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A Week Travelling Around Western Australia As An Unemployed Registered Nurse

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Today: a registered nurse on $45,225 travels around Western Australia while trying to keep her daily steps up.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up diary. Before reading this diary, we recommend you read this popular Money Diary from last year.
Occupation: Registered Nurse
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 30
Location: I'm currently on a year-long road trip around Western Australia and the Northern Territory with my husband, H.
Salary: $45,225
Net Worth: $467,000 (including $121,000 in savings, $15,000 in investing app, $315,000 in combined superannuation, $280,000 in estimated equity, and an overseas fund containing $45,000). Everything is shared, aside from a small allowance of $20 a week for each of us.
Debt: $309,000 ($219,000 mortgage and $90,000 cash from a parent).
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): My husband and I are no longer getting paid.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $2,000
Body corporate fees: $50
Fuel: $240 Phone Bill: $95 (combined) Water Bill: $100
Life and Income Insurances: $300
Contents Insurance: $83  Netflix: $19 Child Sponsorship: $19 Extra Superannuation Contributions: $130

What have you been up to since we last spoke?

In mid-March, my husband, H, and I left Brisbane to road trip around the continent. We volunteered on people's properties for food and board through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organisation on our way to Melbourne. From there, we flew to the United States for six weeks to visit with some of my family before returning and driving through Coober Pedy and Alice Springs before the weather got too hot. Since then, we've followed the coast to WA. 

How have your finances changed in the last year, particularly since you're now living on the road?

The biggest thing that's changed is we're not making money. I had five months of leave while my husband had three, so we are not getting paid for the remainder of this trip. I was told I could not take leave without pay or half pay, so I may or may not be able to return to my job casually. H on the other hand has a very supportive workplace and secure role. When we get home, I'll need to look for other work options which is a bit unnerving in terms of financial security.

In your last diary, you mentioned that you worry about having enough money to achieve life goals, such as travelling, buying a house and seeing your family overseas. Is this still the case?

I've met two of those goals since my last diary (seeing family and travelling), which has been very fulfilling. In terms of buying a house, we've realised we don't need as much stuff, and it's more of a want than a need. Experiences rather than items or things have more value for us.

Do you worry about money now?

Somewhat, as my employment status is questionable. I was on paid leave until mid-September and I have been in a casual role since, which means I haven't been paid since mid-September. I’m also not sure if I’ll have a job when I get back from our trip. If you’re casual, you’re meant to work once every three months, and we have six months left of the trip as of when I changed status in September.
I'd worked with my employer for 10 years, and I had five months' leave, three months of which was long service leave. When I inquired about taking extended leave, I was told I couldn't take leave at half pay or leave without pay. With the state of the health industry, I don’t understand why they don’t want to retain experienced nurses. My boss answered my question of, “Why should I stay here another ten years?” with “You should know the reasons". The union said fighting it probably wouldn’t change anything as they could use the pandemic as an excuse. It's really disappointing but there will be heaps of jobs for me — it's just a matter of finding one that suits me best.
The irony is, my husband’s workplace was super supportive and he has a guarantee that he can come back to his job, although he's using a lot of leave without pay. He’s not in healthcare and has less leave. Our renter also unexpectedly bought a place and is moving out.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income since your last diary? If yes, please explain.

My parents loaned us $60,000 to sit in our offset account and to help with this trip (they also gave us $30,000 earlier). We don’t need the financial help but it makes managing the mortgage and meeting saving/investing goals easier. We intend to pay back $40,000 immediately when we get back home. I just found out I’ll receive a seventh of the proceeds from property my aunt left behind. I already inherited US$10,000 at her passing, and my husband and I received $5,000 from his grandfather when we got married.

