FIFO, FIFO, it's off to work we go

All our married life, 38 years, my husband has been a heavy haulage train driver, working various rail corporations in SA over the years including a 5-year stint in Port Hedland, WA, driving ore trains.

During these years, we have lived in large railway towns, small railway communities and a large scale industrial town with the exception of 8 years, when in 1988 we escaped to a small SA rural town, commuting, after I and my two young children at the time, were involved in a train crash which took the lives of two people, including the local train driver and a parent of one of the children in my daughter’s class.

We returned to the same railway town after leaving Port Hedland in 2002, and with the same job, different shirt, prospects of the smaller rail corporations were in doubt so now, at the age of 60, to finish off his working life, we have moved again.

This move, the biggest of our lives, but with more of dedicated purpose than the previous moves. This move was to be closer to the major city airport and my husband is now working the FIFO roster.

Working Fly In Fly Out at our age was something we only considered at the beginning of this year and doubted every aspect of it, often believing we were making the biggest mistake of our lives.

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After never living in a major capital city for the length of time since being married and never living in the suburbs, proved a daunting prospect as to where we would be comfortable.

We found a house and moved to a very small rural community of 250 people but only 50 mins from the airport.

This, along with the roster of working 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off back in the Pilbara has changed our lives on so many levels.

Leaving long time friends, comfortable surroundings, activities, routines and convenient shopping, to start afresh in a house that needs work, no friends, unfamiliar settings, limited activities, no day to day routine and no shops along with being alone for two weeks at a time has had a huge impact on both of us.

I was reading the Starts at 60 article about staying mentally healthy and find I have, and have to continue, to force myself to find activities in the area to keep myself from withdrawing, and now with winter here, is very easy to do.

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I found I have to be the one to make the connections. To make the first move. To continue to draw on and find the confidence to approach new people, new activities, new roads, new shops, new conversations, new routines and a new lifestyle. A FIFO lifestyle.

I have to be mindful living this new lifestyle to not over-stay my welcome, not to force myself onto strangers, not to over-spend, not to over-eat, not to overreact and not to over-indulge.

There are many couples living the FIFO lifestyle. For a week, a fortnight, a month, six months or even a year or more. Living together, apart.

Whether or not it’s harder at 60, time (measured in fortnights) will tell.

Have you ever lived the FIFO lifestyle? What was it or is it like for you?