Picture the scene.
We’re in Chiang Mai and it’s the 2016 Songkran Festival. People are outside obliterating each other with water pistols. Kids are laughing. Blues musicians are playing their hearts out … and there I am sat down with my MacBook preparing to interview the amazing Johannes Voelkner.
Well because he’s the founder of the first ever floating-tech-hub for digital nomads the Nomad Cruise!
“If you take small steps, eventually you will progress faster.” – Johannes Voelkner
- The top spots for digital nomads [02.00]
- The start of Johannes Nomad Journey [03:15]
- The rabbit hole of online marketing [06:15]
- Studying in Cape Town [08:10]
- How difficult is it to become a digital nomad? [12:15]
- The birth of Web Work Travel [14:15]
- Nomad Cruise! The coolest thing ever? [22:00]
- Life on the Nomad Cruise [29:05]
- A pre-cruise vacation [37:00]
Nomad Cruise Talking Points:
- Springwise – New business ideas and innovations just for you
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- Ever fancied studying in Cape Town?
- The guy who coined the term Digital Nomad – Cody McKibben
- Grab your free copy of Johannes ebook from WebWorkTravel
- Check out the Love Affair Travel episode with Fabian Dittrich
- Watch the video and Travel the World with Digital Nomads on the Nomad Cruise
- Join the WebWorkTravel Facebook Group
- Connect with Johannes Voelkner on Facebook
Get yourself booked on the NEXT Nomad Cruise before 28th April and get a €50 DISCOUNT simply by mentioning Love Affair Travel when booking.
If you flew to Panama with a lot of debt, a little cash, no experience and nothing but a plan to make money online, would you still play it cool?
A common theme of this podcast is to explore transition. No one gives permission to do this stuff. It takes a leap of faith to make it happen. I love to ask how the most successful people made it happen.
My guest today is Chris Hughes (@whosChrisHughes). We met at KoHub one night. I dive into that story in the podcast.
Lots of people say that building a business is like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane before you hit the ground. For Chris, that plane was a Duck Dynasty Facebook fan page. Duck Dynasty caught him before he hit the dirt. He’s still flying. It’s a crazy story.
“Do the stuff you’re supposed too, before you do the stuff you want too.” – Chris Hughes
- How Chris almost killed his friend [02:20]
- Starting a life of travel [02:40]
- The viral power of Duck Dynasty [03:35]
- Using a Facebook Fan Page to buy a margarita [06:50]
- Valet-parking cars for Orlando Magic [10:45]
- Refusing job opportunities to keep your freedom [14:10]
- Learning how to make money online [16:05]
- On completing college for your parents [18:03]
- Burning your ships and making the leap [22:38]
- Being smart with your money [23:20]
- Juggling for video games [25:20]
- The benefits of Capitalism [29:05]
- Leaving the surfing haven of Costa Rica [30:35]
- Building systems for your business [33:30]
- Making business work on Facebook [35:50]
Chris Hughes Talking Points:
- Learn about the show Duck Dynasty which inspired Chris’s first business
- Like Chris’s fan page to see his work in action Duck Dynasty Fan Club
- Learn more about Peerfly the affiliate network
- Use Bit.ly to make shorter links
- Learn more about ClickBank – A marketplace for digital products
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Learn more about Nick Anderson
- No B.S. Direct Marketing by Dan S. Kennedy
- Connect with Chris Hughes:
- Innocence by SVDKO
What was your last important life transition?
This is a review of Dirtride Lanta. Dirtride Lanta operates from a small shop on the west side of Koh Lanta Yai. It’s run by Shade (Shadow?) who is an excellent motorcyclist and offers really fun, fast tours of both Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai in a single morning. We had an amazing time.
How to Do Dirtride Lanta
Connect with Shade via Facebook. He has a phone in his pocket and responds quickly and effectively. It’s probably him so be respectful from the start for best results.
When you book Dirtride Lanta, here’s what to expect:
What to wear when you drive to the office
Make sure you wear your own underwear and socks.
You will be provided with all the gear you need. That includes:
- Long sleeve shirt
- Dirtbike pants
- Motorcycle boots
- Really cool gloves
- Motocross Helmet
- Motocross Goggles
You could show up wearing nothing but underwear and socks if you wanted.
That said, please wear pants. Unless you are particularly good-looking. Then wear underwear and socks.
