What's it like to live in Australia?

posted on: February 29, 2012

Here are a few subtle or not-so-subtle differences about the Aussie lifestyle to an American visitor (all images are iPhone photos from my AnneRuthmann Instagram feed):

For the most part, Aussies just want to have a great time regardless of where they are. Based on a few different conversations, I get the sense that Americans are perceived to be quite uptight compared to Australians. Rules and regulations are more like guidelines and suggestions for courteous practices in Australia, rather than expectations of appropriate behavior in the United States. "No worries" is probably the most common Australian phrase used on a day-to-day basis.

Wine or beer are pretty much an expected accompaniment to social evening meals. I've tried to get away with not having a glass of something, and I often get met with a look of disappointment or confusion unless I tell people I can't for medical reasons. So, my liver is aging a little more quickly while I'm here just so I can keep up with the Aussie lifestyle.

Words are often abbreviated to two syllables and end in "y". So, Stradebroke Island becomes "Straddy", Breakfast is "Brekky", and Barbecue is "Barby". Sometimes word are just completely different, like "Pram" is a baby carriage and "Chooks" are chickens. The following photo is the local Salvation Army resale shop.... notice the name. ;-)

Greetings can sometimes throw me off- like when someone asks, "How you going?" How am I going? By train? Oh... "I'm going good." I'm sure hearing "How you doing?" could be just as strange to Aussies.

Public Transportation is for everyone. In Brisbane, it's simply phenomenal, and I can get pretty much anywhere in the city on one pass that goes between ferry, train, or bus. It's so easy, and with gas being so expensive, it's ridiculous not to take advantage of the dedicated busway that cuts through the city just like a subway would.

It's expensive. Similar to living in Manhattan or downtown Boston, "The Rent is Too Damn High!" We got an amazing deal to rent a room in a home that we share with one other person, and we pay $300/week in rent for our room. When you compare it to downtown Boston or New York, it's not really any worse, however, when you factor in that the overall cost of eating out is quite a bit higher because servers are paid a living wage of around $30/hr, it gets pricey real quick. Ironicaly, it's a buyers market on home sales, but it's a sellers market on rentals in Brisbane, which makes it more expensive for visitors. (If you don't already know about "The Rent is Too Damn High Party" check out this remix of Jimmy McMillan's platform talk.)

Sweet chili sauce, beets, and pineapples may make a regular appearance on burgers, and the mangos and apricots are the sweetest versions of the fruits I've had anywhere. Also, rather than getting a salty "ketchup" you're more likely to pay extra for a packet of "tomato sauce" which has a sweeter flavor. A vending machine Coke or Pepsi may set you back $4 or more, but there may be a free water bottle refilling station nearby to encourage drinking healthy. Buying fresh veggies and fruits like Kiwi is pretty inexpensive comparatively, and in the following case, even comes with a "Spife" for eating on the go!

Lamb... not beef or kangaroo... is the true Australian meat. Try asking for a lamb sausage at Outback Steakhouse and see if they have it on the menu- you'll probably be disappointed. You must watch the commercial below in order to grasp the country's attachment to lamb, as well as the very silly sense of humor Aussies have.

It's easy to find work. There aren't a ton of entrepreneurs, but there are lots of people who have a few different part time jobs. Because the minimum wage established for Australia basically protects people from ever feeling like they're poor, the only reason to really work for yourself is to create your own freedom of schedule. I think that the laid back Aussie "no worries" mentality doesn't really build a strong foundation for independent entrepreneurship, so lots of businesses are owned by foreigners or immigrants who find it very easy to get started and make a life here with just a small bit of hard work. Overall, Aussies believe that work is meant to support the life you want, rather than creating a life that supports the work you want. I dig it.

College is not an expectation. Because there often isn't that much difference in salary between someone who has gone to college for 4 years and a "trady" or day laborer, many people don't see the point of college if they can simply get a fun job that pays well. This may be changing as the immigrant population increases and takes over entry-level jobs, but for now, college is only something people think about when they want a promotion or certification to practice something that requires a degree.