Day 1

7:30 am: H's alarm goes off, but we lie in bed scrolling on our phones for a while. So much for my prepaid Telstra data just being used for essentials.
8:30 am: We finally get up. It was nice to have a lie-in in a real bed and with air-con. We were planning to camp at Timber Creek, but an infestation of fruit bats meant we splurged on accommodation. It's the first time we've done this in five months, so it's not bad. We have breakfast — I have muesli with my antidepressants. I've been on the medication for five years and I'm weaning off them, with the help of my doctor, as this is the least stressful my life is likely to ever be. Plus, if we want kids, I'd have to at least swap antidepressants. I was emotional at the start of the process, and have experienced interrupted sleep and gut issues which I believe are from coming off them.
9:48 am: We finally leave after filling up on petrol ($57). I had cleaned the bird poop off the car and returned the key, while H booked our Ballarat accommodation for on the way home ($84 for two nights on a powered site) as we like to plan in advance, particularly with school holidays. We stop by Policeman's Point on a bad dirt road, but the view is worth it. — $141
11:18 am: We stop to swap drivers. I like to drive first as I tend to fade in the afternoon. I give the drop loo a miss, as there's no toilet paper and we should be close to the WA border. We've been listening to our favourite podcast, Cautionary Tales, but swap to The Motley Fool: What you've done to create financial freedom.
12:15 pm: We cross the border, and H takes a customary photo of someone's dumped spinach, tomatoes and half an onion by the toilets. All we needed to get rid of before was some old mango boxes we used to store things. All fruit and most veggies are not allowed, along with honey and plant material. The land is rocky and ranges frame the plains, filled with well-spaced trees and splashes of yellow kapok flowers.
12 pm WA Time (an hour and a half behind NT): Our campsite at Lake Argyle has a sprinkler running on it, so we decide to let it dry while we eat lunch. We have cheese, the last of the ham, salami and bread with mayo.
12:30 pm: We walk around a bit, enjoying the stunning lake view and free internet.
1:30 pm: We set up the camp. We have got the routine pretty down pat at this point: inner mesh tent; self-inflate mattresses; outer waterproof tent layer; and gazebo with table and chairs. If only the ground wasn't so hard…
3 pm: We head to the infinity pool after lounging in the shade.
3:40 pm: I have a snack of a leftover meat pattie and cheese. The time difference has my tummy out of whack. We decide to set off for the 2km Ord River Gorge walk. I need to get my 10,000 steps in for the day, and I'm not even halfway.
4:20 pm: The view is majestic. The orange cliffs contrast with the blue water, and the erratic wild green hills are cut by the dark river. H leaves me to go on his run, and I amble to the water tower lookout. On the way, I spot kites nesting in the radio tower.
5 pm: Back at camp with 10,643 steps. Yay!
6 pm: After a shower (good pressure and temperature although it’s a bit unnerving that someone tried the door multiple times), I start on dinner. We make omelettes while fending off the bugs attracted to the light.
7:17 pm: I can hardly keep my eyes open after cleaning up. It actually takes me a while to fall asleep with the bass in the background, but H and I cuddle and enjoy the stars now that we've started leaving a 'window' open to deal with the warmer nights.
Daily Total: $141

Day 2

1:18 am: I wake up to the worst thing about camping — getting up to pee. I make the most of it and enjoy the stars.
6:20 am: I’m awake properly.
7:47 am: I finally get up out of bed, seeing as H already went to get stuff for breakfast. The usual muesli.
8:03 am: The couple behind us accidentally set off their car alarm, so if you weren't up, you are now! H says we've graduated as our neighbour drives off — we gave advice instead of acquiring it.
9 am: We leave for the Bluff Lookout. The warmth of the sun is offset by the breeze coming off the water. The spinifex stings as it brushes against our bare legs. We see some double-barred finches, long-tailed finches and perhaps a sea eagle. It's hard to tell as a crow is chasing it off.
10:35 am: 9,260 steps! We've detoured to Jessie's Trail for a swim in the lake. It's cold at first but refreshing when you finally submerge yourself. We have this part of the lake all to ourselves. There are meant to be freshwater crocodiles, but they're fairly shy and shouldn't bother you if you leave them alone. At our last croc feeding, the feeder had to really agitate the water for the freshies to deem it worth coming out for. They don't have the jaws to swallow big prey anyhow.
11:25 am: We've been joined by others, so I pluck up my courage to swim around the drum buoy in the middle. I hate not seeing what's under me in the water, so that's enough exposure therapy.
11:50 am - 10,148 steps! We have sweet potato wraps with canned tuna or chicken and carrot and cheese.
12:30 pm: We call my in-laws. We have a lead on possible renters, so we talk things through.
1:30 pm: We head over to check out the Argyle Homestead Museum, which costs $5 per person. We're greeted by the resident bowerbird, Patsy. The whole homestead was moved when they damned the river to form the lake (to provide water for irrigation) as the Durack family developed the area so much. In the late 1800’s they took 2,050 cattle from Queensland to the Kimberley which took over two years, and they lost over half the cattle and some men. — $10
2:45 pm: We head out again for Dead Horse Springs and Spillway Creek. The spillway is a bust. Perhaps in a four-wheel drive, you can make the most of the swimming holes associated with the creek system as per the campsite map, but there's a faded DANGER NO SWIMMING IN SPILLAGE sign. We walk the road to Dead Horse Springs as it is not suitable for a two-wheel drive passing a body of water before we decide to turn around. A plover is all we see for our effort at this possible birdwatching site.
3:30 pm: H drives to the water tank lookout as he hasn't made it up here.
3:45 pm: We walk to the reception shop, and I persuade H that we might as well wait a day before buying anything. Pancakes for breakfast tomorrow cuts out the need for milk, and the fruit is not in prime condition.
5:20 pm - H sets off for a swim while I pull myself out of the air-conditioned reception for a shower.
5:55 pm: I'm sooo hungry. We have Mi Goreng noodles with carrots and a boiled and fried egg each. The mozzies are really biting even though it's just getting dark as we pack up.
6 pm: H wants an early night as the wind kept him up late last night.
7:50 pm: We've just been scrolling on our phones seeing as we actually have Wi-Fi. We must be grumpy old people as we're annoyed at the Frenchman having a conversation on his phone next door.
9:20 pm: Sleep time.
Daily Total: $10

