Chapter Eighteen - Living Like a Local
My Mum always says, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.
My sister and I were brought up to believe whenever we left the house, we needed to wear make-up. My mum grew up on the Northern Beaches, spent her weekends surfing and didn’t move to the Eastern Suburbs until she met my father.
That phrase, coming from her and knowing her background seems out of character, almost ridiculous.
But to my mum’s horror, I haven’t streaked my blonde tresses for over 7 months, nor do I wear makeup daily. I’m lucky if I put it on once a month. The Outback isn’t like that. It’s the least superficial place I have ever been.
There is no pretentiousness of Sydney, people are friendly and welcoming and there is no such thing as an hour and half wait for a table for dinner or being turned away from an establishment for wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes.
Instead we make dinner reservations on our way to the restaurant, wear thongs to our local pub and grow our hair long and wild.
We fashion our ‘desert tans’ instead of fake tan and wear clothes from Vinnies instead of shopping on Gould Street in Bondi.
These days, I spend most of my time in Alice Springs cafés. I have cut down on my hours with Intrepid to focus on other exciting creative projects.
From Wine to Beer and Much More
Recently, one of my Editors asked me what I have learnt from living in the Outback. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the last 7 months.
I never used to drink beer, eat kangaroo or drive a manual car. But living in Alice Springs, has changed me. I’ve learnt more in the desert than I could have imagined. With each day, comes a new experience.
It’s strange for me to like beer more than I enjoy a glass of red wine. Too many calories and just not that appealing. But, here in the desert, anything goes.
Especially when it’s a sweltering hot day. Nothing goes down like an ice-cold beer.
I often walk into Alice Lodge and bump into friends that invite me over to their caravans and we crack open a couple of beers.
Other new things I’ve picked up include how to invest in aboriginal art ethically. I had to do a fair bit of research on this one, as I had only ever been gifted Aboriginal art.
I’ve been very interested in Aboriginal art in Central Australia since I arrived. Partly because it is everywhere and also because I have friends that work in the art world in Alice.
The best place to buy original art is at the community arts centres. Try and avoid art galleries in touristy areas as the artists might not see some of that money.
If you can’t afford art, that’s ok, you can still have a piece of it by buying merchandise with indigenous patterns on it. The prints have been licensed to especially appear on merchandise so the artist receives funds from the purchase.
Finally, always get a certificate of authentication, usually this will include a picture of the artist painting.
Central Australia is an incredible place and if you do come visit, definitely try and take a piece of it home with you.
Living Like a Local
They say, if you've seen the Todd River ‘flow’ more than three times in Alice Springs, then you're officially classified as a local.
I’m not there yet, You really have to earn your stipes before you become an Alice Spring local.
The ephemeral river weaves its way through the arid landscape of the town. On an ordinary day in Alice, the river has zero levels of flow. Instead, sitting on the dusty earth and relaxing under the shade of a ghost gum are a myriad of locals.
I believe, Alice Springs is Australia’s best kept secret. On average, tourists stay for 1.4 days, which isn’t enough time to explore The Red Centre’s “Hidden Gems”.
If you’re ever in the desert and more specifically Alice Springs, make sure you live like a local and immerse yourself in the culture, the people and the landscape.