In my time here in Australia I have met a lot of people; a lot of people like me. Here to experience the ‘Australian dream’ for a year or two. But ask them ‘why’ and you are usually left with the fairly standard reply of ‘because I’m young enough to get a working holiday visa so thought ‘why not’?’. You don’t tend to get a very profound answer. And so, I wanted to confess to my, rather unusual, source of inspiration that had me apply for a visa and fly to the other side of the world away from everyone I knew.
You see, I never wanted to come to Australia. When it came to working holiday visas, I planned on heading straight to New Zealand. Why? Because I’d heard that Australia was party-central and I didn’t want that. I wanted the serene beauty but with few people and lots of space. But then in 2011, a few months before going to Africa, I discovered a TV programme and my Australian dream began.
It wasn’t Neighbours or even Home and Away despite the breathtaking scenery in the latter but a lesser known (though one with a quiet cult-like status) show called Bondi Rescue that began my dream and ignited my desire to experience Australia. For anyone that hasn’t heard about the programme, it’s a reality documentary where, every Summer season, cameras follow the every day occurences and incidents of the famous Bondi lifeguards and its beach inhabitants.
I imagine you’re thinking that I came to Australia in the hopes that I would ‘bag myself a lifeguard’, in which case, you are sorely mistaken. You see, whilst I did come to Australia because of the lifeguards, it wasn’t because I wanted them but because of everything that they embodied.
For anyone that doesn’t know about Bondi beach, it can command up to 40,000 rescues in a year.
For those 40,000 people that need rescuing annually, there is a tiny team of men and women who are in charge of saving your life, should you need it. Their job, and your life, can ultimately come down to how fit the person rescuing you is. However, their physique is not for vanity but for your benefit.
And yet, many of the lifeguards extend their fitness beyond the workplace. They practice yoga and meditation, teach personal training sessions at the gym or enter triathalons all over the world. They are fit and healthy, not just because they have to be but because they see it as an absolute way of life and after years of not caring enough about myself to look after my body from the inside out, I wanted to use them as inspiration to get fitter and healthier.
You can’t fail to notice that the lifeguards aren’t just colleagues but friends on a very deep level. They are there for each other, just not because they have to be but because they want to be. When there’s a boring day (which I’m sure they’re grateful for), they laugh with each other and at each other and when they lose someone, they are on the phone to see how each other is coping. They train together, celebrate life together and make mistakes together just as good friends should but the fact that they also work together just seems to make their friendships that much sweeter and I wanted that.
I wanted to be able to say that I had a great social network full of friends that love and support me. To know that, no matter what achievements or struggles I may face, they were there cheering me on.
No matter what the beach and its people throw at the lifeguards, they never fail to stay positive and enjoy life. They are beacons of strength and I am not afraid to say that after years of struggling with depression, I wanted to be able to say that I loved my life too. That I woke up in the morning and loved where I was and what I was doing. Who doesn’t want to be able to say that??
Aside from the job, they simply love to be in the water. Some of them started their water careers on surfboards before it was even considered a sport. Most of them haven’t lived far from Bondi their entire lives and for them, the little oceanic suburb on the East Coast of Sydney isn’t just a home, it’s an institution.
And so, I bought a one way ticket in the hopes that I could be part of the Australian dream they so lovingly (and probably unknowingly) promoted.
I wanted to be able to be fit and healthy, like my job, have good friends and, as a result, love my life and so I came to Australia to chase the dream. I wanted a chance to experience what they had and I’m incredibly lucky to say that I have despite needing their help when I was ill last year but that’s another story for another time.