I wrote this article in Novermber, 2007, but only discovered it in my notes recently, so I’m going to keep the writing as if I was just there….which I wish was the case:
Perth is full of perthy goodness. “Perthy” may not sound like a word, but they use it all the time in Perth. In case you don’t believe me, just fly on over to Australia, and hop on a 68 hour train ride from Sydney to find out.
I’ve wanted to visit Perth for as long as I can remember. It’s just sitting out there alone on world maps, sparking wonder over how or why a major city can be so isolated from the rest of the world. Maybe reaching the other side of what I consider normal could shake my perceptions up like a snow globe, allowing me to reassess the pieces from a new perspective.
I always liked to imagine that things are absolutely different on the other side of the world, but with the internet and advanced transportation, most of Perth has the same look as any other first world city. Only it’s mind-bogglingly far away.
The weather has been pretty much perfect the whole time I’ve been here. I think it averages 74 degrees for the year, and it was exactly 74 for maybe 8 days in a row. Perth is fairly big as a city (1.3 million), but it’s spread out over a decently large area, with a downtown that’s more ornamental than necessary. There’s a pretty good light rail system here, and a low unemployment rate, although due to its rapid growth, there is a housing shortage. Note: One kicker to Perth’s rapidly expanding economy is its title as the first place I’ve ever visited where a shopkeeper offered me a job simply because I was walking down the street. “You’ve shown me that you can stand on your feet”, the shopkeeper said.
Perth is pretty diverse though. Every Australian city is awash in Asian people, but Perth has more Indians, as well as the only statistically significant demographic of black people I’ve seen thus far. They’re clearly coming over from Africa, as this is the closest first world city to so much of the continent. But the big reason why anyone is coming over here is because of mining. This country’s (especially western Australia) economy has an 1840s-1880s U.S. feel to it, as they’re ripping resources out of the ground as a recklessly fast rate. It also seems that Australia is at its peak economically as a result, and this trend should continue for at least another 10 years before possibly starting to tail off.
The mining companies have also started to build entire towns around the mining sites, so they ship in everything from schools, to restaurants, to food, and to prostitutes (apparantly Kalgoorlie necessitated this). Right now, if you’re willing to wash dishes 250 miles from nowhere you can make $60,000/year. Granted, that’s in Australian dollars, but the exchange rate is about $.94 AUS to $1 US, so it’s a pretty penny.
At some point, Perth is going to balloon into the multiple millions, and will no doubt overtake Brisbane as Australia’s third largest city. Melbourne and Sydney aren’t going anywhere, while Brisbane is going to run out of water soon. But Perth is on its way up. And once people are willing to move out here, they’re going to realize that Western Australia has 1200 miles of undeveloped coastline. Once desalinization technology improves, this coast will be able to support 30 million people.
But as ecstatic as I am that I’ve discovered a phenomenal part of the world to live in, I’m even more aware than ever of the curse of wanderlust. I want to go everywhere and see everything, I won’t be able to stay; Perth, and Western Australia as a whole amounts to only a pipe dream. If I lived here, I would essentially be saying goodbye to all of my loved ones. And since I can’t get any of my family members on a transatlantic flight, let alone a 25 hour flight to Perth, I would have to choose between a comfortably magnificent city, and my family. And as much as I’ve been trying to make choices based on my interests, as opposed to the interests of others, I’m not ready to jump ship completely on everyone I know and care about.
I’m leaving for Albany tomorrow, which is southwest, and gives me an opportunity to see Augusta (where the 2 oceans merge) and the Treetop walk near Denmark. The trees are made from highly valuable wood, and the soil contains bauxite, so the logging and the mining companies want them, so if they’re not endangered already, I’d give it 10 years at most.