Two years before moving to Adelaide, South Australia I had never even heard of it.
In 2005, I was working my second ski season at Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado. I spent my days outside skiing, shoveling snow and working on my goggle tan. It was far from the career I had planned while in college and I no longer had any real long term plans; I loved it. My only real plan was working two jobs to pay off my previous travels and save for my next trip – probably somewhere in South America.
Learning About Adelaide, Australia
Between 2003 and 2005, I backpacked through 22 countries, working with and meeting a lot of people along the way including dozens of Australians; none were from Adelaide or even mentioned it. So, at the start of the 2005 ski season when a tall blonde boy told me where he was from, I thought Adelaide was a small town in the middle of nowhere. I am sure that I seemed unimpressed.
A few months later, I ended up having a few conversations with the handsome blonde Aussie and learned a few things about Adelaide. First, it is the capital city of a large Australian state; by landmass South Australia is the fourth largest Australian state, but it is still roughly as big as Egypt or the combined areas of France and Germany. Second, the Adelaide accent is not the same as the Australian accent from Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne which I had become accustomed to in the previous few years. It has a slightly more “proper English” lilt to it – probably because South Australia was founded by free settlers and not convicts (which I’m pretty sure was the third thing I learned about Adelaide).
After a few more conversations (which involved a bit of nodding and smiling because I couldn’t totally understand him), we ended up on our first date, which was when I learned that Adelaide was famous for its red wine. Having spent so many years in Colorado where microbreweries are abundant, I was suitably impressed when my date knowledgeably ordered a nice bottle of Cab Sav.
Falling in Love
Ski resorts can get a bad rap when it comes to falling in love. The idea of finding someone who shares your passion is alluring but the reality can be very different. The gender ratio overwhelming leans male and the resorts are mostly run by seasonal workers looking for their next adventure rather than their lifelong partner. That said, I’m living proof that it can happen.
By the end of the ski season, our conversations had turned from things we liked to do and where we might travel to how we could make our relationship work in the long term. We decided to do a second season at Copper before making any more permanent decisions, but this meant six months apart after just four months of dating; my boyfriend had to return to Australia because of visa restrictions.
During that summer apart, I was able to visit him in Adelaide for two weeks and saw the city for the first time. He was also offered a really great job opportunity in his home town, and while they gave him time off to return to Colorado for one more ski season, it meant committing to at least two years in Adelaide after he returned.
We lived together that second season at Copper (a good way to be sure the relationship will last) and I applied to universities in Adelaide. Then, we spent another eight months apart: he had to return to Adelaide after the ski season and I couldn’t move until just before classes started. (Working around visa restrictions is also a good way to determine if a relationship is worth it. In our first year and a half of dating we only saw each other for half that time.) I moved to Adelaide on a student visa; It was an opportunity to give Adelaide and our relationship a try, and go back to school to study tourism. If it didn’t work out, I figured I would at least I still earn a degree.
Adelaide took a while to grow on me. Moving overseas is much harder than taking a holiday. When you travel, you spend most of your time with other travellers, not locals. This means that when you move, you have to navigate small, hidden cultural differences that you never expected. I accidentally offended people without meaning to and found myself homesick more often than I ever expected.
Originally, we figured we would do the two years he committed to, then figure it out from there. Turns out, Adelaide is a really great place to live. We have an excellent quality of life and I have fallen in love with the city. We live five minutes from the beach, 25 minutes from the city, 20 minutes from the hills and countryside, and 45 minutes from some of the best wineries in the world. Adelaide has great festivals and events, it is affordable to do things in the city, the fresh produce is excellent and there is a wide range of restaurants where you can get food from all over the world.
Thirteen years on and it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.
Post originally published 15 May 2020, updated 9 August 2020.