Is this really dangerous?
Shade will take you as fast as you want. Of course, he doesn’t pressure you to go faster. You can and should go at your own speed.
I have moderate motorcycle experience. He must have been able to identify that we aren’t motocross experts because he just rode a small scooter while showing us around. Even though I was on a Honda CRF250L motocross bike, I couldn’t keep up with him when he hit the accelerator. He is bloody fast.
So if you’re an expert, you’ll have a blast.
That said, he’s super nice and accommodating. If you’re a rookie, just take it at your own speed and have a blast.
A Note of What to Eat
Eat a solid breakfast before arriving in the morning. That day I did bacon, eggs and ham at Living Room Cafe which was excellent and fast.
When returning from the trip, you’ll be hungry. Shade and his family do a home cooked meal for the riders.
It’s phenomenal. His wife is an excellent cook. You’ll love it.
I didn’t even bring snacks. Feel free to do so, but a backpack will be a hinderance. You probably don’t need one. We were on the road the whole time having way too much fun to slow down and snack. I’m happy I brought nothing but underwear and socks (and the GoPro).
Other Details of Dirtride Lanta
If you want to film, just bring a bulletproof camera. An iPhone/Samsung will be good, but you won’t want to be holding it while driving. If you do a GoPro, connect it to the handle bars so you can adjust the angle as you drive.
It’s really, really fun. Have a blast.
In 2015 V (Veronica) and I ran an internet business which empowered us to spend the whole year island hopping in the Caribbean and driving across the United States.
During that time we took a boat from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, flew to Miami, drove to New Orleans, New York, Canada, Detroit, Chicago, Yellowstone National Park, British Colombia and down to Reno, Nevada.
V graces the show with her presence today. Unaware this is about to go down, until I shove a microphone in her face, she’s a willing participant. The aim is for her to help me tell this story. We have alot of fun reminiscing. This was the best year of my life and I’m deeply grateful to share this story.
Note: This is an enhanced podcast so while you listen on your iPhone (subscribe to the podcast) you can see images on the screen.
Cross Country Links Mentioned:
- Going to Cabarete, Dominican Republic? Check out Rogue Fitness
- Want to learn about the best podcast production services in the world?
- CrossFit Langnappe
- Listen to Rebirth Brass Band
- New Orleans Drive Through Daiquiris
- New Orleans Movie
- Flat Tire in Mississippi Movie
- Alabama Was Quite the Surprise Movie
- Learn more about the Mennonite Communities in Virginia
- Harrisonburg Movie with Caitlin
- Washington DC movie
- Biking the Circumference of Manhattan
- Keys Locked in the Car in Upstate New York Movie
- Learn more about Bradley Will and Gabe Strom
- Freedom Podcasting Meetup in Chicago
- Yellowstone National Park and Jenny Lake movie
- Guy on a Buffalo – Hilarious Movie
- Learn more about Frank’s slide
- Learn more about the Hark Raving Sirens, an excellent 3 girl band in Fernie, B.C, Canada
- Canada Road Trip Movie
- Watch the Craters of the Moon Video
Cross Country Talking Points:
- Introducing V [0:28]
- Why Live in Dominican Republic [0:46]
- Taking a Ferry from the Dominican Republic for Puerto Rico [1:37]
- On moving to Rincon, Puerto Rico [2:35]
- How we flew to Miami, bought a car and drove across the USA [4:44]
- Thoughts on living in New Orleans, Louisiana for a month [7:23]
- On the drive from New Orleans to New Jersey [11:02]
- Hanging with the Mennonite Communities in Harrisonburg, Virginia [12:16]
- Veronica’s mixed experience with Washington DC [15:00]
- House sitting in beautiful Livingston, New Jersey [17:03]
- How we lived in Brooklyn for a month with no accommodation expense [18:20]
- Explaining how we make money to afford this travel lifestyle [20:14]
- Leaving New York City to drive North – Disaster strikes! [20:45]
- Driving across the midwest and into the North West United States [24:22]
- The decision to drive to Canada on the fly [25:58]
- The buffalo encounter [26:53]
- RVing around British Columbia, Canada [28:36]
- Driving from Glacier National Park to Reno, Nevada [30:24]
- The overall experience of road tripping across the USA as digital nomads [32:02]
- Hangman by Cadillac Sky
When was your last road trip? Where did you go? How did you fund it?