There are a lot of environmentally friendly practices in place such as recycling and garbage bins side by side in all public areas, very few chemically modified ingredients in foods - less preservatives means less transportation and better freshness, half flush toilets for those small flush occasions, homes built to maximize air flow and low energy use, great walkability and bikability every where in the city as well as city cycles you can rent, tax credits for things like solar and energy saving installations, free public stainless steel electric grills in the parks to encourage group dining outdoors, and free public pools for cooling off away from home on hot days. As a side note, the image above is called a Hills Hoist, and is considered an iconic symbol of Australian innovation. Fact: on sunny days in Brisbane, most laundry can dry in 45minutes on the line.

What's #inyourbag ? A laptop I can't power up because I forgot the Australian plug adapter. Doh!  #janphotoaday #photoaday #jan13
Aside from a different power cord connection, many outlets have switches at the outlet to turn the power on or off for each outlet. I made the mistake several times of forgetting to turn on the outlet switch after plugging in my phone or computer only to realize it after wondering why my battery was on low instead of fully charged. Internet speeds are also fairly abysmal. I'm used to being able to upload gigabytes of images in a short period of time in the states, but in Australia it might take days for the same amount of uploading!

Last but not least, Australians love animals- and in several cases, have even built monuments for them. Americans love pets, but have no problems with harming road kill or shooting at birds, raccoons, or killing moles that destroy their precious yard. Australians, however, have an affection for almost all of the animals in the kingdom, and go to great lengths to protect them, sometimes to the detriment of neighborhood gardens- as is the case with wild turkey running loose around the city. However, for the cutest, most iconic animals that remind you of Australia, you have to go to nature preserves or zoos where their lives have been protected, because most native Australian animals are quite lazy and not all that great at doing more than eating leaves, laying around, and sleeping like this wombat at a state protected nature park...

Of course you'll find differences and these generalizations don't apply 100% of the time, but it's a fairly good overview of the subtle cultural differences between living in the United States and Australia. Personally, I think it's a bit of a utopia here and if it weren't for having so many family members back in the states, I wouldn't mind living here indefinitely. ;-)

If you're ready to visit Australia, you'll need to start by applying for the appropriate VISA online:

  Have any questions about what it's like to live in Australia? Let me know in the comments below!

Embracing Depression - Gratitude Journal #7

posted on: February 22, 2012

When I was depressed, I never could have written this blog post. I had no motivation to do anything, let alone write about what I was feeling. I could hardly express what I was feeling other than "not myself", or just not wanting to do anything but live inside my head wondering why I didn't feel right. I felt like letting every part of my life fall away from me just so I wouldn't have to deal with it or care for it. I knew I didn't feel right, but I also didn't want to take any drugs that messed with my brain chemistry. I'd seen what drugs did to other people, and it seemed like while they felt like they could function better, the underlying "not right" feeling never actually went away. I kept waiting and waiting for the feeling to end- it took two years.

Black & White Stormy Farmland in South Dakota

I did little things that I knew made me happy when I felt normal. I drank mocha frappuccinos, put on awesome music, laid in the grass under trees, and yet I remained disappointed that they didn't make me happy like they did when I felt normal. I did things that I thought would make me happy based on chemistry- like going to the gym regularly to get my blood pumping and my endorphins naturally drugging my body into happiness. It didn't work and I didn't lose any weight. I didn't want to see friends or family because I knew that I wasn't going to have the same excitement. When they'd ask how I was doing, I'd say fine... but they'd know I wasn't fine because I never said "fine"- I always said "good" with a big smile when I felt good. I still hosted Boston PUG meetings, which I loved when I was feeling good, but I was barely there, merely showing up and doing what was necessary and no more. When people asked me about my business, I told them I was thinking about giving it all up. My business wasn't actually suffering as much as I felt it was at the time, but I knew I wasn't serving my clients as well as I could when I felt healthy and happy. The thought of meeting new clients or having anyone rely on me for anything stressed me out, because I just didn't feel capable or motivated to do anything more than wake up, shower, force myself to the gym, and go to bed. This feeling lasted about 2 years- and you can see noticeable drops in my blogging when I was depressed. I couldn't write about it then because I didn't understand it.

