Two years ago, daily lamentations filled up the journal I had carried to an isolated mining town in Western Australia. Against all good advice to “make the most of it,” I hated Newman. The bugs, the company politics, the locals’ entitlement, the price of beer.
And then, I forced myself to practice a few steps that would – if not weaken my opinion of Newman – at least lead me away from such negativity. After all, there will be places on every trip that don’t tug at our hearts; destinations that we truly dislike. There will be antagonizing, disappointing locations that we will flee with no happy souvenir other than the determination to try our luck somewhere else. Not every destination will be paradise.
So this time, having unpacked my bag in another remote Aussie outpost – with more local politics, more expensive beer, and a hell of a lot more flies – I won’t spend my time moaning. Focusing on the reality of my placement, I’m learning to overlook the downsides and make myself find things to love.
Because out here, if the heat doesn’t kill you, bitterness certainly will.
Step 5. Take a walk. Even if your path ends 1,000 feet from the front door, slip on some shoes (or don’t) and start walking. Become physically aware of your surroundings. In Nundroo, we’re bordered by Yalata Aboriginal land and can only wander in a loop through the back paddock. But every time my boyfriend and I follow that same track, we discover some piece of nature – a sleeping lizard, a strange birdcall, a plum-colored wildflower – that gives the day newness.
Step 6. Ask every question that comes to mind. By asking questions about the scene, you’re not only learning information that will improve your understanding of the locale; but also, hopefully, untracking facts that may trigger an interest in some aspect of the town. As I walk through the back lot, tiny, white spiraling shells crunch under my feet. Where did all these beached snails come from? I have pondered their existence since we arrived, and each answer leads me to unexpected avenues of thought. Step 7. Soak up every printed detail. The more you know, the more you grow. Shallow prejudices are too often based on a lack of knowledge. So sign up for a library card or borrow a neighbor’s newspaper. Scan the latest hand-made adverts tacked to the gas station corkboard. Our only news source, the Sentinal, is fondly called “Two Minutes of Silence”, for the brief amount of actual news inside. At least it’s something informative…
Step 8. Demonstrate a sincere interest in the people. However you demonstrate a sincere interest in the people around you, do it- and let them know. This goes beyond the polite small chat of daily interactions and on to stronger connections. Every Sunday, the five Nundroo staff members stack up loose sticks, toss on a match and sit back to rehash the week’s happenings. Though we see each other nearly every hour of the day, it’s the time we spend just being together that better unites us.