Welcome back to the show everyone.
Today I’m talking to the brains and mastermind behind KoHub – the tropical coworking space in Koh Lanta – James Abbot.
James was a digital nomad before there was even a name for it. He used to divide his time between programming remotely using his collection of 3G sim cards, exploring undiscovered scuba diving spots, and sailing around South East Asia on the boat he lived on!
Since then James has traded in his life of perpetual travel, sold his boat, and now spends his time building a community within his coworking space along the Andaman sea.
- Feeling like something is missing [03:11]
- Asking the boss if you can take a year off [03:49]
- Selling all of your stuff [04:00]
- Are workers who live the nomadic lifestyle happier? [07:00]
- Is digital nomadism a movement or industry? [10:45]
- The need to run a coworking space as a business first [11:45]
- Making Thailand your home [15:00]
- The Coworking Unconference Asia (CUASIA) [16:25]
- The growing number of digital nomads in South East Asia [17:45]
- Working from a boat with 3G [20:00]
- Cabin Fever! [23:45]
- Rekindling the love of diving [25:00]
- Why James sold his boat [29:00]
- The sustainability of living on a boat [30:00]
- The trials and tribulations of visas [31:00]
- Organizing the weekly beach cleanup [37:00]
- Traveling vicariously through the stories of the people you meet [40:00]
- The difficulties with finding staff in Thailand [42:00]
- The philosophy of the risk-taker [46:00]
James Abbot Talking Points:
- The Coworking Unconference Asia
- Connect with James and KoHub:
Have you ever thought about moving your life to Thailand?
Marcus Meurer and I have businesses that don’t involve location requirements. That empowers us and people like us to live in a new city every 1-3 months. It’s great for individual freedom, but what about community?
Marcus Meurer is the mind behind a lot of companies. He is now focused on the problem of community for the digital nomads. He is one of the founders of DNX, a co-working organization which sets up events, camps and a lot more for all these digital nomads scattered like glitter across the earth.
I met him on the island of Koh Lanta on the Andaman Sea side of Thailand. He was leading DNX Camp at the time and graciously offered a bit of his time to share with us how he is supporting the digital nomad community.
“Getting the first client and getting the first bill paid changed everything for me.” – Marcus Meurer (Tweet It)
Welcome back to the show everyone.
Some of you may have noticed that Love Affair Travel got knocked out by a team of Chinese, Russian, Myanmarian hackers. It was a nightmare. The good news is, we’re back better than ever. The site loads faster, is more secure and just looks better. We’ve even added forums. My hope is that I can be of assistance to those who are listening to this show.
Just to catch you up, V and I have moved to a small island on the western coast of Thailand in the Andaman sea. It’s called Koh Lanta and we’re not alone here.
There is a large group of Digital Nomads here and one sect of them is the DNX camp headed by Marcus Meurer and his girlfriend.
In this podcast we discuss the nature of the digital nomad community, how it’s growing and what we can do to make the scene more vibrant for those new entrants.
Marcus Meurer Talking Points:
- Working with other digital nomads
- Transitioning from the 9-5 into the nomad lifestyle
- The challenges of building and working with remote teams
- On removing the barriers that you create when the business needs you to grow
- What is Freedom Podcasting and what do we do?
- Exploring loneliness, a significant challenge for digital nomads
- Co-working and how to create a hub for the modern workforce
- DNX Global
- DNX Camp
- DNX Hub
- Professional Podcast Production, Editing & Blueprint Course on Udemy
- Tropical MBA Podcast
- Tropical MBA – A Framework for Hiring and Managing Employees
- The School Of Greatness Podcast
- Seth Godin’s Start Up School
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- Connect with Marcus Meurer:
“Sometimes you have to NOT make a science out of everything. Get started and get the content out there.” – Marcus Meurer (Tweet It)
How to think about community?
Here is the interview on The Changelog:
I wanted to hear him on The Changelog for a programmer focused conversation. His interview with Tim was great, but it didn’t address WordPress technology specifically. As WordPress is the dominant content management system (CMS) for most of our podcast production clients, it’s important that I stay up to date on what’s happening.
Here is his interview with Tim:
At the end of the Changelog podcast, Matt suggests George Orwell’s Politics and the English language.
