Why Does Every Country Town Motel in Australia Look Like This?

I have been here before.
Jeremy Burge

About 20 seconds after I first saw the photos of a rural Australian motel on Twitter, I knew it would be sticking with me.

“Rare aesthetic,” read the tweet. “Every country town motel in Australia.”

It nailed me. A quick grid-set of only four photos (a sink, a bathroom, a picture frame, a bed) had somehow unlocked a core memory deep in the recesses of my drug and technology-addled brain. I had been to this place. I could feel myself in every photo. But I couldn’t track any of it to a specific location. It was more than that: this was a manifestation of a time period and a moment as much as it was a place, and it was something others – not just me – could recall, too.


This is the rare Australian aesthetic of every country town motel in Australia: a bedspread from the 70s, quilted; an armchair somehow both too wide and too narrow to be comfortable, always damp; a bathroom, complete with ice-cube sunlights and a tessellating pattern of tiles wrapping around the wall; a framed photograph of a generic Australian location including a quote from someone unknown, not Australian, or deeply religious.

I have been here on school trips to Canberra, four kids to a room, a teacher stationed next door.

I have been here between long drive across rural NSW – a stopover to rest. A place that isn’t a place, other than the moment it represents (rest).

A bed

The bedspread of a thousand roadtrips

Jeremy Burge, who posted the photos and first drew attention to this national curiosity, told VICE he had been living overseas for a decade – but Australian motel room decor had somehow hit him with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

“It’s the small things that jump out now I’m back,” he said. “It’s made me wonder why every motel room in Australia looks exactly the same. Something about the familiarity, despite being so dated, is very comforting.”

A bathroom

We have all been here.

And it is comforting. Despite the dampness you can feel in every photo, and the general level of clean (but not actually clean) you can smell, the rural motel is an Australian moment more than an Australian location.

It is wedged into my memory - right between Austar on the TV and the way public pools reek of chlorine. And we are all lucky to have it.

Brad Esposito is the Head of Editorial at VICE Australia. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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