Luckily I had a husband and friends who cared about my wellbeing and getting me out of the house and out of my own head. Even though I never wanted to go to social gatherings when I felt depressed, it was one of the few things that reminded me what happiness and love felt and looked like. Even if I couldn't feel it myself, I could see it in other people, and by proximity maybe even absorbed a little bit of that good feeling. After I'd spent time with friends, I was so grateful that they were there and still cared about me enough to invite me out even when they knew I just wasn't as happy-go-lucky as I used to be. Rather than jumping in and getting excited about a conversation, I'd sit back, nod, and maybe answer a question if I was asked, but was otherwise just existing in the same space. I think my husband needed that friend time too because he wasn't getting it from me, and I'm glad he wanted to share it together rather than leaving the Debby Downer at home.

Brothers Walking Crane Beach Ipswich, MA

I kept trying to find reasons why I was depressed. One that seemed interesting was the "Saturn Returns" idea that occurs in everyone's late 20's and early 30's that makes you revisit and question if you're on your life path or if you feel like you're aligned with your life's purpose. The idea is that the large planet returning to the position it was at your birth makes you revisit everything you thought you wanted, and take stock in things that make you happy and things that seem like just another wall to climb with little reward. I realized there were things left unfinished or incomplete in my life that I needed to resolve before I could move forward. So, I embraced that idea and looked for things that I'd put off, or were never high on my priority list when I was feeling motivated to start new projects.

Depression is actually a pretty good time to tie up loose ends and work on old projects that were left unfinished. Since you're not motivated to start anything new, you can at least feel productive finishing old projects. Depression is also a good time to work with other people and find collaborations, since you have no motivation to trail-blaze your own ideas. It's a time when you don't feel bad about turning down projects you don't like to do anyway- and these are hints of things that you need to let go of and find other people to do in your life so that you can focus on the very few things that bring you a sense of happiness. Depression is a good time to journal, and to reflect on how and when you've put other people ahead of your own needs and priorities. It's a time to take people up on their offers to help you and to let other people do things for you when you normally wouldn't feel comfortable with others caring for you. Depression is a time to decide what it is that really makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning, and to figure out how to have more of that in your life.

Rainbow Clouds Over Brisbane, QLD Australia

For me, depression helped me learn that I only want to work with people who appreciate everything I have to offer, rather than people who just want me to show up and do a job for money. It helped me learn that friends and family are a big source of happiness in my life and that I needed to create more room to spend time with them on a regular basis, finding ways to make THEM the priority, rather than money or work. It helped me realize that I may actually have a chemical need for caffeine, since my days with caffeine are always better than my days without it... but that having it in moderation and not after 2pm allows me to sleep better at night. Depression helped me realize that more than anything, I just want to help people find a sense of happiness and purpose in their own life. It made me realize that if we could all just do what we love, the world would be a much more happy and peaceful place. It sounds utopian, but from my own experience, I feel like I can handle so much more stress in my life when I'm happy and doing what I love, rather than feeling like I'm just working for the money and trading my health and happiness away.

Why be grateful for depression? Because it gave me the time to work on myself and reevaluate what really wasn't serving me in a positive and constructive way. It gave me time to eliminate things that stressed me out, to seek help from others when I had a hard time asking for it, and to focus the limited energy I had only on what made me happy. If I had just kept going, or if I had just kept waiting for it to pass and didn't do the self-work, I would have stayed unhappy and unmotivated for who knows how long. I'm pretty sure those are the real life zombies- people who choose to ignore their soul's desire. If I could give you one piece of advice, it's to write down everything that makes you happy, and then find a way to make a living from it. You can start here. In the blog comments, I'd love to hear just one thing that makes you happy just to think about it....

Moving My Business Interview on Fast Track Coaching

posted on: February 16, 2012

I've received a lot of questions about moving my business- probably because I've started my small business in three different locations over the last 7 years.  As most people know, it takes two years to really build a business, so I've spent six years experiencing those first two years as if I were living a real life Groundhog Day.  It's taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do in order to get established quickly. When you have bills to pay and need to relocate, your first priority becomes finding work as soon as you can.  From my experience, there are lots of ways to do this when moving your business, but many require you to stretch yourself in new ways and change a few habits that come from getting comfortable in one place.

