Fringe benefits in the bush

THE COMMUTE: In four years of commuting to Melbourne, there was a third of a year wasted on one of these things.

THE COMMUTE: In four years of commuting to Melbourne, there was a third of a year wasted on one of these things.

“EVERYTHING costs more in the country.”



It is a bald statement, which can come out of people’s mouths like an insult, although sometimes there are very good reasons for saying it.

I have lived in the country for most of life.

When I was a kid on the farm, sure I had no say in it, I was far too busy having fun for the most part.

Dad still says I spent most my time hanging around the kitchen waiting for my next feed – I still love my tucker.

Even in later life as I moved around trying to avoid hard work (like farming) and pursued a writing career, I mostly chose to stay in the bush.

While I recognise there’s a trade-off in some respects, I reckon the bad is far outweighed by the good.

Like, if I lived in Somalia, I’d assume a bag of carrots would cost a little more than what Woolies can offer here in Katherine.

But sure, if you like, petrol is dearer here, lots of consumables are, there’s less choice on the style of sandals for sale, clothes and lots of stuff like that.

But there’s an upside, lots of upsides, if you choose to think about it.

It was a subject, country versus city, I used to think about deeply for about three hours each day, that’s how long I used to spend on the train.

Five days a week, 48 weeks of a year, for about four years in the last stint.

Let’s do the math (where’s the calculator) that’s 2880 hours, or (divide by 24), 120 days of my life, pretty close to a third of a year squeezed next to strangers who were so intent on their mobile devices they were quite intent on staying strangers.

Up until a month ago, that’s how much time a day, or week, or year, I used to spend on the train getting to work. The life of a commuter.

Because I chose to live in the country, I had to travel to Melbourne each day.

Wake, drive to the station (about 5-10 minutes), diesel train, if it was on time, bit over an hour to Southern Cross.

Then across to another platform for an electric train to Flinders Street, possible 5-10 minutes, a brisk walk across the Yarra River to Southgate, and the lift up the nine floors to the newspaper office. And back each night.

Here, I arise, enjoy a leisurely coffee listening to the bird chatter and I’m at work in five minutes flat, maybe even less.

It is just one thing on the plus side of the ledger when you divvy up how much it costs to live in the country.