Off the beaten track: Could a tree change save your family?

Kinderling News & Features

I met Becky at a kid’s art class around the corner from where we live in Sydney. She had a sparkly smile and a Kentucky accent. Both good reasons to form a friendship in the sometimes isolating world of the stay-at-home mum.

Our families became friends. Becky is originally from Kentucky, Tennessee and embodies the old-fashioned US Southern hospitality you hear about. She loves to put on a big spread of delicious food and have guests around to laugh and talk.  

It was at one of these dinners that Becky mentioned they were thinking of moving to the country, she wanted more space for her family and a slower pace of life.

Less than a year later they had packed up and moved two hours south of Sydney to a coastal town called Gerringong.

Being city born and bred I have a rather romantic view of life outside the big smoke. I was immediately entranced with the idea and was determined to visit and find out what the “tree change” was really like.

The benefits of living away from the city

A big reason to move away from the city is to give children space to play and run free. That idea makes this city-slicker dream about running away to the country. That and a slower pace of life, tight community groups and less road rage.

While Becky says that it was initially hard for the kids (leaving friends and people they know) they’re now thriving.

I do feel that they have more space, more freedom to run. I find that people are more forgiving here about kids and families. I'm always on my guard if I'm in the grocery store or I'm trying to keep them quiet. It's a stressful experience wherever you are, but I find that here I haven't had one bad word. People are just more forgiving about kids being kids.”

Making a big shift away from what you know takes courage

There’s also an element of grit and determination involved in uprooting your family and replanting them in a new place, with a completely new community.

While Becky has moved a lot since leaving Kentucky as a young adult, it hasn’t made it any easier doing it with her family.

“You feel overwhelmed and frightened. It brings back a lot of feelings that you had when you started the first day of school. But then that also makes you feel alive and exhilarated too. I've found that I've grown as a person the most when I have made these big changes.”

Understanding what you really want pushes you through the fear of change

Becky has always been clear that she wanted to return to her roots. She grew up on a hobby farm in Kentucky and has been yearning for the space and slower pace of life ever since she left.

Which is not to say she hasn’t enjoyed city life, she just knew she needed something more.

“I just felt such a strong desire to get out into the country and to lose some of that busyness feeling that I was experiencing in the city.”

For all my fantasies about country living, for me they don’t outweigh the loss I would feel leaving friends, family and a job I love.

But maybe the pros are stronger than the cons for you.

Test out where you might end up planting roots

You may be like Becky and make the decision, then allow the logistics to fall in to place.

“I like to think that I plan things but actually in reality life just pulls and turns so much that I find it works best if you just go for it and then let things work itself out.”

If you’re not as relaxed as Becky you may want to take weekend reconnaissance missions, to test out whether the place you’re staying could become home.

What is the commute to your (or your partner’s) work place? Are there good schools and day care centres? Write a list of your “must have” amenities in a new community. What are you prepared to do without?

Becky found that after visiting Gerrigong several times it ticked all the boxes.

“Once we made that decision we said okay, well we could make it work. Then you find that actually things can slide a lot a lot more. I think it's very easy in your mind to go, ‘Oh no that could never work because of this X Y’. But actually things do give. And if you want something you can make it happen for sure.”

Becky has summarized the pros and cons of moving to the country  below.

Country living pros: 

1. Feeling of more space always around you.

2. Being able to get a bigger house.

3. Strangers are friendlier- generally everyone seems more relaxed.

4. Connection to nature and animals.

5. Lack of traffic and road rage.

6. Easier to make connections (as everybody knows everybody!).

7. Pace of life is so much slower and more calm.

Country living cons:

1. The living, breathing energy of the city.

2. Convenience of having everything on your doorstep.

3. More culturally diverse.

4. Fashion.