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Tree change advice from people who’ve moved from the city

When you leave the city for the country, key aspects of your life can shift dramatically — from your commute, the pace of life, and even the number of friends you have.

For some it’s a big adjustment, at least at the start.

If you’re thinking of moving — or are still settling in — here’s a handy guide from regional Australians who have lived it.

They give simple advice for making new friends, being equipped for the seasons, and making sure you have decent internet access.

1. Pick an area (and visit the pub)

When Peter Monaghan and his wife were planning their tree change, they drew a circle on a map capturing places within a 3.5 hour drive from western Sydney.

Their motivation? They wanted to be able to visit their daughters in Sydney easily.

Then, the road trips began.

“We probably spent close to four years travelling around within that area, staying weekends in little country towns, talking to locals.”

If you’re doing a reconnaissance of a future town, Peter has this advice.

“Make sure you get into town at about 4.30 of a Friday afternoon [and] go to the local pub,” he says.

“Because that’s where you go to meet locals and most of them you’ll find quite friendly and quite accommodating in telling you stuff. We found that quite valuable.”

He and his wife are now semi-retired in Rylstone in the central west region of New South Wales.

2. Securing work before or after you move

Clare Stuart works as a general manager for a health not-for-profit and made sure that she and her husband had jobs in Orange before they moved from Sydney.

“It’s a smaller job market out here, so we weren’t brave enough to just move and try and find work, so having one of us employed before we came was really good,” she says.

Doing it the other way around could work in your favour too.

“Let’s say you’ve bought a property or you’re renting, employers have a lot more comfort that you’re a serious proposition,” says Tim Berryman.

He runs a recruitment consultancy in the same town, and made a tree change himself almost a decade ago.

“Once you’re here, you’re a part of the community. You meet people socially, you hear a lot more, you see a lot more, and I think you’ve got that opportunity to be on the ground and available to employers.”

3. Sample and prepare for the seasons

Graphic artists Biddy Maroney and her husband Sonny Day moved from Sydney to Orange, NSW, and often host friends who come to visit.

For those scoping out a new potential town, she advises them to “try and find the time to visit a location over different seasons, and don’t just come when it’s tourist season”.

Naturopath Sophie Gleitzman and her husband moved from the temperate climate of Sydney to the cooler southern highland town of Mittagong.

“Make sure your home is set up to cope with the seasons — it might be a lot colder or hotter than what you’re used to,” she advises.

4. Check the internet connection

Equine worker Kathleen Fisher has lived in both Perth and Canberra, but has since settled on a farm 30 minutes from Bendigo in central Victoria.

After moving into a house with a slow internet connection, she missed being able to make video calls with loved ones until the NBN came years later.

She now reminds others to check what type of connection is available before you settle on an area.

“The big assumption I made is that anywhere close to a regional centre would have decent internet and that’s not necessarily the case,” she said.

5. Suss out your transport needs

If you’ve never owned or driven a car because you’ve always been near public transport, then you might have to invest in some wheels.

That’s exactly what Sonny Day had to do when he arrived in Orange.

“Be prepared to have two cars if there’s more than one driver in the house because you can’t rely on public transport,” says Kathleen, who lives near Bendigo.

And if you’re not used to driving, be ready for the costs that come with it.

“Petrol and toll costs can be huge if you are commuting,” says Sophie, whose husband commutes over 100km to Sydney from Mittagong for work.

6. Town versus country

Clare from Orange recommends newcomers rent before buying to get a better idea of which part of town will best suit you and your family’s needs.

“Talk to locals about the various areas to live in. Living outside of town might not be for you if you have small children or work in town,” she says.

If you want to keep any type of livestock, do your homework and choose quality agricultural land, says Kathleen who has avoided the need to buy feed for her horses during the drought.

“We know a lot of people who have got the same amount of land but it’s poor quality and they have to feed their livestock.”

7. Finding new friends

“In a new town, long-term friendships can take a while to really cement,” says Clare.

Working from home, she found that a networking social group and triathlon training helped her from feeling isolated.

“I think it is about being brave and connecting with people, and finding things that you enjoy and finding other people that enjoy them as well,” she says.

Public servant Nick Geoghegan emailed us with a similar experience. He auditioned for the Orange Theatre Company a day after he moved with his family from Sydney.

“For the next four months, two evenings a week were booked up with rehearsals. I made a bunch of great new friends and got to perform in front of 900 people. Never would have happened in Sydney,” he says.

“Working in a team environment is a plus when relocating to a new area and helps to forge new friendships,” says Alicia York who works as a management consultant and professional mentor.

She moved her family back to her childhood town of Narromine in western NSW.

8. Plan for the future

It’s vital to check the town you’re moving to has the right education and health facilities that will accommodate your future needs.

“Arrange to have various school prospectuses sent to you for perusal,” says Alicia.

Education consultant Jenny Lavoipierre reminds parents to “be aware that your children may not wish to settle in the area in which you have moved to because that is our experience”.

Over two decades ago she moved her family from Sydney to Forbes and then Bathurst, but her children have since grown up and are building careers back in the city.

“If you’ve got medical needs make sure there are decent medical facilities around,” she adds.

9. Become a local

Museum officer Tim Kurylowicz from Wagga Wagga says it’s handy to develop a fascination for the history of the place you’re settling into.

“Small towns have amazing stories, dynasties, rivalries and anecdotes that will help you understand what’s happening and help you become a proud local,” he says.

He also stresses learning people’s names as you will encounter many on several occasions.

“It’s a small town and you will see every ‘stranger’ again.”


Source: Article written by Luke Wong, ABC Life.