Each year, thousands of backpackers who are seeking to acquire a second year visa are forced, by the evil Australian government, to complete three months of farm work in a rural area of Australia. It's hard enough to even find a job that's eligible, let alone one that meets the criteria, pays well and doesn't involve some form of abuse from the employer.
Although you hear of more 'farm work' horror stories than nice ones, some backpackers get pretty lucky, and enjoy their farm work. In very rare cases, some get so lucky that they even enjoy it enough to return to the place that they completed their 88 days, and decide to spend the rest of their time in Australia living there...
Ungarie, New South Wales. Population 399, (according to the sign upon arrival, anyway...) For someone who grew up in a city as vibrant and busy as Bristol, moving to a rural area with such a tiny population is a fairly daunting experience - it feels like you're in the absolute middle of nowhere for a start - the supermarket is over 40km away, (which feels like forever when you've grown up having three within a ten minute walking distance), all you can see for miles and miles is farm land, and most nerve-racking of all, you're new in town and everyone knows it.
Nerves aside, I was warmly welcomed and ended up enjoying my time in Ungarie so much that I became one of the very lucky few that loved it enough to return and call it home for another eight months. Eight months which have seemed to fly by far too quickly, whilst somehow also plodding along slowly enough that I almost feel as though I was always there.
It's a funny feeling, arriving somewhere with a blank slate, and leaving it, a new home. Thanks to this tiny little town, I now have a full understanding of the word 'community,' I've learned what it feels like to be able to leave your doors unlocked, your belongings on the bar, certain they'll still be there when you return. I've spent the last eight months living amongst people that are always willing to go out of their way to help. I've won meat raffles, attended football games, been exposed to country music, (even enjoyed country music!) I've become accustomed to waving back when someone's car passes my car on the way to town, developed an interest in tractors, can tell you which beer anyone in town drinks and even how much rain has (or hasn't) fallen that day.
I'm not sure I ever could have imagined growing so fond of a place, but it's been near impossible not to fall head over heels in love with the little rural community where you're sure to find smiling faces, a whole ton of laughs, and if you're there at the right time, the local copper using his jukebox credits to play 'Backstreet Boys!'
Eight months has gone far too quickly, but I know for sure I'll be back. A huge thanks to the Australian government for allowing me to discover somewhere to call a second home, and an even bigger thank you to Ungarie itself, for adopting me and making me feel so welcome. See you next year. x