Alyson from Wales met Australian James while on holiday in Egypt. After moving in together in London they travelled the world, had a D and a Boo, and have since set off on their second round the world trip – this time with the whole family in tow. In between they lived in Port Douglas. Alyson tell us more:
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I grew up in Newport, South Wales and moved to Cardiff after university. I moved to London almost 20 years ago and to Australia almost 7 years ago.
And what did you do there, then?
In Cardiff I was a medical laboratory scientist at University Hospital of Wales, I continued that career in London, initially in a private Harley St. hospital. I did a lot of temping in hospitals all over the capital before our first 12 month RTW. Temping paid much better than a permanent post and we saved the cash quickly. After we came back I settled into a permanent senior position and commenced raising cash through property renovation while we started a family.
And where are you all now?
We left our home in Australia 15 months ago and, at the moment, aren’t planning on going back. James took 11 months off work during phase one of our global travel adventure, but phase two, in London, sees him working full time to top up the travel fund. We will be back on the road in a few months.
How did you end up in Port Douglas?
Once the children were born it became obvious there was no way I was ever going to be OK with putting them in day care while I worked. I wanted to be with them full time and that was impossible in London with the enormous mortgage we were paying. I would have had to continue working full time just to support our fairly modest home. We knew that property prices were way lower in Australia and my husband has an Australian passport, making the visa process very easy. We had already backpacked all over Australia on our first RTW, we liked Cairns the best, so we headed there. En route to Australia we stopped for a few weeks in Africa where my husband did a phone interview and was offered a job at a resort in Port Douglas, so we ended up an hour north of Cairns instead.
Have you lived abroad before?
Yes, England, I’m Welsh!
Ha ha. I can relate, having done it in reverse. So what’s so good about Port Douglas?
We lived 5 minutes from Four Mile Beach, the perfect place for a dawn run or walk and a great playground for the kids. Port Douglas is one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, days out snorkelling and scuba diving were possible. Behind us was the Daintree Rainforest, we lived in a totally new tropical environment. We enjoyed learning about the plants and animals that were all around us. Giant green tree frogs, snakes, birds, spiders and crocodiles made life very interesting.
Our new home was vast with a double garage, aircon and pool, all new and interesting experiences at a fraction of London prices.
We enjoyed outdoor BBQs on our covered patio and the kids could play out on the street with neighbours, it was safe and crime was almost non-existent,
Gardening in the tropics was amazing, we grew bananas, passionfruit, limes and mangos. Nothing beats mowing the lawn and then jumping into your pool to cool off!
And what didn’t you like?
The weather gets hard to take after a while. The sun is insanely strong only 12 degrees south of the equator. We needed to stay out of the sun all year round. In summer it’s horribly hot and humid, although winters are very pleasant. We would do any outdoor activities at dawn or dusk to avoid the heat and sun, we became sun up-sun down people.
In summer we had the wet season, sometimes it would rain for days or weeks. There was the threat of cyclones, cyclone Yasi saw us evacuating to Sydney, but luckily that one was a near miss.
We were isolated up there and facilities were thin on the ground. It was very expensive and difficult to go anywhere, the nearest cinema was an hour away, largish museum 6 hours away, large airport 24 hours away. We were very dependent on cars, we never walked anywhere.
Did you feel like an insider or outsider?
Outsider, although most people in Port were from outside the region and few were even Australian, I didn’t fit in with the lifestyle. I’m too British and I missed London and all her facilities.
How did you support yourself?
My husband was executive Chef at a 5 star resort I was a stay at home mum, facepainter and now, professional travel blogger. (There are five other blogs in the family now, even the kids have their own blogs, it’s a good way to do “school” on the road).
Any advice for wannabe Port Douglans (I’m sure this is wrong. What do you call yourselves?)
Port Douglas residents I guess! It’s beautiful and extremely quiet and relaxed. If the tropical life in a laid back area sound like heaven, give it a go!
Do you have any plans to move back to Port Douglas?
We are now travelling full time with tenants in our Port Douglas house. We may go back soon, we may not, we have no fixed plans. We’re really enjoying the nomadic travel and, at the moment, loving being back in London.
Finally, tell us about something typically Port Douglas
There are two Port Douglas entertainments you should know about. Both take place every day and both are local institutions.
My favourite thing to do is visit a local waterside restaurant and bar around 4.30pm. We can watch the reef boats returning to the marina, enjoy some local prawns and watch them feed the giant Queensland gropers. You never saw a fish so big! I’ve a post about it on the blog, you should go take a look.
Another pastime I’m not such a fan of is the nightly cane toad racing in the Central Hotel. I’m not so keen on this one, toads have rights too, but it’s very popular with the backpackers.