Living and Working in the Tasmanian Wilderness


They say, “Good things come in small packages.” Does this saying also apply to living in small towns? Let me help you decide.

I currently reside in Strahan, an incredibly remote town on the west coast of Tasmania.  Out of busy season, it appears to have a population of less than 800. It is a tourist town, boasting its location next to Macquarie Harbor, and is filled to the brim with various accommodation choices.  I am here on a work and holiday visa from the United States, working in hospitality at one of the hotels.  Living in the wilderness has caused me to yell out “Civilization!” every time I make my way into the small city of Burnie, TAS, making me question, at times, how much I really enjoy living in such a small place.  It’s important to make a list of the pros and cons of an area you are unsure of, especially if you plan on living there for six months or more.  Keep reading for my own list of how to be “A small town girl” (or boy).

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone in Strahan

Are you a self-proclaimed city dweller? Or, are you most happy spending your days in areas with small amounts of people?  Do you love crowds?  Or, do you get severe anxiety when traffic or large groups of people threaten to trample you on their way past?  Either way, new experiences are good for you.  They are what help us learn, grow, and develop, even if they’re scary.

I grew up in a medium sized city, about an hour away from Boston.  There were times I loved having tons of people around, especially when it came to our famed Holiday Stroll in November each year.  Other times, I couldn’t wait to escape to a quieter place.  I consider myself generally an introvert, with lots of social interaction being fine at certain times of the day, normally later in the evening.  Talk to me in the early morning hours, and you may get nothing more than grunts.

When I came to Strahan, I didn’t have very much of an idea what I was getting myself into.  I was under the impression I wouldn’t have access to any stores, I would be swinging from vines for my main mode of transportation, and I would have to fly out in a helicopter if I needed to go to the grocery store. Luckily for me, the town is small, but not that small. I can walk to my job down the hill in ten minutes, five minutes to the grocery store, and about the same to go to West Strahan Beach.  Everything you need is at your fingertips.  Everything you want? Maybe not.  Do your research. Make sure you know if you have everything you need close by, because in a small town, you may not have many options.

Technical difficulties in the Middle of Nowhere

Literally.  With some extreme winding roads, some animal sightings, and a few hours to spare for a normal driver, you can reach some smaller cities in Tasmania.  Many locals wait for their monthly trip to Burnie to stock up on all of their goods and groceries, as the good stores are located there. Due to the remoteness of the town, the prices are jacked up for simple groceries, making it difficult to really keep a budget when buying necessities for living.  If you do not arrive with a car, make friends with those who do have one, and beg for their last available seat, offering to be the DJ during the ride.

Sometimes it feels like the rest of the world doesn’t really exist, or maybe I’ve been forgotten.  Don’t worry, phones work here, and so does the internet (usually).  Expect a slightly dodgy connection before you arrive in an area like this, and it won’t take you by surprise when your emails will not refresh for 12 hours.

The Scenery is Incredible 

I swear that living here has its perks.  Nature is beautiful.  It’s especially beautiful when it’s largely untouched by man.  Strahan and the surrounding areas have some of the most beautiful natural scenery that I have ever laid my eyes on.  We also get some of the most divine sunsets, and theres no better perch than the long stretches of beach we have here.  Waterfalls are gorgeous here, and so are the rainforest walks to accompany them.  You’ll find enough nature to satisfy you, and yet leave you wanting more.

I feel as if all the problems in the world disappear when I take a journey surrounded by unique creatures and interesting plants, quiet and peaceful.  You’ll have time to think.   That is the beauty of a small town.  Even during the very busy summer months for tourists, you’ll be able to find a quiet place to sit and think.  The hustle and bustle of the large city is just a distant memory, and instead you can find some solace for once, which is what we need every now and then.

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You Have to Make Your Own Fun

There are a surprising amount of activities available to you, even in a small town like Strahan, Tasmania.  Some cost money, but options such as sand boarding, kayaking, fishing are right at your fingertips when you live so close to the coast.  However, as my goal is to save as much money to travel for six months after my job in Strahan is finished for the season, I’d rather find free activities to do.  This can include taking walks, exercising, napping, etc.  It can get quite boring though, if you feel you have run out of things to do.

Alcohol is a problem in small towns, especially for the locals who have lived here for a much longer amount of time than my measly two months thus far, as they ran out of things to entertain themselves with fifteen years ago.  There are days going by our local pub, I see the same four men drinking away in between work.  I try to limit my pub time to once a week at the most, as I see too many people kiss their hard earned money bye-bye on alcohol and Keno games.  Hanging out with your newfound international friends can be free and alcohol-less, if you find a few board or card games, and simply enjoy each others company.  In conclusion, be careful what you spend your money on, because paying tourist prices for fun activities can really make your wallet feel a bit sad.

Everyone Will Know Your Business

“Joey kissed Susie at that beach 10 Kilometres away, did you hear? Yeah, happened thirty seconds ago!” It is amazing how news can travel so quickly, especially in an area where no one seems in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything at any other time.  Don’t be alarmed when the mother of your coworker’s brother-in-law is discussing your news in the next town over. Gossip is the favorite pastime of many.  This isn’t always bad.

If you’re struggling with something or need some help with really any life subject, chances are someone will know someone else who can get you in contact with the right person.  People are very helpful in these types of places, especially with international staff.  They understand we’re coming from a very different part of the world, most likely, and will need advice and local tips.  Just don’t be fooled by the classic local joke to scare you about the “Drop Bear.” I promise they don’t actually exist. Otherwise, locals are great for discovering special locations in town that you may not know about.

These are a few of the pros and cons of deciding to live in a very small town during your travels, based on my own experiences. Just do your research, and you can end up making a lot of new friends (and money) in a place you may otherwise have never considered.  Although, I may not be able to refrain from joyfully screeching “I made it through the wilderness! Somehow I made it through-ee-oo!” on the way out, just for good measure.

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