Day 3

5:50 am: We gradually wake up from the noises of our fellow campers. It also sounds like a drone is overhead although they're meant to be banned as they do helicopter flights here.
6:15 am: The toilets consist of a shower ensuite as well, but they're all full! I impatiently wait to take a dump.
7:15 am: We get up and start to pack down. Then, I start pancakes, and do my neck exercises for an old injury and 10 squats 'cause it all counts, right? The helicopter pad is right behind us and a crowd gathers to watch the first take-off of the day. We think it's just about to go when all systems stop. It starts up again backfiring in the process though.
9:20 am: On the road again, this time to Kununurra. It felt like a larger pack for some reason — you can just see out the rearview mirror.
10:10 am: We make it to Kununurra, find the info centre, browse and reconvene. We then go to the Parks and Wildlife Office to buy our yearly parks pass for $120. We're going to be in the state for two and a half months, so it works out better than $60 per month. — $120
11:05 am: We decide to stick to town before lunch as walking in the heat is not fun. We pop into Artopia, Artlandish and Kimberley Fine Diamonds. Artopia takes one look at our camping outfits and rightfully assumes we're not buying, allowing us to browse freely. On our trip thus far, the most expensive artwork we've come across was $70,000 by a deceased artist. Meanwhile, pink diamonds will only get more valuable as they're no longer mined.
12:20 pm: I'm knackered. We pop over to Swim Walk for a lunch of wraps and canned chicken or fish with cheese. There is a possibility of salty crocs in the area, but it's monitored and some others are swimming. I dip my feet and spy several fish.
1 pm: We check out a few galleries. At the Waringarri Art Centre, we spot a bowerbird proudly displaying his purple ruff behind his head and bower of white treasures. Five bowerbirds and two peewees end up playing under the water sprinkler.
1:53 pm: Hello Coles and fruit and veggies! For $157.63, we buy muesli, 2 L UHT milk, a six-pack of small UHT milk, 2L normal milk, multigrain bread, 2kg rice, cheese, cherry tomatoes, strawberry yoghurt, sunscreen, oil, strawberry jam, honey, lamb, some garlic bulbs, mushrooms, two salad kits, two sliced meats, margarine, wraps, chicken schnitzels, 1.5 kg of potatoes, a dozen eggs, bananas, broccoli, apples and a whole grain loaf of bread. —$157.63
3 pm: We did it! We manage to pay, check into our motel and bring everything in without causing a fight. They upgraded us to a queen from a twin as we had booked in January. We pay $429. After far too many trips to the car, I get the laundry started and can't be stuffed going back to use coins, so I pay a surcharge with my card ($5.30). My step count is 9,023. — $434.30
3:50 pm: We pay $4.30 for the dryer, but when I go to wash our lunch dishes, I notice a drying line out the back. Oh well, I snag a bag of Twisties from the free food shelf on my way out. — $4.30
4:40 pm: The dryer hasn't done the trick, so we hang stuff out and set off for Mirima National Park. We figure we ought to see the mini-Bungle Bungles before we see the real deal. It's stunning. Magical at golden hour. The orange rock changes as the sun slides ever downwards contrasting with the black stripes. The layer upon layer of rock towers over the landscape.
6:30 pm: After a shower, we head to the kitchen to cook our chicken schnitzels.
7:30 pm: I'm starving by the time our food is ready. I gobble down the chicken with cheese and salad and I'm ready for bed.
9 pm: Actually stop messing with my phone to sleep.
Daily Total: $716.23

