Al and Amanda Roberts, with sons Graeme (left) and Trevor, have enthusiastically embraced the Byron Shire ‘barefoot’ lifestyle for the year they will spend here as part of a fire-fighter exchange.
Al and Amanda Roberts, with sons Graeme (left) and Trevor, have enthusiastically embraced the Byron Shire ‘barefoot’ lifestyle for the year they will spend here as part of a fire-fighter exchange.

Al loves ‘barefoot’ lifestyle

The cows are mooing and the birds are in full dawn chorus as Al and Amanda Roberts open their eyes to yet another day in paradise, amazed to find themselves a world away from the traffic noise of suburban Vancouver, Canada.

“Sometimes we shake our heads,” said Al, gazing out the window at the Myocum panorama spread out beneath Mt Chincogan. “We can’t believe we’re living here.”

Al is a fire fighter in his native Canada. Working in a station where nine of his cohorts had already done an exchange to this country, their raving set him thinking it would be a wonderful opportunity to give his two boys a new experience, not to mention spending time in a nice, warm place near the beach.

Once Amanda had found a way to accommodate her teaching job, the decision was made and the saving up began and in January this year the family drove up the pot-holed driveway to find their new home, with its breathtaking views.

Al is the first Canadian fire-fighter to do an exchange outside a capital city.

The exchange entails a swap of everything – job, house, cars and dogs – with Wayne and Karina Brien. Al is now working at the fire station in Lismore where Wayne is normally stationed.

The three dogs are ‘no trouble’, but they meant Al and Amanda had to take a crash-course in paralysis tick control, a hazard they have taken in their stride.

“In Canada its bears and cougars,” said Amanda, “and here it’s snakes and ticks.”

 The boys have settled into school in Mullumbimby and find everything ‘awesome’, while Al and Amanda have absolutely no complaints about their new lifestyle.

“Everyone’s a mate right away,” said Al. “And people are always willing to take that extra step, to take the time to help. Back home people are more formal, where here it’s, “How ya going, mate?” and that’s nice.”

They love going barefoot, something frowned upon back home, and Al is slowly adjusting to the sweaty shirt as the summer norm.

The warmth of the ocean has been a constant pleasure for the family, with the boys getting right into boogie boarding and Amanda joining in with The Pass swimmers on a regular basis.

“Back home people go to the beach and splash round a bit,” said Al. “But to swim you need a wetsuit, even in summer.”

Al settled easily into the job after a three-week orientation in Sydney and although two controlled burns on his very first three shifts was something he had never done before, everything else is ‘the same but different’.

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