As COVID-19 descended on the Australia east coast nearly two years ago, Fred Porter found himself in the midst of a personal crisis.

He’d worked himself to the point of burnout. On Queensland’s Gold Coast, lockdowns threatened to separate him from his family in Western Australia, and the fast-paced city life he’d once yearned for had lost its lustre.

Little did he know, this low point, combined with new communications technology, led Mr Porter home to a remote West Australian farm, where he has found himself happier than ever in a place he was once desperate to escape from.

A man with red hair and a red beard smiles at the camera in front of a rural scene.

Fred Porter has found happiness on his family farm north of Northampton, Western Australia.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell)

Big dreams

As a kid growing up on a remote farming property some 600 kilometres north of Perth, Mr Porter often found himself dreaming of far-flung places.

“I remember growing up here and just thinking it was really the end of the Earth,” he said.

“I’d look over the horizon and I’d always want to know what was beyond the horizon.”

Many assumed he’d take on the family farm, but with no pressure from his mum and dad to do so, Mr Porter was quick to dismiss such ideas.

“I remember my grandmother asking me as the only boy in the family when I would be taking over the farm and I looked at her straight in the eyes at a very young age and I said to her, ‘Oh no, I won’t be taking over this farm,'” Mr Porter said.

“‘I’m going to be living in my own apartment with my own air conditioner’ because having an air conditioner when it’s 40 degrees out here was pretty much the most luxurious thing I could think of.”

Historic photo of a boy on a swing in a rural setting.

Even as as a kid, Mr Porter had his sights set far from the family farm.(Supplied: Fred Porter)

Burnout

Fast-forward through the decades and Mr Porter was enjoying the life he’d once dreamed of as a boy on the family farm.

Life was a whirlwind of nightclubs, parties, travel and building a career in marketing and entertainment. He worked and travelled with the likes of the Wiggles, and Yo Gabba Gabba, and counts DJ Lance Rock as a friend.

He’d launched his own marketing business, met the man who’d become his life partner, and eventually achieved his childhood dream: buying an apartment on the Gold Coast complete with its own air conditioner.

Technology meant he could work from wherever he wished. He spent one summer in Mexico and dreamed of working from hotel pools around the globe.

“I went to Cancun and did my work poolside while there was some foam party coming out of a hotel that was shaped like a pyramid,” he laughed.

“I did think I was going to be working out of a five-star hotel in a New York loft remotely, because I could do that too.”

But Mr Porter’s fast-paced life pushed him to the point of burnout.

Then came COVID.

A group of adults and dressed up children's entertainment characters hugging and smiling at camera.

Fred Porter (second from left) launched a career in promotions and children’s entertainment.(Supplied: Fred Porter)

Happiness in unexpected places

Desperate for a break, and yearning for the comfort of family, Mr Porter and his partner Vince Pruiti-Ciarello packed up and headed back to the Porter family farm to recoup.

Improved telecommunications technology meant Mr Porter could continue to run his business remotely.

And, much to their surprise, the duo found the isolation, the quiet and the rigours of farm work strangely satisfying.

While continuing to work in entertainment, marketing and promotions from home, Mr Porter lent a hand with the harvest, got swept up in his dad’s nature conservation efforts and started to imagine a life that combined the best of city work with the joys of being with his parents in their older age, and enjoying the tranquillity of country living.

“It’s a really exciting time to work remotely and to live regionally. All of those things I needed to be in the city for just don’t apply anymore — I can actually get my work done anywhere.

“And [I’ve realised] I have this deep connection to this land as well.

 A man in the cab of a chaser bin tractor when the sunlight over his shoulder.

Mr Porter never expected to work on the family farm but is now loving doing so, while running his marketing business remotely.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell)

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When COVID and burnout led Fred back home, he found unexpected happiness
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