Day 4

5:10 am: I surprisingly wake up early with the birds. Being in a bed is glorious!
6:30 am: The alarm goes off, and we procrastinate until I decide to have leftover schnitzel and salad for breakfast as we have a big day. We're flying and going on a tour of the Bungle Bungles. It cost us $1,798 for the two of us although we paid for it last financial year. H grabs the laundry and I do the dishes.
8:05 am: We stand outside the hotel to wait for our bus pick up. Exciting!
9:35 am: I take to flying in a light aircraft as well as I thought I would. Okay — unless there's turbulence or I think about dangling in the air. We see Lake Argyle in its vastness, several ranges of the earth seeming to lift a section of itself up, Lake Kununurra (which really looks like a river), a mango plantation and the remains of a sandalwood one. Our pilot makes a very smooth landing, and we have a muffin for morning tea while meeting our tour guide.
10:35 am: We hop onto a four-wheel drive bus and go on a very corrugated road while our guide tells us about the flora. We pause for a photo op before starting our trek on the 3km Cathedral Gorge walk. It's hot, but some water remains from the mid-season rain. Orange and black stripes surround us. It's cool once we step into the canyon. As we traverse some steps, we're warned of the stink of rotting cane toads that have made their way to this part of the country — they breed in the accumulated water and can't escape. The group gathers around a wall, there are two boomerangs and a hand stencil painted on it, relating to a boy's coming of age, although the artwork is only 50 years old.
12:55pm: The gorge is a place for men's business, although it’s open to tours and at other times of the year for corroboree and gatherings. It's so circular aside from massive splits down the wall on two sides. Sacred water sits under a blanket of algae. Rocks line the back. Someone has carved a stingray out of the sand. Black watermarks cling below a cylindrical slide of rock above the gorge. Lunch is provided: quiche with quinoa, peas and mango chutney, a piece of cake, some seeds and dried fruit and apple juice. We have just had to carry it.
2:00 pm: We hike back and get an icy cool washcloth as a reward before hopping back on the bus.
2:50 pm: We stop by the lodge for an afternoon tea of scones with jams made of multiple native fruits.
3:50 pm: We board and are briefed for our flight again. I freak out less and enjoy the sights. We overlook a few gorges and lightning strikes. The Argyle mine still has trucks kicking up dust clouds.
5:35 pm: We arrive back at our hotel. Whew, what a day! After unwinding, we decide to go to H's favourite place, Subway, for dinner. We walk by some kids lighting matches and throwing them at trollies askew on the sidewalk. H wants to get takeaway before the night gets too crazy. We each get a meatball sub, although mine is a 6-inch ($21.50). I've done 15,662 steps. —$21.50
9 pm: Bedtime.
Daily Total: $21.50

Day 5

7 am : Wake up.
8:25 am: I have a breakfast of cereal, milk, some yoghurt and a leftover pancake with honey. H comments it was quite loud on the street last night. Our accommodation is in a locked courtyard, and the whole motel itself is gated from 8pm.
9:10 am: I repack my clothes, do the dishes and head to the pharmacy while H goes in search of a new swimshirt. It costs $70. My repeats cost $20.60. —$90.60
9:30 am: H points out the multiple CCTV attached to a pole as we pull out to drive to Ivanhoe's Crossing. We park at the signs that say no fishing, and no pedestrians on the crossing. It's larger than Cahill's Crossing, with water dropping from at least a metre slant. The water's quite turbulent, and several cars make the crossing with the stream not even halfway up their tires. No crocs are to be seen.
10:10 am: Our next stop is the sandalwood shop. The Indian sandalwood is endangered, but some seeds were brought over, and it has thrived here. We buy a men's kit for $76.50 for my father-in-law. He's hard to buy Father's Day gifts for, much less anything else. — $76.50
10:55 am: There's cotton and corn in the fields as we drive to the nearby distillery proudly known as the oldest continuously operating still in WA.
11:30 am: I need a feed and a nap. We pop into the post office to post Dad's gift and an envelope for an overseas friend of mine. — $18.85
12pm: I have a toasted sandwich with roast pork and have a lie-down.
2:25 pm: I feel so much better. I noticed a mental health trigger before falling asleep. My stomach is a bit crampy, but we make it to the museum. The lone volunteer is clearly enthusiastic and about to celebrate 40 years in Kununurra, after he was meant to only stay for a week. He says it's the best value for money at $2 per person. — $4
3:30 pm: There are a couple cop cars at the Aboriginal art gallery on our way to Kelly's Knob. We forgo the steep climb, but sirens and loud music reflect off the rocks. H thinks it may be for a performance. We later see the police escorting a float through town.
4:50 pm: H gets organised for a run while I drive to Mirima National Park again. I do the Demboong Banan trail and H catches up and overtakes part way. I relish the self-pacing and silence. I'm 1,000 steps down for the day, though.
5:30 pm: H is a bit worried when I get back. He expected me before dark. I put potatoes in the oven and leave the lamb to him. We have it with a salad.
7:10 pm: We tidy up, and I try to persuade myself to do some continuing professional development along with the usual updates, backup of photos and downloading before we go back to camping. My step count is 10,459.
8 pm: I take a shower and cut my nails.
10:30 pm: I stay up reading, but H wakes himself up before I decide to turn the lights out.
Daily Total: $189.95

