Tree Change: Moving to the country

In recent months, those of you that know me, would be well aware of the massive amount of activity Katie & I have undertaken in re-arranging our lives and moving up to the Macedon Ranges.
In high level terms:

  • Renovated House – Bang! Really upped the tempo in our activities – new kitchen, new wardrobes, painted inside & outside, terraced the backyard, spent a small fortune on the gardens. This off the back of new bathroom, re-modelling the layout of the house and turning the ugly duckling into a desirable home.
  • Put House on Market – Used the most expensive agent in the area and got a spectacular result. A first hand experience of “you get what you pay for”.
  • I changed Job.
  • Sold House – at auction, just before the downturn in the market. Woohoo!
  • House Cooling – Had a succession of events at our sparkling house, which involved LOTS of dinner parties, weekend gatherings, children running around everywhere, excellent company, great food & wine.
  • Started looking for a Rental – summarised by: hovels or in the middle of no-where (as in 10km from the station in the hills).
  • Started Packing – gave away to friends and charity probably 30% of our material possessions.
  • Rental – still looking.
  • Revved up Luci & Noah (well mostly Noah) – the next big adventure for a 3 year old – new playgrounds! new kids!
  • Kept looking for a Rental – getting desperate now – prepared to pay 4 months in advance…
  • Found the Perfect Rental, 2 streets from our block!
  • Moved – 1 Rental Truck, 3 trips and 5 Station Wagons of belongings later.
  • Started our new life – angels singing with 4 part choral harmony materialising in the air.

Katie wrote a really nice piece on her blog describing the move for herself in the post: Reading it, I realised the reasons that I wanted to move to the country were slightly different, because in all seriousness, I get my dose of urban hipsterism, sipping lattes and window shopping (retail background coming through) each day I head into work. Katie’s view on her lifestyle is driven around the fact she is originally from Daylesford, indeed her parents are still up there and she would be “stuck at home” with Noah & Luci, sans all the creature comforts she had gotten used too – neighbours, cafes, shopping, skipping out for an evening with friends. In this regard, I admire her all the more highly, because I believe she has the tougher journey in the initial phase of our re-existence. With that, it could be surmised that I have an uncharted journey as well,  with a cloudier view of what is possible and accessible for myself.

As one of my friends noted, moving to the Macedon Ranges requires a very precisely calibrated sense of timing, organisation and scheduling. Miss a train and you’re cooling your heels for an hour on a cold (okay: VERY COLD) platform.

Scheduling around work comes to the fore – I’ve found that it has forced me to become more efficient and zealous with my time. I’ve had to be somewhat up front with my work colleagues to bring them to my scheduling. Moving to the country has definitely made me more organised – I’m finding I’m processing things more quickly and comprehensively and I’m generally getting more work done.

Why? Time to introspect for one.

A good friend of mine and I have been pondering the importance of “me time” for the past few months. He asked the simple question: “Do I get time to do my own thing, on my own terms?” I responded that yes, I did and I did so, because I made the time. I would get up half an hour earlier and read my book for that extra 20 minutes. I would walk 20% slower from the station to home making the 12 minute walk, 15 minutes, admire the gardens, take a few extra deep breathes of fresh air or pause and marvel at the progress of a house being built. They are tiny, tiny things I’m doing, but I’m choosing to do them on my own terms. That’s very healing. That’s me time.

So, back to my reasons to move to the country. It’s a complex question, with an equally complex and convoluted set of answers and responses.

However, distilled simplistically: To slow down and smell the roses.

I’ve spent much of my life in fast forward. I love pace. I love change. I love learning. I love the sense of achievement when you learn something and can than apply it for an outcome you plan for. Translating this type of outlook has been realised most poignantly in having children and learning to share their time learning about the world and mixing it up with other children of our friends, who are similarly minded. That old adage “seeing the world, through my eyes” doesn’t ring more true than when you are tasked with the responsibility of raising your very own human being, or in our case two of them, to be morally upstanding, caring and humble individuals who believe in themselves and their value to the world.

Now we have made the move, I’m wondering, in my late 30′s why I didn’t do this earlier. I certainly haven’t set a precedent – two of my closest friends, one the best man at our wedding, the other a dear friend who I’ve known since I was 15, both did a tree change in their early thirties – one moved to Far North Queensland, just outside of Port Douglas and the other moved to the Gippsland high country.

Both have made a tremendous impact on their lives and their lifestyles and they are both all the more fulfilled for having taken this adventure upon themselves. Katie & I are focused on 3 things at the moment – our new home we are building, the future of our children and finally, ensuring that we have enough time for each other.

These 3 modest goals, I can say we are meeting in such a way that I envisage, I will be blogging about more often in the future. I can say that having been a country mouse making the commute into town each day for the past 3 months, each night I journey home on the V/Line, I feel like I’m going on holiday. I love sitting on the train and reading a book. Or catching up on the continuous deluge of emails in an uninterrupted environment. Or reading, researching and finding out what is happening out in the digital world. The intangible, personal things I’ve gained?

Politeness – a sense of belonging to people and within the community. Katie & I have this metric which we laugh about, in judging the quality of a suburb. If you are driving and you have to give way to a car oncoming in a narrow street, if the suburb is decent, you give each other a “thankyou” wave. Suburbs like Camberwell, Alphington, Ivanhoe are the sort that reflect a more “polite” way of existence. Where we have moved too, we not only get a wave, the car oncoming pulls up, lowers their window and asks how your days been so far. You end up chatting for 10 minutes.

Community – last week it was particularly windy. Some bins got knocked over in front of us as a group of us departed our train at the station, sprawling the contents on the road with the wind doing its best to send paper, rubbish and debris to the four points of the compass. As one, 5 of us quickly started picking up rubbish and straightening up the 2 bins that got knocked over. Within 20 to 25 seconds another 8 people were helping pick up the rubbish and tidy up the street. 45 seconds later, we all bade farewell to each other, by way of nods and “thanks – see you soon” and went on our way.

Nature – Fresh air. Beautiful parks and untouched forests. Clear sky’s at night where you look up into the sky and feel sucked up into the vastness of the stars above, and feel like you are 5 years old again. Having a 3.5 year old sitting on your lap and looking into the sky each night is surreal.

Fresh food – We have within 5 kilometers of us, some of the states best fruit, vegetables and livestock available to us on our doorstep. The cafes go to the trouble of learning your name. And remembering you. And engaging you.

Neighbours – uniformly neighbours at our rental and adjoining our block of land we are building on are terrific. It’s amazing to meet so many people of similar outlook, mindset and values. You want to have them over to dinner to get to know them better. You feel privileged that you drew the lucky hand and will have these people around contributing and influencing your own children’s lives in the future.

A tree change: It’s fantastic.