I’d never heard of the expression “tree change” before some brave friends of our did exactly that and moved six hours north of Sydney to the foothills of a beautiful inland town called Bellingen.
Tree changes are a real thing and another retirement option when we reach this middle stage of life with a limited amount of time left to get it right and find the secret to happiness and a better lifestyle. It’s inevitable that as the kids step closer to independence, our priorities change and the draw of freedom away from the ongoing constraints of city life becomes harder to ignore.
As opposed to a sea-change, a “tree change” is favoured by ‘thousands of Australians who are ditching the hectic city life in favour of a more relaxed pace in the country’s regional and rural towns. Housing affordability and a yearning for greater work/life balance sees many Aussie couples and families make such a tree change and reap the many benefits of flexible work arrangements. Better connectivity through technology and improved infrastructure enables them to work from home more, have a faster commute, or set up their own home-based businesses.’ (Realestate.com.au)
The old man and I talk endlessly about what he has termed our Act 3, because even though we don’t voice it, as non-believers we know we are approaching the final chapter of our lives, and we don’t want to f**k it up. Each argument discussion takes us one step closer to some clarity about what each of us want once those halcyon days finally arrive and we’re free to put ourselves first again.
So far, here’s what we agree on:
- Neither of us want to be consummate travellers, and certainly not with each other, because history has proven that the combination of Mr and Mrs Anxiety on any form of transport where we are not at the controls is a recipe for disaster.
- We came to Australia for a beach life and both of us find our peace by the water. The fluctuating temperature of my menopausal body means I need cool water close by if the old man is to have any chance of surviving our Act 3.
- In reality, we did our sea change eleven years ago, when we first moved to Australia and I’m feeling jaded from starting over, so I want to remain in the environs of Sydney and downsize to a shoebox to save costs if we have to. I’ve had to reinvent myself and make new friends so many times, I don’t even know who I am anymore.
The problem is:
- The old man’s plans involve locking himself away from society, preferably in a man shed with WIFI, where he can watch sport all day, live on a diet of Twisties, and only has to make limited conversation with his chosen canine companions.
Evidently, there are some things that still need to be worked out.
Our friends in Bellingen wanted a lifestyle change and bought “Moo River Farm” impulsively, set on 45 acres, which handily came with a house and an old dairy on it. They live in the house and have converted The Dairy into a sumptuous holiday cabin, sustainably, using local salvage. Their eye for design and detail is written all over The Dairy, from the romance of its four poster bed with mosquito net and bedsides made from local milk urns, to the copper sink in the en suite with taps formed from gas pipes. The house offers a restful, rustic decor in keeping with its surroundings and infused with touches of its local history.
Lush, green pastures are fed by a river that winds its way through the land. Committed vegetarians, (information they’ve been forced to conceal from their new farming buddies), they intend to grow their own food as well as small crops, such as garlic and macadamia nuts, which they will sell at the local markets. Animal life is abundant on the farm, and they exude a quiet confidence, safe in the knowledge that there’s no danger of them becoming sustenance. Pets that roam the land include dogs, chickens, cows and horses as well as the sort of wildlife Australia is famous for, I imagine, the kind that we refrain from bragging about on tourism sites.
Inevitably, it’s hard work to make money out of any new venture, and takes a huge amount of enthusiasm and passion to start over again at this time of our lives; but nowhere more so than on the land and in what can be an unforgiving climate. Although physically challenging, the change in our friends’ lifestyle and the way in which their world has already slowed down to the pace of their environment is evident, and it has fired up their interest and increased their knowledge about how to protect the environment; knowledge that they are passionate to share.
Now I’m not one to blatantly plug products on this site, but if you fancy a taster of this kind of lifestyle, you can find The Dairy at their website (here), or on airbnb, and trust me, the minute you enter this property, all the stresses of modern living evaporate and your heart rate quickly acclimatises to the slower, healthier rhythm of the streams close by… and you will lose weight…or maybe not.
Moo River Farm is a retreat of sorts, but far from cut off from civilisation. With a wealth of nearby water holes for dips on those HOT AF days, there is also the buzzing town of Bellingen to explore, offering an array of community-based activities, live music, a monthly market, boutique shopping, and a plethora of wonderful restaurants dedicated to healthy-eating foodies.
A green paradise, in contrast to the ocean paradise of a sea-change, a tree change would afford the old man the sort of privacy he aspires to, yet it would be close enough to a thriving community to give me the sense of belonging I would need to put up with him.
More food for thought.