Day 6

8:10 am: Get up for a breakfast of cereal, milk, yoghurt and two pieces of toast. Pack up. Do the dishes. Pack the car.
9:35 am: I walk over to Coles to get sausages and more muesli for $13. I start the drive and we fill up the car ($58.03). — $71.03
10:40 am: We arrive at the Grotto. The water is chilly, and a well-made rope swing hangs off an oddly angled tree up the cliff face. Tree roots interlaced along the ravine walls.
12:12 pm: We get to our next campground via a dirt road. It's $80 for an unpowered site for two nights. — $80
1 pm: We've set up camp in a nice shady spot and set up for a lunch of sandwiches and the leftover salad. I find some light-coloured ants making themselves at home in our small water supply. I'm trying not to spiral emotionally. Being tired and a bit more irritable doesn't mean I'm on a downward trend.
1:45 pm: We start a load of laundry for $7, which is the most we've paid so far. We're not the only ones who think sitting by the pool is a good idea. Embarrassingly, I can't reach the gate lock to get in, so I have to wait for H. I start a book and tread water for a while, working on my core, feeling much calmer. — $7
4:30 pm: Our drive to the Marlgu Billabong Bird Sanctuary ends in an about-face, with the dirt road too rutted. We opt for part of a 4km walk on site. The birds are active. We identify ducks, ibises and corellas and even manage to send two roos bouncing. 10,187 steps.
5:20 pm: I start on a dinner of sausages, half a leftover potato each and veggies.
6:15 pm: We gather the laundry and head off for a shower. You'd better not fall in the shower as the cubicle is made out of rock!
6:50 pm: I intend to read most of my book if not finish it.
9:45 pm: Sleep time.
Daily Total: $158.03

Day 7

5:20 am: My bladder wakes me up.
6:13 am: I finished my book, but H is still in dreamland.
7:30 am: So much for an early start. I make eggs and mushrooms for breakfast and have some muesli.
8:20 am: We head for the Five Rivers Lookout.
8:56 am: The view just keeps going. It gets more blustery at a lower lookout. Dust is raised in the far hills. It's 31 degrees but feels like 21.
9:45 am: The big croc sculpture is noteworthy as we start our tour of the town of Wyndham. Overlooking the water at the port, it's easy to see how this land was named Brown Water Country.
11:10 am: H wants to support the local economy, so at his shout, we get a barra pie and custard cream to split. I'm not quite game to try the croc pie.
11:30 am: I have a couple of intrusive thoughts. H and I talk it over. I have a psychologist appointment already booked for five weeks from now. Then, I talk to my GP the week after. Looking back at the calendar, I was meant to reduce my dosages earlier in the week, so we decide to keep them constant, and if things get worse, call my GP earlier. H had previously brought up that it would be okay to go back home if we needed to for my mental health. I don't want to and feel like doing so would be a bit of a failure without completing our trip. I honestly just feel a bit down, but I'm aware of the warning signs. We pass by and then go back to the Afghan cemetery. It looks like it's been recently tended to.
12:20 pm: We make it back to camp, and I grab a lounge poolside.
2 pm: We've ticked off 28 birds on one side of the local birder's sheet with the help of a book but decide to break for lunch before doing the other side. We eat sandwiches with cold meat, mayo and cheese.
2:40 pm: Poolside again.
3:30 pm: I get out of the pool, so we can walk before H does a run.
4:25 pm: 11,036 steps! We have a nice chat with our birding neighbour.
5:10 pm: H comes back from his run, so I start cooking couscous and broccoli to go with our sausage leftovers.
9 pm: Bedtime
Daily Total: $0
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