If Matt says that is required reading, I’ll take the advice. Here are my notes:
Notes on Politics and the English Language
George Orwell is a great writer. His essay on killing an elephant was one of the most memorable in my life. I’m reminded of it immediately upon starting another of his essays.
To Orwell, the problems that appear in written language are symptomatic of mental vices which affect everyone. He opens with a description of his modern written environment. It sounds honest and subjective.
To take apart bad writing, Orwell provides a numbered list of examples of bad writing. I’ll provide a list of my own reactions to the passages. I can later cross reference my initial thoughts with what Orwell says about them:
- Lots of useless wording and double negatives
- Lots of colloquialisms
- I honestly don’t know what this example is about
- Big words when little words would do better
- Again. Hard to understand, big silly words and unclear thoughts
Ok so now Orwell defines why these passages are bad. He says there are 2 qualities that effect them all:
- Staleness of Imagery
- Lack of Precision
These manifest in the following ways:
- Dying metaphors
- Operators or verbal false limbs
- Pretentious diction
- Marxist writing
- Meaningless words
I love Orwells imagery. “..a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them.” When reading this, I see what he sees.
He talks about the epistemology of words. Examples being using myosotis instead of “forget-me-not” to name a flower. Greek words sound scientific so the writer gets high class points… but they aren’t saying anything more than the guy who buy’s some “forget-me-not’s” for his girlfriend.
Another crime of language for Orwell: Naming without calling up mental pictures. “Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.” We do this today in America. Fighting terrorism is, in reality, a flying robot dropping explosives on illiterate village dwellers who hardly have access to electricity.
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” – George Orwell
“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” – George Orwell
“What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around.” – George Orwell
Rules to rely on when instinct fails:
- Don’t use metaphors, smilies or figures of speech when you know them from print
- Don’t use long words when short words will do
- When a word can be cut, cut it
- Don’t use passive tense when active tense is possible
- If you can think of everyday words, use them. Don’t purposely replace everyday words with scientific or foreign ones
- Break these rules before saying anything barbarous
Orwell wants us to think of language as an instrument of expressing (not concealing) thought.
This is probably the best article I’ve ever read in terms of what makes good writing good.
That term still is impossible to define for me. What is ‘good writing’?
Two books come up for me when asking this question. The first is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This book has plenty of examples of bad writing, but I think it says something valuable about the connection of art and utility.
The second is Stephen King’s book On Writing. I feel like this letter from Orwell is the shorter version of On Writing. If you can read On Writing, do it. If you won’t budget the time, this Orwell letter will do a good job.
We took the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train in February 2016. Overall, it’s a great experience. I don’t know that I would do it again, as flying is just sooooo much quicker and easier. That being said, it’s fun to ride a train halfway across Thailand. If you’re not in a rush to get to your next destination then this is a great way to travel. The time we had on the train was well spent and the countryside is beautiful. Sometimes the slower, less direct routes are often the more memorable and exciting ones. Life is all about adventures. Right?
Booking the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train
Enter V. She did all the research before getting the ticket. Indeed, if it were up to me (Ian) we would have never of made the train. Apparently some people plan to take this train months in advance, especially during the peak season. Wow.
Originally we wanted to take the 3:30pm Express Train No. 52 to Bangkok because we wanted to enjoy the scenery, and have a fan with open windows (s 2nd class sleeper), rather than air-conditioning. Alas, it was fully booked and we were unable to get tickets. We had left it too late. Instead we managed to secure last minute train tickets (the day before departure) for the 5pm Special Express Train No. 14 to Bangkok. We booked an S 2nd class sleeper, which is a fully air-conditioned sleeper train. V was worried it would be cold (she’d read a bunch of online reviews about it being cold and unpleasant), however we were pleasantly surprised that the temperature was perfect. We were happy and warm the entire train ride. Our tickets were only 881 Baht per person = $25 USD per person for a 12 hour overnight train ride.
The Story of the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train Experience
We start out at a great wifi cafe called Rosabieng Restaurant. It’s pretty much directly across the road from the Chiang Mai train station on Rotfai Alley. If you get to the station early, there’s plenty of sweet spots along Rotfai to chill out at and bide some time.
We walk into the train station and V breaks down how the process of getting a last minute train ticket works. Hint: it’s not super easy in the peak season (November – February and/or ‘Peak Periods’ like Public/National holidays, Festivals, weekend travel (Friday-Monday) or even ‘Commuter Rush Hour’). Many people plan a long time in advance before taking this train during these months. as these are the most popular routes. If you’re late in buying your ticket (like us) V provides a game plan.
