We have been having a few of those flash forward moments lately. You know, where if your old self from a year or two ago could look forward and see yourself now and go … what the heck! We set off on our road trip adventure a little over 12 months ago now, and prior to that there was obviously a lot of planning and organising that took place. However a measly 18 months ago we were relatively settled in a family friendly, inner city suburb, playing our part in the hustle and bustle of city life. Two parents, working hard at jobs we really enjoyed, and juggling the growing demands of two young kids. In short, and on paper, we were a happy family ready to bunker down for the next 20 years or so, and work at paying off the mortgage.
Both of us had escaped the claustrophobic experience of growing up in a small country town together at the age of 18 and hadn’t looked back. Discussions about whether we could ever live back in the country were always short lived. Almost 20 years to the day later, we ended up back in that same small country town. It has become our unplanned family tree change, but we both feel like it ambushed us a bit. You could say we took an unconventional path to get here, but after nine months on the road, exploring some pretty remote parts of the country, it didn’t feel as much of a drastic change as you might expect.
As difficult as it was to accept, settling back in Armidale made sense for a lot of reasons to re-start our less mobile lives. Family, friends, familiar surroundings, and business connections to name a few. However we really feel extremely fortunate, and a little surprised, that things have worked out as well as they have. Our road trip has also helped us re-define distance and isolation. So while we are now a good day’s drive from any major capital city, it’s really not that far! Three months into our tree change we are all loving life, and in the next few paragraphs we’ve tried to outline some of the reasons why.
Time and Space
This is probably the most drastic change, which then permeates all other parts of your life. For most of the 20 years since school we have enjoyed and thrived on city life. The exhilarating, busy schedules, and the opportunity that provides. But when you add kids to the mix, it tends to change your perspective on things.
We now have time to drop the kids at school and pick them up when it finishes. Instead of avoiding them, we now have time to get involved in kids activities – hockey, swimming, gymnastics and music are on the current rotation. We now have time to brew beer and bake bread.
Space, so much space. Sure, living just outside town on a property with acreage helps, but you get this feeling in town too. The streets are quiet and wide, and there is certainly no concrete jungle. And it is nice to have a big sky and a sense of horizon as part of your everyday.
Pace of Life
Because of this redefined time and space, that nagging pressure to hurry seems to be greatly reduced. It takes no more than 10 minutes to get anywhere in town. We used to run early for everything – now we have adjusted.
Lowering the pressure gauge for everyday life certainly seems to rub off on the locals too. Of course in a small community you know a larger portion of the population, and people are often keen, sometimes too keen, for a chat. However even the people you don’t know are happy to say g’day and wait for you to park your car without jumping on the horn. It’s nice to feel more connected to your community and less a part of the rat race.
Traffic & Parking
We never lived in a house in Sydney with a parking space. We now have a potential parking lot. You can pretty much always get a place to park within 50m of the shops, cafe, post office, airport … and you never have to pay. This really blows your mind at first!
But then there is negotiating the dreaded country town ‘peak hour’. There is probably a 20min period every day where things get a bit ‘crazy’ on the main street, but it usually because everyone is so damn patient. You can sometimes wait up to 60 seconds to get through one of the two sets of traffic lights in town. But a quick back street detour usually rectifies that – gotta use those city smarts!
Cost of Living
The reality of this has been emphasised because of the beautiful rental property we managed to find. It is, and may well be the nicest house we will ever live in. Just 5min out of town, with uninterrupted views of the surrounding hills. The neighbour’s sheep come and graze our grass and the local kangaroos, birds and rabbits always excite the kids. We know it won’t last forever, but are super grateful for the opportunity to live in a beautiful house for a quarter of what it would cost anywhere in Sydney – even without the land.
Our tree change has obviously also been made possible because of the flexibility afforded by Austockphoto. Developing a business online means we can work anywhere with bandwidth, and working for yourself also allows you to take advantage of unusual working hours. However, starting your own business is a double edged sword as the buck stops with you, and the harder you work, the better you do – a constant balancing act. While it has been a big change, and there are people and things from the city that we miss, the positives have far outweighed what we have left behind. It comes highly recommended if you can make it work for your situation.