In the perspective of everyday life, 100 days is not that long. If you were to spend 100 days at a new job, you'd still be considered a newbie. 100 days towards a college degree is close to nothing. 100 days spent in a single location is nothing to write home about. That is, unless you are doing a working holiday in a foreign country.
As backpackers we are expected to change locations as often as we change our socks (that's no exaggeration, unfortunately.) We pick up work where we can and when we get bored or enough cash to move, we take it and spend a month frolicking around new territory. That is the nature of our holiday and that is what we all love and hate about it.
My first month in Oz was glamorous and exciting--Surfer's Paradise, Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road—all of the beautiful touristy places were thoughtfully splashed around my social media pages in exchange for jealousy and amazement from friends back home. It was all a glorious dream! Then, I woke up from my dream and entered into the “working” part of my “working holiday.” It was tough at first. I went through a mixture of feelings. First I was mad at myself for throwing away a great office job in America only to come to Australia for a service industry job. After thinking about it I began to feel entitled for the first time in my life. I remembered the four treacherous years I had spent in university. Didn't that mean I didn't have to do the boring stuff anymore? For a few weeks I pouted and sulked. Then I remembered that this too, was part of the dream.
My dream for many years was to have a simple job that paid my bills but gave me enough freedom to write and paint more purposefully. Cleaning up after cabin residents isn't glamorous, but it's simple work that pays the bills while allowing me enough downtime to focus on the creative passions that fuel me.
During my stay at Kangaroo Island I had the opportunity to manage Seal Bay Cafe and Cottages, a 36-acre property near the south coast of the island. While the job description is appealing, I must admit I spent most of my time doing things I would have never done back home. I learned how to bait a mouse trap (and dispose of the corpse afterwards.) I picked little black hairs off of the shower wall after each guest left one of the cabins. I spent one afternoon cleaning cobwebs out of my hair because I had cleaned out an underused cabinet. I even learned to get my hands really dirty, by sorting through wet garbage so the recyclable bins would last until the next pick up date.
Though there was a lot of tough chores, I also learned a lot about living while on Kangaroo Island. I shared a hostel with 2-5 other volunteers. It was unlike any hostel I've stayed in before, because it felt like a home. Each night we cooked home made food and then sat down and ate together like a family. On special evenings we would sing and dance around the lounge room and celebrate with one other. The other volunteers and I became a family. When one of us was down, the others would pull together to cheer him up, and if one of us had a celebration, we all joined in.
On the few days off we had, my family and I would venture off the property to see the island in a unique way. The tourism season was over and we had lived on the island long enough that we were considered honorary locals. Very quickly we found our place in the community. The woman at the post office would welcome us by our first name, the tellers at the bank knew which account we were depositing to, and the local neighbors became our dinner party attendants.
I think I saw most of the attractions on the island. The Parndarna Wildlife Park, Clifford's Honey Farm, Flinders Chase, pelican feeding in Kingscote, Hanson Bay and Seal Bay were some of my favorites. I enjoyed getting to tour the island at a leisurely pace. Unlike previous stints in my journey, I didn't have to cram everything into a two-day visit. I explored and ventured as I pleased.
Kangaroo Island is not a glamorous location. It's a real one. The island holds roughly 4,000 people who are close-knit and genuine. There are no skyscrapers here. There isn't even a K-mart, let alone a shopping mall. The only “night club” is a small pub in Parndarna with family food on one side and a ping-pong table on the other. The main highway is paved but everything else is a dirt road. Kangaroo Island is a place of nature and simplicity. Things like water and affordable fruit are considered a luxury item if you live here long enough.
The way of the island is different from most places in Australia. It is living at it's most simplistic level. All the things that I thought were important before are not. I've learned to get back to the basics of life, thanks to the spirit of the island. KI's brand says, “...it is an island, physically and spiritually separate from the mainland.” I couldn't agree more. My 100 days on Kangaroo Island were tough and tedious but they have developed me into a stronger, more grounded individual. I am glad for this three-month stationery leg of my adventure, and now I am ready as ever to conquer the next destination.