chef has won few awards for the quality of his cuisine.
Do you need a visa? If so how long can you stay in the country for?
Yes, I’m here with a Work and Holiday Visa which allows me to live and work in Australia for a year. Before coming to the Outback I was living for a while on the Gold Coast and in Cairns.
How safe is Glen Helen Gorge?
This place is pretty safe regarding the people, but you have to be very careful with some of the animals that live around, like the brown snake, one of the deadliest snakes in Australia.
Is there a big expat community?
Let’s say that just 6 of the 15 persons who live/work here are Aussies, so yes, statistically speaking the expat community is pretty big.
Are there any other good places to travel to close by?
Near here (at around 600km, which in Australia is close) is Uluru, one of the most iconic places in the country, a giant rock in the middle of the desert considered sacred by the Aborigines. Also, there are heaps of gorges and beautiful spots close by like Palm Valley, Kings Canyon, Orminston Gorge or Red Bank Gorge.
Any other advice/tips for someone who might want to live there?
Living in such an isolated place is not easy and not everybody can do it. You definitely need to love the nature and being able to enjoy the tranquility.
And, finally any advice or encouragement for someone wanting to take the leap and live overseas?
Sometimes living overseas is fun, sometimes it is hard, but overall, I think it’s an amazing and unique experience as you discover, learn and grow up as a person. In my opinion, everybody should live, at least once in a life, sometimes abroad, but be careful because it can be addictive 😉
Ana Marco is a 28 years old Spanish girl and traveling is her biggest passion in this life. She has two Master’s Degrees, in Economics and Teaching and her dream is to become a digital nomad. Her first experience living abroad was in Ireland, then in Brazil and after that, she decided to settle down in Spain until she found out that the Spaniards were allowed to come to Australia with a Work and Holiday Visa, a country which she was in love with all her life. So once again her life plans changed and here she is, making a dream come true 🙂