Luke Thorpe has tried online dating, but found the experience “shallow”. (ABC RN: Cassandra Steeth)
Dating in the country isn’t easy — but finding love in an isolated place is something else altogether.
Statistically speaking, it’s difficult: fewer people are around you. But it can also just be plain awkward.
Picture yourself jumping on Tinder, just to find your single next-door neighbour or a mugshot of the bloke who makes your morning coffee.
Young abalone farmer looking for love
Luke Thorpe is a 28-year-old abalone farmer. He lives in a blokey beach shack in Narrawong Bay, in south-west Victoria.
It’s an isolated spot, but Luke soaks up the seaside living.
“I love the ocean — going out on the boat, going diving, fishing, camping,” he says.
“Enjoying the outdoors as much as possible is kind of what I like to do. I think I could offer that to someone.”
While Luke’s passion for abalone may be productive — the farm he works at produces some 200 tonnes each year — his love life is a whole other story.
“It’s pretty difficult. In the country you’ve got limited options to meet people,” he says.
There’s often not a lot of choices for pubs in a country town, he says, and they’re usually “pretty empty” on weekends.
“It does make for some interesting nights,” Luke says.
Dating apps popular in cities, Luke says, end up being “quite different” in the country.
“I’ve given [online dating] a crack, but ultimately it’s pretty shallow — it’s not as real as you’d like,” he says.
“It’s hard to think that meeting someone on Tinder is a good story. I mean it’s a new age, but it’s something that’s quite hard to change your ideals to.”
The Tinder challenge that ends in twins
When Emma Charlton and a bunch of friends in Warrnambool, Victoria set themselves the challenge of going on 10 Tinder dates in a year, she never thought it would end in her becoming pregnant with twins.
“He was Tinder date number eight,” says Emma, referring to her partner, Freek Den Braber.
Likewise, when Freek boarded a plane from the Netherlands to Australia on a working holiday visa, he couldn’t have known that in a matter of months, he’d be expecting two children.
Freek had been working on a dairy farm, and joined Tinder purely as a way to meet new people.
At 40 years old, Emma didn’t think having children was a part of her story.
“In the beginning there was a lot of shock,” she says. “We didn’t tell anybody for three months because we just weren’t sure what would happen.”
“Now we’ve told all our friends [about the pregnancy], I think we’re really excited… Is that how you feel?” Emma jokes, looking at Freek.
Freek replies that he is “very excited about it”.
“It was a big shock. I’m pretty rational, so pretty soon I said: ‘I’m pretty convinced we can deal with this challenge and there’s no reason to panic’.”
Freek and Emma have bought a home and are now planning a life together, with their two prospective children.
The publican looking for a girlfriend
Kahl Murphy, 41, owns the pub in Caramut, a small farming hamlet with a population of about 50 people in south-west Victoria.
But finding love in such a small town presents its own unique set of challenges.
“There’s not too many single guys in town,” Kahl Murphy says of rural life as a man. (ABC RN: Cassandra Steeth)
With a bunch of boarded-up shops along the main drag, Caramut’s the sort of town you might drive past without a second thought.
“It’s pretty tough,” says Kahl, who works 12-hour days with only one day off in a week.
But he adds: “It has its days.”
As a publican, Kahl says, you’re constantly surrounded by people.
“But at the end of the day you’re going home to yourself, aren’t you? You learn to get by,” he says.
Kahl hasn’t tried his hand at online dating — he’s heard “too many horror stories”.
He’s been single for a year-and-a-half, and says while he’s looking to find someone, that special person would have to be willing to put up with the hospitality lifestyle, which “is not very easy”.
While Kahl doesn’t have an exact road map for finding love, he thinks a speed-dating night at the pub could be the way to go.
“Just not sure how we’re going to do that yet,” he laughs.
“We’d probably have to hire a couple of buses and bring people in.”
Farming side-by-side, all day every day
Rural life can be isolating — often, it’s just you outside in the paddock with a mob of cattle.
But when your partner’s right next to you, it’s hard to get lonely.
Rob and Georgie, who spend 24 hours a day together, admit their situation “may be unique”. (ABC RN: Cassandra Steeth)
Georgie and Rob Greig live together, holiday together and work together, side-by-side on their farm, Eulo, in south-west Victoria.
The couple met 20 years ago and have been happily married for 11.
It’s a partnership they cherish: Rob says Georgie brings a great sense of humility to the farm, while Georgie enjoys Rob’s sense of humour.
“Georgie and I probably spend 24 out of 24 hours a day together,” Rob says.
It’s a situation, he says, that “may be a little unique”.
Georgie says working together with her husband is its own reward.
“A lot couples probably don’t really even know what their husbands do for a living and vice versa, so we’re lucky that we can share everything we do.”
Editor’s note (24/3/18): There were errors in the original version of this article that have now been corrected.