It has been almost 3 years since we began our country life. Since then I have had lots of emails and talked to lots of people who would like to do something similar. It can seem very romantic to move to a big block, get yourself some chickens and plant a vegetable garden, but of course there is a lot more too it than that. So here are some things you need to think about when you’re considering your own tree change:
1. The distance between places.
One of the great things about moving to the country is the amount of space you have. The downside of this is that it is a lot further to travel just about anywhere. Commuting to jobs, taking kids to school or social events, and especially medical emergencies all require you to travel, often a long way. Having said this, there is usually very little traffic (other than the wild life) so you can usually drive to the speed limit.
When we first moved here, I commuted 100km (1 1/4 hours) each way each day. It nearly killed me. It felt like I spent half my day in the car. These days my commute is much smaller, but we still spend quite a bit of time travelling for other reasons.
2. Services available.
Very often the quality and variety of services you may need just are not available in the country. The more isolated your location, the fewer your services, and the further you need to travel (see point 1).
If you require fast internet for your job, or just to keep you in touch, you need to pick where you move to carefully. Many places only have satellite broad band (which is very slow and expensive). Very often there is no mobile phone reception either. Of course this lack of connection can be freeing and very peaceful, but it can also be isolating and stressful if you need it for work, business (or blogging!).
Also services such as bin collections don’t occur outside of towns. This means that you may need to load up your bins on the back of a ute or trailer and go to the dump every week or so.
3. You will be busier.
Everything here takes more work. For example, we have a log fire for heating in winter. We get the wood for free off our own farm, however while the cost is low, it takes considerable time to collect and split the wood.
Growing your own food is awesome. There is nothing like the satisfaction that comes from eating a meal where everything on plate comes from your labour. However tending the garden and the animals is constant. It needs to happen every day and it takes a lot more time and effort than going to the supermarket, particularly if you need preserve the extra food to eat during other parts of the year.
Before I moved here, I thought our life would be a bit like the nine to five lifestyle we had in the city. In summer, Country Boy is up early feeding pigs and picking produce from the garden before it gets hot, and he is still out after dinner watering plants, and animals again in the cool of the evening, while I put kids to bed etc. While not having set working hours can be great, it also means that you can work all the hours under the sun.
If you’re joining the community, be prepared to get involved. Small communities need everyone to help out to keep them going. I’m secretary of the P&C, while CB is on the memorial hall committee and in the local rural fire brigade. We are all committed to our church group, and CB coordinates scripture at the kids’ school. Add in a few extras like Christmas Carols, or helping out at school, and you can see that our lives are busy. It’s fantastic to be part of the community, but everyone needs to be involved.
Fortunately the rewards for spending this extra time are also great.
4. It is not always cheaper to live in the country.
When you look at the cost of housing, very often the country appears to be very cheap, particularly when you compare it to large urban markets. It’s true that land and houses are generally cheaper in the country, but very often this can mean that there are other costs to consider. For example, the cost of travelling long distances for work and to socialise can soon add up. Also the cost of petrol and food is generally higher in the country because of the transportation required.
If you are used to eating out and shopping often, then you will spend even more money once you move to the country. You need to change your lifestyle if you want to lower your living costs. This can be easier when there is a long drive to town, and when you grow your own vegetables and meat.
If you have a large block of land, you may well need equipment such as a tractor or ute, water pumps, as well as stock. Of course the stock also require feeding and looking after, and this all costs money too.
5. Look closely into the community you’re considering.
Many country towns are gorgeous to visit for a weekend, but living there full time is an entirely different thing. Do your research before you move. Consider the schools available for the kids – will they have to travel a long way to get to school, and is there a high school near by? Are there opportunities for cultural and sporting activities, churches, access to hobbies and medical facilities? When we moved to the country, we were tied to coming back to the family farm. This meant that we had to take the community both good and bad. Most people are in a slightly different situation, and have more flexibility. No community is perfect, but try and find one that will meet your needs before you start moving.
Once you actually arrive, it will take you some time to settle into the community. Some communities don’t consider you to be a local until your family has been there for several generations. They also see a lot of tree changers come and go. Making an effort to get to know people, and join local clubs and committees will certainly help.
Country Life can be fantastic. Really it can! But I also know that it isn’t for everybody. It’s worth checking your romantic fantasies against the realities before you pick up your whole life and move it. If you think it is still for you, then go for it. Embrace the experience wholeheartedly, and enjoy the new life you find.
Have you ever considered a tree change? Have you moved from the city to a farm? I’d love to know what others think!