A Flexible Life

(Archived Article)

by N M Dyer

My husband and I just had to get away from it all just after we married 4 years ago. So we bought a cheap caravan, awning and got a few bits and pieces together and just went. At the time we were house sitting, so it was no pain to get away from it all.

We left with very little money, and decided our first port of call would be Holland. The drive through Belgium was a pain, but after a few weeks going around Holland, we decided to settle near den Haag, in a campsite in the middle of nowhere, which suited us just great. We had a car, so driving into Amsterdam was no problem. We just had to remember to stick to the right hand side, and learning to back a caravan into a space was a little more tricky, but fun all the same.

Costings are a little sketchy as it was so long ago, and I've done a thousand more adventurous things since then, like giving birth to two children. But in general, the campsite was 100 Guilders a week - obviously the euro will change this. We had to put a guilder in every morning to have a shower, and we were a good ten minute walk from the shower block. Using the loos in the middle of the night was none too pleasant - but a necessary evil once I fell pregnant.

We sought work in den Haag and Amsterdam, and kept being told that because we didn't speak Dutch that positions were limited. We found several companies in Holland that were purely English speaking, but all recruitment is handled through agencies, and despite my husbands managerial experience and my degree, about all we could get was cleaning offices and toilets, and working in a bread making factory at night. We earned good money, but we were told that without Dutch all our skills and qualifications were useless. But we earned loads, and spent very little, and soon had a yearning for some English.

Holland was great, in some respects a lot better than England, but we didn't speak their lingo and they resented speaking ours.

So we flew to Australia on working holiday visas. We arrived in Sydney, not knowing where we were going to stay or what we were going to do. But soon found a hostel in the Central Business District (70 something Elizabeth Street). It was basic, and we had to enter into a 6 week contract. But Orm and Maureen were great. A lovely couple, and Nigel even got offered a business deal and job by Orm near the end of our stay with them. But we foolishly turned him down. Something we'll always regret.

We joined an agency - Choice Personnel Selection in the CBD, very near us, and soon landed jobs in the Sydney Office of State Revenue as cashiers (Temporary). For the rest of our stay we continued to work there. We were netting about $4000 between us working there a month, after taxes handled by a company called freespirit. Just before we left Aus we heard this was being stopped and that travellers would have to pay more tax. Being pregnant in Aus was great - the healthcare was brilliant and the midwifes and childbirth teachers fantastic. I seem to remember my hospital was the King George V in Sydney. We used to go to a great cafe in Newtown once a month and then onto my appointment at the hospital for a monthly and eventually bi-weekly check-up.

With the birth of baby number one imminent we decided to return home to England - again a decision we'll always regret. We didn't realise it at the time, but we'd been given the name of a contact that could have helped us stay there, but we only found this out after our return to the UK.

Two weeks later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl weighing in at a healthy 6 Ib 5 oz. I'm glad we decided to have an adventure before we had our children - because for some time your whole life gets put on hold once kids arrive. But we love them dearly. And never regret having them. 

This is an archived article and some details may have changed since this article was first published