Buvette Masthead

Wanderlust: Amy O’Dell

Emma Macdonald


We meet the women who gave in to their Wanderlust and did something a little crazy, a lot brave and ultimately life-affirming when they packed up their ordinary lives and took the plunge.


I’d wanted a solo travel adventure since my early twenties, but my decision was cemented at the end of a big relationship nearly four years ago.

At the end of most relationships, the people involved are forced
 to have a tough look at their life. I’d come to a crossroad and had to decide which direction I’d take. The next relationship, or an adventure of my own? One day in July last year I was driving home to my latest share house and got stuck in roadwork traffic.

It was about 5.20pm and nearly dark, and cold and rainy and I’m in the traffic on a roundabout and remember having a moment of clarity like in a movie! If I’m going to make a change in my life, it needs to happen now! I booked my flights a few days later. I had 15 weeks until departure, and I went into panic saving mode.


One of my goals of this trip was to reduce my belongings to only the basic and sentimental items. I sold furniture, white goods, clothes, artwork and finally my car!

Macaw rehabilitation in Honduras

Macaw rehabilitation in Honduras

I was really shocked by the number of clothes I had in my wardrobe that still had labels on them. I was just carting them around from one share house to another. And so many beauty products! Wow, what a waste of money! I felt sick looking at it all. I either sold things on eBay or gave it Vinnies. I was already feeling lighter.


I arrived in Thailand last November, where I was planning six weeks travel from south to north. I’d been there a couple of times before, so knew what to expect, but on my fifth night, in the outdoor shower of my tropical $15-a-night bungalow, I broke my wrist! I had to fly home a few nights later for surgery in Canberra and spent the next two months in a cast.

Chatting to siblings on the border in El Salvador

Chatting to siblings on the border in El Salvador


Second trip: A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I spent my first month travelling from Guatemala to Costa Rica on a combination of solo travel and as part of a small Intrepid Tour. By the time I got to Costa Rica I decided I should check my bank account and realised I had drastically overspent.

Ziplining in Costa Rica Cloud Forest

Ziplining in Costa Rica Cloud Forest

So in a sudden turn of events, I searched the Worldwide Organisation of Organic Farmers USA website for farms that needed immediate help, and would you believe a farmer in sunny California had a goat farm and his goats needed to be milked.

I was greeted at the farm by two gorgeous dogs and a guard donkey called Odie. I had my own bedroom, gorgeous neighbours, and delicious farm-fresh goat’s cheese that I helped produce. Not to mention 50-something goats, two pigs, woodpeckers, bears and the most friendly, welcoming and warm neighbours and farm friends, who are all now friends for life.

Two weeks turned to two months, and I only left because I was offered a big freelance project with a Canberra business and was struggling to manage working at the farm with completing the project.

Feeding time at the nursery

Feeding time at the nursery

I was a relaxed, tanned, make-up free, goat-farming digital nomad


Less is more! By disconnecting myself from the material things in life, and coming back to the basics, life really is less complicated. I’ve discovered I actually don’t need much and I’ve become really adaptable to my environment. For example, I’ve survived 10 months without a car!

But on the flip side, I’ve also realised how unsure things can be when you don’t have an income. This trip has definitely made me learn to budget and live within my means.

I’ll look for some contract work and hang out in Canberra or Sydney for a couple of months 
to top up my bank account, then I’m heading back to the US to backpack from Nashville to New York before job hunting in the US or England.

This article originally appeared as part of our Wanderlust article in Magazine: Escape for Summer 2016/17. Find out more about Magazine here

Magazine Edition 7: Escape


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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