Then we board the train and enjoy the trip. It’s fun. V wanted to eat in the restaurant car, but the lady pressured her into having us buy our food from our seats. She was a little perturbed until she investigated the rest of the train and learned that the food in the restaurant car was the same as what we were served in our seats. Yes. Happy travelers!
The attendant comes around and takes your order at the beginning of the train ride, and your meal is delivered to your seat around 7pm. Beware that food is separate and not included in the price of the train ticket. It’s also more expensive than the usual Thai meal, so if you have a chance I recommend you eat before you get on the overnight sleeper. I’m not going to lie, V and I both thought the food was very average. So buy your food beforehand!
Next, the train crew come around to put everyone to sleep early, around 8pm. They start from the top end of the car and work their way to the end of the car in a swift, orderly manner. You have to move out of your seat to let the attendant do their thing. They stash the table away under a side compartment, then your seats folds out to make the lower berth, lastly they fold out an upper berth from the ceiling. We both got the lower berths which worked out great, they are slightly more expensive however much more comfortable than the upper berth. They had more room (if you’ve got valuables you can even store them at the foot of your bed for peace of mind), no ceiling lights bothering you (which never go out), and you’re further away from the air conditioner, so it was a warm and pleasant sleep. Well worth the few extra bucks.
I needed to stay up late working on videos so the Thai train attendant set up beds for everyone else but me. He gave up in the end. If you’re like me and always have work to do, especially on long road trips, then stick to your guns. I did and I got exactly what I wanted; a long train ride to get stuck into editing. I stayed up late making the Nomad Summit video and the Nomad Summit Day video. We actually bought our train tickets on the morning of the Nomad Summit Day video, so if you’re interested in seeing how that went down, check out that video too.
I think it was complete luck that we were sat right next to a power socket (outlet). We didn’t do a completely thorough search of the train, but by the looks of things there aren’t many power sockets on these overnight sleepers. So if you have important online work to do and you need your electronics, then this might be quite the challenge and you may want to rethink this travel option.
If this is important to you, I would recommend that you ask the Thai Railways customer service operator (before purchasing your ticket) if your train has power sockets (and ask if you can be seated next to one). Also, if you need wifi during this trip, good luck. It’s super patchy and pretty much non-existent for majority of the trip. If you have an unlocked cell phone I recommend purchasing a prepaid sim card upon arrival to Thailand (True, 650B = $35 USD/month, Unlimited data) which allows you to tether off your phone and in this situation use the train as an office. If you have an online business I recommend doing this so you’re never left high and dry.
At the crack of dawn you’re woken up by the train attendants. We were the last ones asleep and probably the last ones up. They start packing away beds (in the same manner as setting them up) so that majority, or all of them, are returned to seats and ready for new passengers who will board the train when it arrives to the Bangkok train station.
We say goodbye to our new friends from the UK at a town just North of Bangkok. (I always love meeting new people and making new friends in random places – Thanks for the interesting conversations Chris and Stu!). Then V and I jump off the train prematurely (one stop before Bangkok Station) because we realize that it’s quicker if we bail here to get to our hotel. It’s a bit unexpected, but it was a success.
Our story of Chiang Mai to Bangkok train ride comes to a close as we wave the train goodbye and V bargains with a Bangkok Tuk Tuk driver (they know how to hustle in BKK) to take us to our hotel. But that’s another story altogether.
Please Subscribe to this channel if you liked this blog and video.
3 Helpful Tips to Book a Chiang Mai to Bangkok Sleeper Train (last minute, during Peak Season):
- In-person at any train station – This is the most efficient way, avoiding any extra fees. The SRT has tried to make ‘Advance Booking’ as easy as possible especially for popular destinations and busy periods. In fact, you can book tickets up to 60 days ahead at stations, and up to 30 days ahead online. It’s recommended to book as far in advance as possible for these ‘Popular Routes’ or during these ‘Peak Periods’. You should book at least a week ahead for ‘Popular Routes’ leaving from Bangkok, such as Chiang Mai or Surat Thani, at any time of year, especially for ‘sSleeper Services’. This is where you’ll also be able to pick up your ‘last minute’ train tickets you’ve found over the phone.
