How To // Tree Change
How To // Tree Change
We made our move down to The Southern Highlands from Sydney 8 years ago. I’m certainly a different person to the one I was when we drove into the driveway from our small terrace in the inner west of Sydney with a goldfish strapped into the front seat and two little girls in the back, peering outside. That’s for sure.
We made the move for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we were unhappy in the city. Days were a blur of early morning daycare drop offs, working in corporate world and then rushing to get to daycare and get home only to do it all again tomorrow. Once we decided to make the move down here we literally stumbled across our home online and the next weekend we were down here dreaming and exploring further, much to the confusion and dismay of all our friends and family we were leaving behind. There weren’t many people we knew pulling up sticks and starting again. It was a few months later we arrived to start of fairy tale adventure…and what a ride it’s been!
SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN MAKING THE MOVE TO THE HIGHLANDS
SOLO OR BOTH OF YOU?
Lots of people moving down to the Highlands have partners, or themselves, who will still be working in Sydney due to the short distance. I guess when thinking about that you have to consider what that means for YOU. Will you be home alone with the kids all the time? How would that make you feel? The novelty of being in the country collecting eggs could soon wear off when the septic fills and you are home alone and know NO ONE. Think about how your week will look: how many days you will be alone and how many together? And have a think about how you will cope in that arrangement. There are more and more women living solo down here, in particular during the week and loving it. Who knows what the right thing might be for you…one thing is for sure; your ability to cope will grow ten fold as you build resilience and start a new life.
CHOOSING A PLACE TO LIVE
I often get asked from people coming down to the Highlands how you know where to live or which village to choose? What’s right for us might not be for you. You should definitely consider the need to be close to highways, schools or any specific communities that you may want to move to. I would HIGHLY recommend coming down to the area that you are interested in and staying there for a few days to weeks even, if you can. Without staying in the area it’s hard to know who the people are that live there (younger families in particular) what the amenities are, what the school is like etc. The more times you can come and check in the better. Have a think about your commute and how much extra time your location is to the highway. Our village of Burrawang for instance, is actually 30mins before you get to the highway, and sometimes that extra 30mins can make all the difference – too far for some.
The biggest surprise to me (and to my sister too when she moved down here) was how much time we spend in the car. SO MUCH TIME. To get to the shops it can be a 1 hour return trip. You can do well over 500kms a week without even thinking about it. If you don’t like to drive…don’t move down here to the Highlands.
MAKING FRIENDS AND STARTING AGAIN
When we moved down here we knew NO ONE. I was the crazy woman walking down the street listening out for the sound of kids. It can be tough starting out again and making friends from the start but it’s also exciting. My advice is to not turn down ONE invitation. Even if it’s with people that you would never usually hang with GO. You never know when you are going to meet your next best friend.
COMMUNITY: YOU PUT IN WHAT YOU GET OUT
One thing we decided from the start was that we were going to throw ourselves into our community. That meant joining local community groups, getting involved as much as possible and throwing ourselves into socialising as much as possible. I joined our School of Arts committee and it was the best thing I could have done to meet everyone that lives in the village: from blow ins and locals, to young and old. It was fantastic. Turn up and do the jobs and people can see that you want to get involved. Or not! You may want to stay in your house and do your own thing…but for us the more we have put in the more we have got out, and that’s why we moved here in the first place and why it’s been as rewarding as it has been.
I often get asked the same question over and over again: “Don’t you feel like your kids are missing out down here?” Huh? Seems so weird to me that’s even a question. I feel like the kids have got so much from this life. We get to spend so much time together as a family. We have A LOT of quality time together. The time we have with visitors is quality too, because they are staying with us. The girls are able to walk to school and know that everyone in the village is looking out for them. People are always watching and knowing your moves – the joys of small towns! But they have a great life, they go to an amazing small school and we have enjoyed the small school education so much; there are so many opportunities and facilities. Plus I love that the girls socialise with people across the years / grades. But, like in any small school/town/whatever, everything is under a microscope: when it’s good it’s SO good and when it’s bad it can be baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. There’s nowhere to hide and it can be tough with personality clashes etc. But overall I think the girls have a wonderful life with so much on offer.
YOU WILL RUN A B&B
Know this: people visit. People come and eat and drink and leave laundry and you will run a B&B. Long weekends and holidays like Easter and Christmas will be times that you might like to rest, but oh no! Visitors! It’s wonderful and it’s exhausting and frustrating and the best all rolled into one.
The Highlands and our move has changed me. I feel like a proper grown up here – making friends, starting schools, starting everything over. This place has made me. I feel like we are more of a family here then we ever used to be before. This place is more like home than any place I have ever been to before. I have enjoyed every single one of the 8 years we have been here, been grateful for every single one of those days and still pinch myself that we get to call this place ours.
You can read more of Beth's hilarious tales about family life in the country on her blog BabyMac.