RAINBOW BEACH, our final destination and our new home town, is in our eyes, paradise!!
It is a small beach community about 3 hours north of Brisbane in the state of Queensland, Australia.
The community has approximately 1250 permanent residents, however this number swells during tourist season as it is a popular holiday destination. The community is surrounded by national parks and it is the gateway to Fraser Island, an International heritage listed island. Due to its position between National Parks it has limited area for physical growth, and the community members have been active in blocking franchises from moving into the area. It's isolation limits job opportunities and attracts only those that like this sort of isolated lifestyle.
There are two other small communities about 30 minutes away and together with Rainbow Beach, Cooloola Cove and Tin Can Bay make up the Cooloola Coast. There is only one road in and out of the area. The next major towns are Gympie and Maryborough which are both 50 mins to an hours drive away.
Rainbow Beach has all the major services covered. There are about 10 different shops, 2 small grocery stores and some restaurants and cafes. There is a larger grocery store about 30 mins away in Cooloola Cove. This is also where dental services are. Major shopping like Kmart, Target, large pet stores, and office supplies we have to drive 1 to 1 1/2 hours for. So life is requiring a little more planning with respect to those needs. This definitely nips impulsive buying! Retail therapy has become the local Vinnies store (secondhand/op shop) which just opened last week. Keira is so happy, as she has become quite the shopper and fashion queen!!!! Her $2 weekly allowance can go a long way.
Rainbow Beach is an outdoor lovers dream. It is a well known for great fishing which draws an influx of fishermen during the winter months.
Other activities in the area include: Fraser Island (an international heritage island), feeding dolphins, whale watching, turtle hatching, surfing, paragliding, parachuting, hiking, fresh water lakes and rivers, If you have a 4 wheel drive, the area is open for exploration. And then there is all that the rest of Queensland has to offer!!
The smallness of the community obviously has positives and negatives. The positive is that everyone knows everyone else and the negative is that everyone knows everyone else!
If someone had asked me 20 years ago what my dream life would be, I would have said "to live by a beach with my family and dog, being able to go for walks along the beach and to live a simple life." It only really dawned on me the other day that we had actually achieved that dream..
Don't get me wrong it is not all roses. We are still faced with the challenges of everyone else that moves to this town, finding and maintaining work, finding a place in the community, finding an affordable home, and being motivated to create your own lifestyle. Some of the resources of a big town are not available but I am impressed with what the community is able to provide for the youth in the area.
So far we have found 2 great swimming holes in creeks and an amazing lake to swim in. The hike into Lake Poona is a half hour hike through rainforest terrain. It is the best swimming pool ever, no chlorine and no cleaning to be done!!
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We also took Keira to Steve Irwin's Australia zoo. She got to pat a koala, and multiple kangaroos and also feed kangaroos!
Locally in Tin Can Bay there is a pod of dolphins that have been coming into the bay area for many years now. We were able to go and feed the dolphins and watch them up close.
AUSTRALIA ZOO/DOLPHIN FEEDING
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Mike is working for his employers in the States, and I just signed a contract for an Occupational Therapy job in Gympie. It is an hours drive each way but I will just be doing that 3 days a week, hoping to build up my own private business on the other days.
Each day we have been trying to explore somewhere new. Our day starts at 6 am with a walk on the beach, and includes a swim somewhere along the way.
I know our friends in the USA and all over the world are interested in the differences we have experienced since we got home to Australia. I think the major difference in coming to Rainbow Beach with its smaller community is that we have been able to relax more. This is not so much physically but emotionally and mentally. I didn't realize how much the current political and social climate in the USA was effecting my attitude and demeanor. It is hard to remain positive and calm with the daily reports of shootings including school shootings, the rise in racism and the concern of all of us as citizens watching the unfolding of political decisions. It was like a huge weight had lifted when I set foot on Australian soil. Knowing that I no longer had that nagging in the back of my mind about the safety of Keira at school or that at some stage we may be turned on because we were foreigners, even though US citizens.
Unfortunately, this is not isolated to the USA as the world goes through major changes and Australia is not immune from this. We also have our problems, and I am sure as we become more engrained in society here, those problems will become clearer.
For now, we are trying to embrace a simpler life, concentrating on our family and working out ways to contribute to our immediate community.
WHAT WE MISS:
And the things we miss the most, are our friends who have become our family. Having their daily support to help us get through the challenges and to share in the triumphs. For Mike and I we both miss our work places. I think we had both established a good fit for our level of experience and employers with a mutual respect and a similar work ethic. For Mike he is able to continue his relationships, but misses the daily contact with colleagues.