- Over the phone – If tickets are sold out and it’s less than 4 days till your departure date you can call Thai Railways at 12:29-12:30am to talk to a lovely, helpful English speaking Thai customer service operator (within Thailand call 1690 and follow the prompts) and they will be able to inform you if any new tickets have been updated into the system (people have failed to pick up and pay for these tickets) and are now available for purchase. They can tell you of any new availabilities, however they can not sell you the ticket. If you’re lucky and there’s a ticket available you need to race to the nearest train station (Chiang Mai train station hours 7am – 7pm) to be the first ones there the next morning to purchase these golden tickets! You can call Thai Railways every night up until the night before you wish to travel to see if any new tickets have appeared for sale if you’re desperate to get a train ticket. There’s definitely a possibility that a ticket may pop up and it’s worth the late night conversation and early morning motorbike ride to the train station to pick up your ticket. No hidden fees involved. Smiles all around. Well worth the time and effort!
- Using a travel agent – This option is only available no less than 3-4 days pre departure date. The rules vary for each agency so make sure you check their website or call them. You can book up to 60 days in advance at some agencies. Choosing this service means you need to pay extra agent fees. So beware. You’ll also have a number of options of how to pick up the tickets, obviously this will depend on how much time in advance you’ve purchased them. I was given this travel agency in Chiang Mai to call if I wanted to go this route. B.I.S Travel 05 32 33 962. This option would be great for people not yet within Thailand and can’t get to the train station in person.
Check out all Thai Prepaid Sim Card options. I’ve also heard AIS have great deals. You can also use an AIS sim card to work for free at CAMP, an awesome co-working space in Chiang Mai. Feel free to check out CAMP in this vlog.
Working on an Australian outback cattle station isn’t easy.
In 2010 my friend Erik and I drove to Mt. Isa, Australia to watch the rodeo. We didn’t care about the rodeo really, but we thought it would be a good chance to meet a real cattle station manager and convince them to give us a job on the station. It worked, but it was going to hurt.
How to Find a Cattle Station Job
There are smarter ways to find cattle station work than what we did. Use Gumtree.com.au for classified job postings. If I were to do it over again, I would take advantage of the government offices and employment agencies. Australia has great social services so there are lots of opportunities to get support from government when seeking a position. I bet there is always a station job somewhere in Australia. Most Australians don’t want to do this kind of work. It’s filthy, hot, remote and low paying.
It is an amazing adventure.
Planning an Outback Adventure
The intelligent and planning types will use classifieds and government help. That’s not what we did.
Our plan involved getting a camper-van and driving deep into the outback. If I were to do it again, I would get a station wagon (Ford Falcon or a Holden Commodore Wagon) in one of the main cities. You can get a reliable one for about $3,000 AUD. Those vehicles are great to sleep in. That helps you avoid spending a fortune on accommodation while you look for work.
If you drive out there, you can always just stop at the local pub. Honestly, I think that might be a great way to find a job quickly. Pubs are the hubs for everyone in the community and if you’re willing to talk to strangers, chances are someone will point you in the right direction quickly.
How we Became Station Hands
We were in Brisbane when we learned that the Mt. Isa Rodeo was scheduled in a few days. We drove out there to meet station owners. We weren’t certain that this was a good idea, but we just wanted to get out of town.
Driving from Brisbane to Mt. Isa is not an easy thing. Australia is bloody huge, mate. We drove really slow at night because kangaroos are everywhere and they like to jump into your headlights. Seriously, don’t even drive at night there. The roads are littered with dead kangaroos who are mowed down my unstoppable road-trains at night. The road-trains don’t slow down for you either. It’s a really, crazy drive.
The rodeo wasn’t a great place to meet station owners. Many real station owners don’t even care about the rodeo and those that do attend are often surrounded with friends who they don’t see often. Not a lot of station managers had any interest in talking with us.
My friend Erik found a list of all the stations in the Mt. Isa area and just started cold calling all of them. That is what worked for us. Matt McDonald called us back, we met him at McDonald’s and followed him out to the station. It felt like he was driving 300 kilometers an hour. This guy was the real deal. A true badass cattle station manager.
Cattle station work is hard but mostly boring.
The Boring Cattle Station Jobs
Most of our days are boring. The most common days are full of salt lick runs, bore maintenance and/or caring for machinery/property.
