After spending the majority of our time exploring Australia’s more tourist-oriented spots we decided it was time to mix things up a little bit. As anyone who has traveled for more than a week will know – museums, gardens and ‘can’t miss’ spots lose their luster rather quickly having been immersed in them for long enough.
Fortunately for long-term travelers there’s a really cool option to get out of the mainstream called HelpX. It’s a program where you link up with locals in whatever area you happen to be in and exchange your help for accommodation and meals – a pretty good deal for poor travelers!
I had done one while traveling Europe and had an amazing experience so we thought we’d give it a try in Oz!
After some searching we came across a listing that really piqued our interest – the reviews from previous helpers were stellar, the description was extremely detailed, the pictures looked great and they had a pool! So after some messages exchanged we found that they needed help immediately so we signed up and arranged for a 10 day stay.
The family was located in Mullumbimby, a small town just north of backpacker haven Byron Bay. We arrived via bus to nearby town Brunswick Heads from Gold Coast (fresh off holding koalas) and were greeted by our host Heather who instead of shuttling us off immediately to the house decided to give us a walking tour of the area. We felt immediately that to Heather and her family this wasn’t going to be completely about work – they were going to make sure we enjoy our stay. This feeling proved spot on.
After a 20 minute car ride we arrived at their property which is nestled beautifully in the hills above downtown Mullumbimby. The developed portion of the property spreads over about 4 acres with the majority being undeveloped bush i.e. thick, thick forest.
We were introduced to Heather’s husband, Chris and shortly thereafter their 13 year old son, Nim – who is without a doubt one of the most entertaining human beings I have ever come across.
Over the course of our stay Nim treated us to countless improvised songs, side-splitting performances with his alcoholic puppet and several free kung fu lessons.
He was also nice enough to let us beat him in Balderdash (a game which he routinely smashes competition of any age) but was ruthless when it came to the Nerf gun wars which roared between the living and reading rooms the last few days (the small gun is the best for the record – and pillows are cheating NIM).
I digress – back to our stay!
We had our own cozy room just down the hill from the main house looking directly into the beautiful bushland which, each morning, had us wake to a cool forest breeze and a chorus of kookaburras. Not a bad way to start each day.
So we’d wake each morning and meander up to the house where I’d brew up a cup of delicious locally-made coffee and Jenna would make her tea. We’d then grab a book (one of hundreds available of their extensive book shelf) and settle down for a couple hours of in what quickly became my favorite 20 square feet on the property – the reading room.
It was in this room that I read some books and had some discussions that have since had a profound impact on my view of the world – and Jenna’s as well – which is why I think after just 10 days I consider it such a special place.
I think the reason for this has less to do with the room (albeit a beautiful room!) and more to do with Chris & Heather both being extremely intelligent, open-minded individuals with a lot of experience and residual wisdom.
That or maybe it was just the good coffee 😉
But once our relaxation time was done it was time to get to work!
Our duties ranged from weeding Heather’s extensive vegetable garden to painting Chris’ new ‘RV Cabin’ to clearing a citrus tree bed to pretty much any other landscape-related task they could find for us. We encountered more the largest array of insect life I have ever encountered – spiders, grubs, scorpions, beetles you name it!
Heather insisted that we always wear gloves as more than one of the aforementioned creepy crawlers had the ability to inflict some serious damage if it got ahold of your bare skin – fortunately we never got to find out which ones they were.
It was certainly tough work at times but at no point was it because of our hosts – if anything they were telling us to ‘chill out!’ and not work so hard. Here are some snaps of the work…and one of a huge spider.
After completing our work each day we were welcomed in by another coffee (pretty sure I went through about $100 worth of coffee – sorry Chris!), some more time in the reading room and ultimately sat down to a fabulous (usually vegetarian) feast prepared by Heather.
We would then either be challenged by Nim to an aforementioned Nerf war or solved the worlds problems with Chris & Heather over some after dinner wine.
With all this said, it shouldn’t be hard to believe that our time here flew by – our 10 days were up before we knew it and the time had come to say goodbye.
But as sad as it was to leave, both Jenna and I are so grateful to be able to call these three amazing people our friends and look forward to staying in touch as we all continue forward on our journeys.
Thanks again for an amazing 10 days in Mullumbimby!