At this stage, we are glad to have made the move. The biggest positive is having a very happy little girl who is thriving in her current environment.
It is definitely an adjustment for us, maybe long term it won't be for us or we may simply not be able to make a go of it here. So we have a 12 month plan and will re-evaluate then. Will keep you posted.
BELOW ARE OUR TWO NEW VEHICLES- WANDA (ON LEFT), A TOYOTA HILUX) AND LUCY (TOYOA LANDCRUISER) Neither will ever replace Priscilla!!
and of course we have to include our highlights/challenges just to complete the blog:
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF BEING HOME:
MOST VALUED POSSESSION: each other, as we rely on one another facing the new challenges and our new life.
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- waking up everyday knowing that we live by the beach; Keira-swimming at the Lake, feeding dolphins and having some new friends ; Riss- feeding the dolphins; morning walks on the beach
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-getting off the speeding train and taking a breath; Keira- the first day of school; Riss- "filling out multiple forms"- the endless steps needed to re-establish our life; finding things to do indoors when the weather is bad (no shopping or movies for entertainment)
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- dodgy dim sims and any culinary sheep based delicacy!; Keira- gluten free waffle cones and the local ice cream shop; Riss- an abundance of gluten free foods
BEST CAMPING SPOT: haven't camped much yet as we are happy to explore our new environment.
Maddie, our border collie/Aussie Shepherd came into our life and quickly became a member of our family. This post will mostly be pics as a photo speaks a thousand words.
Maddie is definitely Keira's companion and is at Keira's side for many adventures and milestones.
We are really happy that she made the trip to Australia safely. She is loving her new life by the beach.
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We are looking forward to Maddie being a part of our lives and family for many years to come.
"Where are you from?"
This was a daily if not hourly question posed to us for 25 years in the USA. It was not what we expected to hear when we returned to Australia. I guess we did pick up an American twang after all.
It is good to be back on Australia soil. The connection with your place of birth is strong for anyone no matter what nationality. For me, being by the ocean is replenishing my soul. For Mike it is the connection to the Australian bush.
One of the most striking elements upon returning has been how down to earth Australians really are. People have always described Australians in such a manor and we have really experienced that since our return. People have different roles, like anywhere, but they are still themselves within that role. The people we have encountered don't feel like they have to change their persona to fit the role they are fulfilling. They are just themselves. This is really refreshing.
The birdlife is one of the other highlights. The variety is amazing, but the amount of birds present is really incredible. As soon as the sun rises the chorus of birds begins. Cockatoos, galas, magpies and kookaburras to name just a few. "Sleeping in" is not an option as far as the birdlife is concerned.
And then there are the beaches!! I have referred to myself in the past as a beach snob. It has been reinforced why, since we have been back in Australia. The beaches have to be amongst the best in the world. They are pristine, with very few people, and in most parts there is bushland leading up to the coast. You cannot own coastline, it is all for public use.
Seeing Keira and Maddie playing on the beach and having so much fun has made us feel that at this stage, we have made the right decision. Keira loves the Ocean. Maddie has dug so many holes on the beach that she could have dug to China.
VICTORIA and FAMILY
The first few weeks we spent in Clifton Springs in Victoria with our family. As many of you know, we had not told them of our return. Surprising them was a lot of fun and they were surprised and very happy to have us back after so many years.
Keira was spoiled by her grandparents, Aunt, Uncle and cousin Lexie, and of course loved every minute of it. Maddie was beside herself with joy when we picked her up from Quarantine. She took a few weeks to settle down and needed a lot of reassurance that we were not going to leave her again. She is back to her happy self, wagging her tail and seeking out belly rubs.
I spent time recovering from my back problem, hindered by a cold and sneezing putting my back out again every time I did. Mike worked hard buying us a vehicle and getting it equipped for camping. "Wandajerri" (meaning wombat in an aboriginal language) or "Wanda" for short, is the name given to the car by the former owners. Wanda will never be Priscilla but we hope she will be the source of many more adventures.
THE JOURNEY NORTH
We took 4 days to travel from Victoria to Queensland, traveling 5-6 hours per day with many rest stops for back stretches and dog walks. We really enjoyed the trip (even with the pain I was experiencing). It was nice to be on the road and traveling as a family once more. We had intended to stay in campgrounds along the way, but our wild camping bug drew us to river and bush settings. It was so nice to be out in open spaces and to be surrounded by Australia fauna and flora. Camping in a roof top tent again, felt like home.
