Meet Liam Doherty, the English lad who only planned to stay for a few months and is still here – three years later. Coming from a country that’s cold and wet most of the year, Liam’s found paradise in Central Australia with our seemingly endless summer days. The lifestyle is what keeps Liam here. He loves his weekend trips with mates - swimming in waterholes, driving the off-beaten track and exploring the gems of the region.
Wonders never cease in backpacker's lust for life - Liam Doherty's Story
Central Australia is a land of discovery, adventure and surprise. Every year backpackers arrive in droves to experience life in the Outback. These young travellers are between the ages of 15 and 30 and are ubiquitous with their large backpacks, glorious summer tans and if you happen to be in the supermarket – they’re the ones stocking up on the $1 noodles or thoroughly inspecting the specials section.
The youth market account for 23 per cent of visitors to the Red Centre, which is about 85,000 people. Many of these youths are international backpackers. With few obligations back home and a longer travel time abroad, their trips are less like holidays and more comparable to life changing experiences. Notable American historian Mary Ritter Beard wrote, “Travel is more than the seeing of sights, it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living”. For many backpackers, their trips are a journey of self-discovery amid new landscapes and cultures, new ideas and through the meeting of different people.
In 2009, backpacker Liam Doherty made a life changing choice to leave the comforts (albeit wet and grey) of life in Cheltenham, England to embark on a working holiday in Australia. Having tasted the joys of nomadic life through backpacking trips around Europe and the Asia-Pacific, Liam sought the extended visitor experience that a working holiday offers. For the next 12 months he travelled through Victoria and New South Wales earning his wages from a variety of jobs including fruit picking on a farm, making tomato and barbecue sauce in a factory and bottling wine at a winery.
“Travelling is a different way of life,” he said.
“At home, you go to work, you have a routine and you have your set of friends”
“When you go travelling, especially if you’re backpacking, you’re isolated. You put yourself out there in a new environment and that’s exciting.”
An opportunity arose for Liam to work as a sales consultant for company The Rock Tour and he moved to Alice Springs. His intention was to stay for a few months.
“The sunshine has kept me here and I love my job. After working at The Rock Tour for six months, they offered sponsorship and I’ve been here 3½ years now.”
Liam has climbed through the ranks and is now the company’s sales and marketing manager. His success comes from his friendly nature and also his ability to relate to his clients who are primarily backpackers.
“We get people from all over the world here. At the moment half the backpacker market in Alice Springs is from Asia. We have travellers from Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. A lot of people come to Australia and do six months of English in Melbourne or Sydney and then they come out here because they love the Rock, the Centre.”
Liam enjoys meeting the interesting characters that pass through and for him every day brings something new.
“The other day, I met a Japanese guy who cycled down from Darwin,” Liam said.
“He just turned up outside my office one afternoon on a really old bike that he paid $200 for. It was a pretty standard bike with no gears that he bought off another backpacker in Darwin”
“He cycled all the way down to Alice; it took him about four weeks. He then went on tour with us to the rock before heading out on his bike and riding to Adelaide.”
Along with his passion for work, the Central Australian outdoors plays a big role in Liam’s life. As a keen adventurer he has spent many weekends exploring the region. Growing up in a town where it rains for over one third of the year, it is quite special for him to spend weekends with friends swimming in Ellery Creek, Ormiston Gorge and taking leisure hikes.
The surprise for many visitors who come through the region is when they discover how lush parts of Central Australia are. The region is not just dusty red sand and blue sky but a myriad of colours, from the purple and yellow hues of wildflowers to the many shades of green of our native shrubs and trees. And for Liam, the blueness of the sky is something he’ll never tire of.
“Back in England, I’d leave for work at seven in the morning and come home at five in the evening and it’s dark both those times,” he said.
“But here, I get to work at seven and it’s beautiful and when I get home, it’s still beautiful.”