I'm very honored that Dane Sanders invited me to be a part of his awesome archives of interviews for Fast Track Coaching.  To be honest, I had a big fear of doing a video interview- so this was taking a step in conquering that fear!  Now I just have to keep doing it so that it's not so nerve wrecking each time.  In this video interview, I share some of the ways that I've made it possible to move my business three times and now live in Australia and travel the world for 8 months.  If you know someone who needs some advice on moving their business (or getting their feet wet in starting business) feel free to share!

The full interview is about 45 minutes long, click play in the video to watch...

I want to hear from YOU-
Was there a key piece of advice that was meaningful to you?
Do you have any other suggestions for people re-establishing their business in a new place?
Please leave a comment and let me know!

Wedding Wednesday: Why Marriage is Good for You

posted on: February 15, 2012

There's a saying you might hear once or twice while wedding planning that goes something like:

While planning for your wedding, don't forget to plan for your marriage.

I can honestly say that Alex and I fought more during our engagement than we ever have since being married.  Living together presented a whole new set of things to deal with like changes in sharing personal space and adjusting lifestyles to be compatible for living with another person during morning and evening routines and adjusting bad habits.  Luckily, when you love someone a whole lot, those adjustments and compromises that create conflict are just small bumps in a very long road of learning to communicate better and understand one another.

In the video below, Jenna McCarthy (not to be confused with Jenny McCarthy), shares research findings on what makes couples break apart, stay together, and some statistics behind people who really stick to their eternal vows of commitment.  When Alex shared this Tedx video with me- I found myself nodding all the way through in agreement with how true it really is.  So if you're planning a wedding, don't forget to plan for your marriage.  Click play to watch the video:

Let's Get Busi

posted on: February 12, 2012

... as in Businessy! Not to be confused with Buissinky...
Joe Buissink and Anne Ruthmann at WPPI

In the wedding photographer world, this is WPPI Convention & Tradeshow week. Normally I'd be heading off to Vegas to reconnect with the world's leading wedding photographers, but this year I'm staying in Australia and soaking in all the sunshine (rather than the casino smoke and artificial lighting). I'm still paying a lot more to eat out, just like I would in Vegas, but I probably won't be aging my liver as quickly or collecting hundreds of business cards only to forget what we talked about and why we were going to stay in touch. If you're a photographer attending WPPI- the PhotoLovecats have created a lot of tips and tricks for getting the most out of your experience at the link below. However, if you AREN'T going to WPPI, keep reading- I have something extra-special just for you!
WPPI Tips & Suggestions from PhotoLovecat.com

Since I won't be doing my normal Thirst Relief Mentoring, or chatting endlessly about business strategy with other photographers, I decided I needed another outlet while everyone else is getting their workshop and photographer time on in Vegas.

For the FIRST TIME EVER- I'll be doing a free LIVE photography pricing critique online!

Normally I only do these for in-person workshops or seminars like Inspire Boston, PUG Meetings, or the Smarter Business Workshop, but I'm going to give the webinar thing a try and see if I like it. I would LOVE for you to join me and give me feedback after watching so that I can learn from the experience YOU had as much as you might learn from me sharing ideas and thoughts on pricing. Sound awesome?! I'm a bit no-holds-barred when I dig into business strategy, so I hope you're ready for that. If you can join me THIS Thursday for the Live Pricing Critique Webinar & Live Chat with other PhotoLovecats...


LOVE IT: Zee Avi

posted on: February 9, 2012

Part island breeze, part folk acoustic, take a moment to let Zee Avi take your ears and mind to another place...

If you can't see or play the YouTube video above, [click here].

Why Are You in Living in Australia?

posted on: February 6, 2012

The short & simple answer:
Because I feel like it.

I'm on a boat // #febphotoskill #landscape // #febphotoaday #10AM // #brisbane #fromwhereisit

The longer answer:
One of the reasons I became a photographer after having many other careers was to have the freedom of lifestyle to travel when and where I wanted. While I've had plenty of opportunities to travel for work as a photographer, I quickly learned that it's much more fun to travel for pleasure with people I love. In the last few years, I've missed opportunities to travel with my husband because I've had jobs that hired me too far in advance for me to block dates off my calendar, or I wasn't going to be able to take off enough time to make it worth traveling to the other side of the world. When an opportunity came up to spend nearly 8 months of the year traveling the world- I had a big decision to make.

