‘From Football to Footy’
Former Coastal Point sports writer moves ‘down under’
Six years as the sports writer for the Coastal Point. Ten summers as a chef at the Fenwick Crab House. Countless friends and family aiming to persuade him to stay — and an appreciation for properly-prepared Sussex County scrapple.
Ryan Saxton had every reason to stay rooted in the Bethany Beach area, but something was still pulling him away.
Maybe it was his youth spent traveling around Europe with his family. Maybe it was the influence of his cousin, who had spent a semester abroad in Australia during college. Or maybe it was his personal mantra that he had always tried to live by: “Don’t let the little things stand in the way of living your dreams. Live your life with no regrets, and do whatever it is that will put a smile on your face.”
Whatever it was that spurred him on, in 2012, Saxton turned in his press pass and bid his friends and family farewell as he set off for Byron Bay, Australia.
“Although [I was] reluctant to give up a job that I loved, I decided to seize the opportunity of a lifetime,” he recalled. “During my first year here, I was introduced to so much — an incredible culture, amazing people and a vast appreciation for a region I would have otherwise never known anything about.”
Saxton spent his initial one-year visa taking in everything his new country had to offer. He set his watch 16 hours ahead and got used to NFL games being broadcasted at 4 a.m. He ate beef and curry pie and re-learned the metric system. He experienced Christmas in the middle of summer and started learning the local language.
“That took some getting used to,” he said regarding the Australian take on the English language. “There are still a few words and phrases I hear that make me stop and say it over in my head before I get it.”
It took Saxton a while to adjust to the unfamiliar dialect.
“A friend introduced me to an acquaintance, whose name sounded like ‘Hali’ when he said it. I shook his hand and continued to refer to him as ‘Hali’ every time I saw him, for several weeks — until I realized that his name was really Harley. I won’t get into the confusion that followed when some friends were headed to the beach and told me to grab my thongs (the Australian term for flip-flops) and come along.”
According to Saxton, the Aussie language reflects the laid-back nature of their collective attitudes and lifestyle — simplifying most words, or adding an “o” or “y” to them if it rolls off the tongue better.
“Australians are keen on American movies and television, so even if the terms I use aren’t privy to their language, they typically know what I’m saying, which is nice,” he said. “Rather than saying ‘a lot’ of something, they say ‘heaps’ here. And let me tell you, I say ‘heaps’ heaps now.”
Putting his love and experience of sports writing on the back burner professionally, Saxton opted to take a job working as a chef at a hotel bistro during his initial one-year stay.
“I have always had a love for writing,” he explained. “The vast contrast between popular sports back home and what the majority of Australians find intriguing was an obvious and apparent one. My writing was centered around American sports — Aussies are all about their rugby, cricket, soccer and netball. Needless to say, the transition was going to be a demanding one for me, and I ultimately fell back into the hospitality game.”
When his work visa ran out, he returned to the States this past summer, to spend time with his family in Colorado, attend his sister’s wedding, catch up with his friends on the East Coast and even write a few articles for the Coastal Point and help cover the Little League Softball World Series in Roxana. But after spending a few months catching up, he was off once again to “The Land Down Under.”
“I knew that there was plenty more that I still wanted to see and do — not to mention, a new ‘sheila’ in my life,” Saxton explained, using his new grasp of Australian slang to refer to his new Australian girlfriend.
This past October, he returned to Byron Bay on a vacation visa that prohibits him from working until he can get an alternate visa.
“I have been taking it all in, determined not to have any regrets, not to look back on my life and say, ‘I should have done this,’ or ‘I could have done that,” he explained. “I’ve got some ambitions to travel Australia a bit, to get over the Kimberlies, to spend a week in Sydney, to swim the Great Barrier Reef, to rough it in the outback, as well as to get over to New Zealand while I’m on this side of the world. How amazing will it be to look back on my life and say, ‘Yeah, I lived in Australia for a few years’?”
Continuing to explore his new country and enjoy all it has to offer, Saxton does admit to missing good old Sussex County from time to time.
“The truth is, Australia has heaps that make it a great place to live, and even to visit, but it’s a far cry from Sussex County,” he went on. “Believe it or not, among the things I find myself missing the most are scrapple and properly braised brisket. The food culture here is amazing, but not the same as what I grew up with back in Maryland and Delaware.
“The particular area I live in is a sub-tropical climate, with palm trees and ferns, gorgeous frangipanis and hibiscus flowers all over. It is a beautiful place to be, but I do miss the seasons.”
It’s hard to say what the future holds for our long time sports reporter as he figures out the next step in his journey, determined to live a life of contentment. Maybe he’ll get back into writing. Maybe he’ll get back into the culinary arts. Maybe he’ll eventually move back home or maybe he’ll stay forever. Whatever happens, he knows he will always look back and remember the experience without regret.
“I’m fairly certain very few people live their lives and say, ‘I wish I saw less of the world.’ Who knows where this chance of a lifetime will lead?”