It was wonderful to be able to share things we love about Australia with Keira. She got to see kangaroos, emu's with babies, hundreds of cockatoos, galas and rosellas. And also large fruit bats!! She was very excited.
QUEENSLAND- OUR NEW HOME STATE
The Gold Coast in Queensland is a well known tourist destination. It is also home for many Aussies who relish the beach at their door step whilst still having all the commodities of a city.
We are currently staying with our Aussie adopted family, the Robinsons. Mike and I met Cleve and Kristi in when we were all living in Louisville Kentucky. We have been close friends and family to each other ever since. Cleve was the best man at our wedding many years ago.
It has been wonderful to rekindle our friendship and to get to know their 3 kiddos, Kaden, Rhys and Ava. Keira is loving having kid time. Ava and Keira are fast becoming good friends.
My brother Dale, his wife Marion and their two kids Jack and Charlotte also live on the Gold Coast. It has been wonderful to spend time with them also. We look forward to having many adventures together.
So our days have been spent organizing some essentials, and taking some much needed rest. Mike has already began working for his employers and clients in the USA. Walks along the beach, swimming in the pool or the ocean are becoming a part of our daily lives. No complaints here!!
We visited Rainbow Beach for a couple of days. It is about 4 hours drive further North. It was a bit of a shock driving into the town especially after the fast pace of the Gold Coast. It is very isolated and very quiet.
It was great visiting Keira's school. The Rainbow Beach State School has an enrollment of just 85 kids for the upcoming year!! The setting is great. Everyone n the community speaks so highly of the school and the kids that go there.
The region swells after Christmas with an influx of tourists. So it will be a bit of a contrast when we return there to live on January 6th.
So, so far so good. Everything is slowly falling into place.
Seeing Keira and Maddie playing on the beach makes all the craziness of moving all worthwhile.
CHRISTMAS AUSSIE STYLE:
Merry Christmas to everyone!! We will be having a warm weather Christmas this year!!
Below are a few pics from our Xmas morning, which we spent at the beach.
Moving back to Australia was always something we said we would do. Our parents had given up hope of our return after each 5 year period passed.
Now 25 years on, the time had come.
The USA has been our home base for 25 years. It has been not only our place of work, but where we found adventures, security, opportunity and most of all really good people who became our family.
Our journey in the USA began in 1993 when I, Marissa, took a contract as an Occupational Therapist in Florida. I was eager to travel but had no money to do so and needed more experience in my line of work. The USA was recruiting therapists to fill their demand, so I took the chance to travel to and live in another country. This meant parting with my family and Mike who I had been dating for 9 months. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and looking back I am not sure how I got on the plane.
Mike who couldn't live without me, followed me half way round the world (literally) 7 months later. That was some stalking range!!!
We spent 10 months in Florida, then moved to North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota and then found a way to New Mexico. New Mexico, "the land of enchantment", or as some people say "the land of entrapment". Either people fall in love with New Mexico or they hate it.
We fell in love with it. To describe New Mexico, I could use one word "diverse". Diverse in landscape, alpine forests to Lakes and high dessert; diverse in culture, from pueblo Indians, hispanics, alternative medicine communities and healers to scientists, artists, and people from all walks of life who have been born in New Mexico or who like us chose New Mexico for its diversity and alternative way of life.
New Mexico really was home. It was where we raised our amazing daughter Keira for 8 years.
As is our way of life, we worked for 1-2 years, saved our money and would take off for extended bouts of travel to various parts of the world. Each time we returned we thought about moving to another location but New Mexico and our family there drew us back in.
In the past year things shifted for us and Australia became a talking point. I won't lie, the current political situation in the USA had a lot to do with it. Also the fear that was so ever present. The school and other random shootings that were becoming a common occurrence were a real concern for us. When Keira at age 8 starting doing lock down drills at school for preparation in case of a school shooting, and we began thinking about escape routes at concerts, community events and even when at everyday places such as going to the bank, it was time to re-evaluate. I also found myself now justifying my presence in the USA. Making sure people knew that I had been in the USA for 25 years and that I am a citizen. There is only so many times that you can hear "Why are you still here, you have somewhere else to go?".
There is so much more I could say but I will stop there. The USA has been good for us and the people we have met and the interactions we have had have been truly amazing.It is and still will continue to be home for us.
We had an eventful last 2 years, with highlights being:
- a month long trip up the West Coast of the USA (see blog entry)
- getting our new family addition- Maddie
- a visit from Els and Gerrit our Dutch traveling companions
- many school events for Keira
- a trip in Maine with our Dutch family- Marco, Miranda, Maartje, Marijn, and Marjolein
- balloon festivals each October
- a visit from Mike's Aussie cousin Kim
- many events at Keira's school
- Keira homeschooling with Marsha
- many "nibble nights" and events with friends
- many camping trips
And our Halloween farewell party before we left, that was a blast!