Salt Lick Runs
A salt lick run is a job in which you load a ute (a really tough small truck for all my Americans) with twenty 60 lbs. white plastic bags of salt lick. Then you spend just about the whole day distributing these bags of salt to the cattle in all the separate paddocks.
Because the paddocks are so big, this is a job for 2 people working all day. You spend the whole day driving 120 km an hour on dirt roads. When you arrive to the next paddock, you have 2 jobs. One, Check the water bores to ensure they are working properly. Two, pull out a bag of lick, cut it in half with a big knife and pour all the salt into old tires so that the cattle can come and eat it.
You do this to about 10 paddocks and spend most of the day driving. This was one of my favorite jobs.
Bore maintenance is another fun job because of the surprises we get when we come upon a bore that hasn’t seen a human soul for a few weeks.
Duties include things like:
- Fueling the diesel generators up to pump water from the ground
- Checking the oil in the diesel engines that pump water from ground when the water levels get low
- Scraping the algae and cattle debris from the cattle’s water troughs
- Devising mechanical solutions to anything that broke recently
- Fishing dead kangaroos and pigs out of the big ponds that feed the bores
Yes, the last one is disgusting. I remember using a long pole to try to lift a dead kangaroos and pigs from the water. The animals jump in the water to drink and cool down, but can’t climb out.
They drown slowly, but as their bodies decompose, they float back up to the surface. We need to take them out, otherwise the cattle will get sick from drinking dead kangaroo/pig tea.
I distinctly remember pulling up a long dead kangaroo and watching it fall to pieces. Because it fell into so many pieces, there was no way we could fish them all out. The smell was overpowering. Perhaps the most disgusting thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Caring for Machinery/Property
We change a lot of oil, pour a lot of concrete, organize lots of building materials and straighten out a lot of fences.
Fencing can be fun because you can make a lot of progress and spend the day outside working with a variety of cool tools. Barb wire strainers and post driving tools are a good way to mix it up.
We learned to weld and we learned how to fix things in ways we never thought of before. In general, if something is broken, you can just hit it with the ute and everything will sort it’s self out.
Much of cattle station work is about waiting. We spent a lot of days doing busy work just to keep paid and on station. Essentially, sometimes you just need to chill out and wait for something more important to come along. The real adventure is when the important stuff comes along.
The Exciting Cattle Station Jobs
The exciting jobs made the adventure one of most memorable of my life. Exciting jobs include meat runs, cattle yard work and most notably, big cattle musters.
On a remote cattle station, we don’t buy beef from the supermarket.
About once a month we go out with a rife, a clean tarp and a collection of knives and tools for sharpening them. One unlucky old steer becomes our protein for the next few months.
This was one of our favorite things to do. I think everyone that eats meat should be required to kill an animal and turn it into dinner. If these pictures gross you out and you’re not a vegetarian, you’re probably living in a fantasy world.
Learning to cut up an animal and eat them is an important part of life. This was one of our favorite days on the cattle station. We killed the animal, cut it to useful pieces and brought those pieces back to process. At the end of the day we had all the meat we could eat for the next month.
Musters and Yard Work
That road train (pictured below) is full of cattle. We spent half the day loading the cattle in that double decker road-train. To get the cattle there, we had a team of 5 on horseback, 2 on dirt-bikes and a guy in a helicopter to bring all the cattle in from the outskirts of the paddocks.
On the first day we brought them in from the huge paddocks to the small yards. Yards are steel cages which allow us to push individual cattle through series of smaller and smaller yard sections. At the end of the last yard is the ‘run’.
The ‘run’ is a narrow steel alley which only allows a single steer at a time to move down the lane. At the end of the lane is a ‘crush’.
The ‘crush’ is operated by a person who waits for the cattle to stick their head through. That person then slams it shut so we can catch the animal by the neck. We can weight them, inject them with hormones, neuter them or cut their horns off while they are stuck in the crush.
We loaded something like 7,000 cattle into road-trains like you see above. The road-trains would leave our station and drive the cattle to Darwin, Australia. From Darwin, the trailers are loaded onto a large ship and brought to places all over South East Asia for sale as live animals.
It’s a pretty bonkers operation.
Working on an Australian Outback Cattle Station – The End
After the musters, we are filthy. This gives you an idea for how gross it gets.
Here is a podcast from the past. Erik and I sit down to discuss the adventure:
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