The FIFO Life: Out of a duffel bag


I dumped my oversized waterproof sports bag on the tiles next to the door as I walked in, waving at the taxi.  Off came the steel capped booted, the long socks.  I breathed in deeply; it was good to be home.

Could I really call it home anymore though? I am not too sure.  I don't spend more than a week at a time in this house, and my parents have already appropriated the spaces I used to call my own. The study desk I painstakingly built in high school and lived at during my university days has been taken over by my younger brother.  My room is unrecognisable.  The bed has been moved out, replaced with the spare single.  All signs of life are packed away in cupboards and boxes by a mother who cannot abide clutter.  I don't bother unpacking my work bag anymore as it will only be a matter of days before I head off again and it sits at the foot of my nightstand, disrupting the clean lines...

Working on the oil and gas rigs as a fly-in fly-out worker is an interesting lifestyle, and that of a service hand is slightly more erratic.  Due to the nature of our employment, we don't have regular rosters and are constantly on-call.  Rig crews often gasp in shock (or grunt, because 'men don't gasp!') when we explain how we have no roster: no idea of when we will be needed or how long we will stay in the field for, a life lived by the phone.  It is the nature of the game and we are clearly told so when we start, but it only hits me on moments like this, moments when I realise I don't live at 'home' anymore.  It seems that I have moved out, but it happened without fanfare and anyone really noticing. I didn't move into another home, rather a to a life out of this 18 kilo duffel bag.

You learn what is essential and what you can live without, you learn to take small bottles of shampoo and fewer changes of clothes.  On my first hitch my bag weighed in at 23kg, the maximum QANTAS would take. Now, I am at a comfortable 18kg - and that 5kg makes all the difference when you haul your life around on your shoulder.

You become accustomed to wearing the same two sets of clothes to work for weeks on end, having one set washed for you every night and folded by the morning.  You get used to having your food made for you, because most camps have a 24 hour kitchen to serve the 24 hour rig operations.  Some might consider it a luxury, having your clothes washed and your food cooked, but when after working over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for weeks on end, you will take any luxury you can get.  It says something about a place when lollipops and stickers are like gold and anyone taking a trip to the nearest town is inundated with requests for packs of red bull, cigarettes or eclipse mints.  It's the simple things that keep you going.




The FIFO Life is a series of moments experienced during the Fly-In, Fly-Out (FIFO) life of working on the oil and gas rigs.  Amorphous, random, and usually written on a whim, these are moments that encapsulate the emotion of a strange sort of a life.