I will include a few pics.here and see the gallery for additional ones. (you will need to scroll to the end in the gallery to find the USA pics but still working on gathering these)
Our journey back was an adventure in itself. The past 6-8 months before we left were spent planning and preparing. Moving half way across the world after living in a country for 25 years is no easy feat. Completing Maddie, our border collie's, quarantine requirements was certainly a challenge. Our local vet clinic was so supportive and helped us through the process.
We drove across country with our possessions in a rental truck and Maddie in tow. Not an easy task to drive a 16 foot truck in LA traffic!! Other challenges were finding pet friendly accommodation that had parking for such a vehicle, scrubbing our bicycles in the parking lot of the shipping warehouse (told that customs in Aussie would not let them through with any spec of dirt), and having a small glitch in Maddies paperwork even after being diligent and thorough. Each challenge we took on and we seemed to have people at each step who went the extra mile to help us out. Hotel staff that looked the other way and classified Maddie as a service dog; a truck driver that gave us supplies to clean our bikes and a government official vet that took the extra time to get our paperwork in order. Thank you to these people who did little things that meant so much!!
We sent Maddie ahead of us to start her 10 day quarantine in Australia. It was so hard saying good bye to her, knowing what she was about to go through and knowing some of the horror stories of pet travel. We were all on edge until we got word that she had arrived safely.
Disneyland and Universal studios kept us busy for the next 2 days. We had a great time and it was wonderful to have some family time after such a hectic 6 months.
Then the real challenges began.
We started our journey to Hawaii which was to be our stopover with a full afternoon to explore. An hour and a half into the flight the plane was turned around due to a malfunction in a generator. We arrived back in LA with rescue vehicles stationed along the tarmac with lights flashing. Fortunately we landed safely. Unfortunately we had a delay of about 6-7 hours before we could set off again, making for a long day of travel and no time in Hawaii to explore.
We awoke the next morning early to head to the airport for our morning flight to Australia. We were excited to surprise our parents who were unaware of our return. However this was not to be. The airline cancelled the flight due to grounded aircrafts and could not get us out for 5 days. Being stranded in Hawaii at any other time would have been great, but we just wanted to get back to Australia and weren't really in the exploring mood. Problem solving we were able to book ourselves on another flight with a stopover in Auckland for the night. All good!!
The following day we headed to Auckland airport promising Keira a visit to the beach when we got back and excited to be completing the last leg of our journey. And there it all went pear shaped again. I bent over at the baggage check in and my back went out. I tried to make it on the plane but the pain was excruciating and I was unable to get up and down without extreme pain and assistance. Paramedics were called and we decided to return to the hotel and seek out help from a physiotherapist to get my back in alignment again.
Our wonderful friend Genevieve came to our rescue again. Through a Skype call she was able to guide Mike through a treatment to help correct my alignment. (This task she has now performed in Argentina, Costa Rica and now New Zealand) A local physiotherapist also assisted. We got medical clearance for me to fly. Next hurdle overcome.
Calling the airlines we were told that it would cost us $1500 USD to change our flight. That was more than the original flight from Hawaii to Australia and we had already completed the longest leg of the journey. AHHHHHH!!! Problem solving again, we are able to get another flight with another airline for $900 NZD. We are still waiting for compensation from airlines and travel insurance.
Muscle relaxers and pain killers were my saviors on that flight and the airline staff were great. Mike and Keira were amazing and very patient.
The relief we felt when we finally landed was huge!!!
To all the people that helped us with this transition. There are too many to name individually but you know who you are.
Marsha- our everything!! You are amazing and were there every step of the way
Ashlee- Keira's person. Always there for all our milestones as well as all the everyday stuff
Nora, Mike and Francesca- for being our family, our friends and our support
Genevieve- your skills as a therapist are incredible; always there when I need you the most
Leif- the help packing meant so much
Mary, Daniel and Max- nibble nights won't be the same; thanks for all the daily support
Jesse and Breeze- for all the little and big things; party support, paper airplanes, and peas!!
Elizabeth and Tom- years of support and friendship;
Murphy: family and long term friendship; being there for the ups and downs
Sarah, Paul and James: thanks for assisting with Mikes motorcycle; thanks to James for being Keira's oldest friend
Jenn, Charlie Ann and Hayden: for daily support; and adding a little crazy!!
Hope to see you all in the Land Downunder!!
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.