While it seemed like an awesome opportunity, I had a lot of fears and reservations:

  • Can I afford to put my business on hold for that long?!
  • What if I run out of money?
  • Will I be able to save enough to make it financially possible?
  • Will I be able to pick up extra work or money while I'm traveling?
  • What will I DO with myself if I'm not spending my time doing a ton of things for my business?!
  • What will happen to my studio, house, car, etc?
  • What if something happens to family while I'm gone and I can't fly back to be there?
  • What if something happens to me and there's no way to let people know?

Whenever I'm faced with a big decision that is surrounded by fears, I ask myself:

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

When I removed all of my fears about the what-ifs of leaving it all behind, the clearest answer was to take the opportunity to travel the world and worry about the rest later. If I only had a year to live, the answer was clear- I would do whatever it took (and no, I'm not planning on dying anytime soon- it's just another method to remove fear and doubt from a decision.) I decided to stop accepting clients in New England for 2012, I would slow down on my marketing and new projects that I wouldn't be around to follow-up on, I wouldn't renew my studio lease, I would save as much money as I could, I would sell my studio furnishings, we would sell a car we weren't really using, we would pay off as much of our debt as possible, we would eat out less, and we would prepare to live out of a carry-on suitcase and a backpack for 8 months. Alex would be on sabbatical from teaching at the university and still get his salary and some research reimbursements, and I would save up in advance and try to freelance wherever I could with a visiting visa that allows me to take on work in Australia.

#febphotoskill #Line // #febphotoaday #YourViewToday I'm attempting to combine the two sets of challenges for February! I think that makes it much more challenging. ;)

We bought tickets to Australia for January until June, and a one way ticket to Europe for June until sometime in August. We knew we were going to stay with one of Alex's colleagues for the first two weeks, but knew we would need to find another place to live after that. We decided we'd figure out how to find a place after arriving and speaking to locals. We knew we'd fly to Spain after our time in Australia, with stops likely in Norway, Greece, England, and a few other places, but we have yet to nail those details down completely since there are still a few months to figure that out.

We decided to take this trip together because we know that chances like this don't come around often in life. If we had children, this probably wouldn't have been possible. If either one of us had been in a different career or even at different points in our current careers, this probably wouldn't have been possible. If several projects I was working on had turned out the way I'd planned, rather than the way the fates allowed, I wouldn't have wanted to take this much time away.

Everything came together to create the possibility- but it required us committing to taking the risks involved to make it happen for ourselves.

Full set of 16 #interiordesign images from #brisbane

So, here I am, living in Brisbane, Australia for 5 months. A city that I came to visit two years ago and said, "What a great city this would be to live in!" It's idyllic. There's strong support for the arts, great cultural and economic diversity, amazing public resources, and we now have an awesome place to live in a great part of the city. I'm enjoying every minute of it. I've even picked up some freelance photography assignments already, and am using my skills to trade for some lifestyle extras I probably wouldn't splurge on if I had to pay Australian dollars for them. I'm getting a chance to read, exercise, write, relax, spend quality time with my husband, eat beautiful fresh fruits and veggies- which all seem like something I'd be able to do anywhere, but as many small business owners know, running the business is always on the mind because we can always do more for our clients or spend more time marketing and strategizing for our business. After 7 years of learning how to market and run a profitable business in three different states and very different demographic markets, I definitely feel like this is a much needed sabbatical for me and a nice reward for all the hard work I've done to get to this point.

Most small business owners don't get to take a sabbatical from their business, but freedom of lifestyle is why I wanted to be a small business owner in the first place- to do what I want, when I want.

I'm passionate about helping other people gain control over their business so their business doesn't control them. So, if you think I can help you in any way, please reach out to me and say hello. I'd love to hear from you and I'm happy to help. If you aren't ready for one-on-one business help, feel free to read lots of free business marketing and management articles I've written over on PhotoLovecat.com.

(Note: photos in this post are from my iPhone instagram feed)

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