Two children playing in sand at Waimarama beach

Tradeoffs of Leaving The City Moving to The Country

lifestyle change Jan 04, 2023

We thought making a lifestyle change would make life less stressful…  

The good news is – life is less stressful.  

But I wouldn't say that it was “stressless”.  

We made a sea change back in 2017 by moving from the hustle and bustle of Sydney, Australia, all the way to regional New Zealand. It's been quite a journey – here are some of the tradeoffs we’ve had to make, that we hadn’t necessarily thought about before. 

Tradeoff #1: Big House = Big To-Do List 

Having a larger house and backyard is a double-edged sword.  

There's nothing better than getting home from work and being able to throw the ball, kick a ball round with my boys in my own backyard. Coming apartment living in Sydney, I’ve loved the freedom with it. Being able to have friends over for a barbeque in your own space.  

The tradeoff is that with a bigger backyard and a bigger house comes a bigger maintenance to-do list.  

“So what?” you say “I’d prefer that then being squashed in this small apartment!” 

What you may not have thought about is: the to-do list takes up large chunks of time on your weekends and holidays. Just to maintain things like the garden, the lawns, the deck or external painting, cleaning the gutters, the list goes on – and that assumes you DON’T buy a house that needs work. 

“I’ll just pay someone to do it” you say – But another thing to consider when moving to the regions is it's quite hard to find people who will willingly do things like gardening and cleaning. There's a smaller workforce and it's much harder to find people who are great gardeners or cleaners. I don’t mind paying a bit more for a wonderful job, but in the regions more of a challenge to find resources. 

When it comes to holidays, you can’t just walk out, set and forget, like you do in an apartment, where you can walk away, go away for a week and not worry about it. 

Overall, I do prefer the bigger house and backyard – but there is a tradeoff. 

Tradeoff #2: Be Prepared To Travel More 

Yes, we have shorter commutes to work – so what am I talking about when I say you need to be prepared to travel more?  

Moving to a rural area means you won’t have access to things like exhibitions, zoos, museums. Ok, there are other things, like farmers markets and pub band gigs, but it is a different lifestyle choice. 

Another reason you end up traveling further is for specialist services like doctors. Regular family doctors are available, but if there's anything slightly tricky for the kids or for the grandparents, we end up having to travel to see good specialists. It might be a flight or a four-hour drive. When you're thinking about making a sea change or a tree change, you don't think, I'm going to need a specialist doctor. But the reality of life can be different.  

We definitely get a lot of time back from shorter commutes, but we have to use some of that time to overcome the distance from metropolitan specialist services. So if you are considering doing a sea change or a tree change, think about what you want from a lifestyle. If you really want the quiet lifestyle where you don't necessarily need lots of different things like zoos and museums, then moving to a rural area will definitely be for you. But if you're at the art gallery every second week, then moving to the country may not work as well.  

Tradeoff #3: Different Career Paths  

With all of the latest advances in technology (especially since the COVID era) you can do remote working, so you can do a heck of a lot of jobs remotely from rural areas that you couldn't do when we moved in 2017. So there's more career paths available working from the country now than there used to be.  

Regardless, there are fewer career paths available through remote work or local companies. If you're one of the “doers” in a large company who just needs an internet connection to do your job, you will be fine from the country. But if you ever want to go down the management path, you usually end up having to go to a big metropolitan center, or at least be prepared to travel to that metropolitan center regularly.  

We know people in our region that are quite high up in large companies in management positions that do exactly that. They travel quite a bit. So the family gets all of the advantages of being in the regions, but either mum or dad is away for quite a bit of the time. For us, that defeated the purpose of moving to the regions, which was to be able to have more time with our kids. So we've chosen not to go down that path.  

Tradeoff #4: Starting Friendships Again Takes Effort and Time  

One of the things that we were looking forward to after our change, was having a close group of friends that we would hang out with on a Friday night to decompress from the week of work.  

The idea was, they'd live close by, we'd just be able to walk to each other's houses and it could be quite a close knit community.  

But in reality, it was a little bit harder than that. Even with James growing up here, it wasn’t simple to “slot back in”. We didn't share the same interests with old friends as much anymore.  

We were starting again. Being a bit older, it was a bit harder, and we really had to make the effort. We couldn’t just wait on our phone to ring and say, “you want to catch up?” You've got to put that effort in yourself.  

Joining clubs or organizing groups and meetings with other people, was the best way to put effort in to grow a network of friends. We had to be willing to become friends with anyone who came along, because we never know what it would lead to. It took a change of mentality.  

That’s the tradeoff of starting again - It can be tougher to break into already, set up friendship groups in smaller communities.  

But in the long run, it's worth it. Because eventually, if you put that effort in and you have those friends, it's great to just walk around the corner and hang out with another family that entertains the kids, and you get on with the parents. 

Tradeoff #5: You Take Yourself With You  

The last thing that I wish we'd realized before we made the move was that no matter how much you change your environment or no matter how far you move away, you still take yourself with you.  

What do I mean by that?  

The easiest way to explain it is – there are quite a number of studies looking at people who have won the lottery and people who have gone to prison. What they've found is that a year or two after you win the lottery, you're about as happy or sad as you were before you won the lottery. And about a year or two after you go to prison, you're about as happy or sad as you were before you went to prison.  

In other words, you can change your environment and shift your equilibrium, which will change how you feel about life for a while. But your mood will always swing back to where you were previously, unless you change your mindset.  

What I hadn't accounted for when we moved was the fact that the lifestyle change wasn't the silver bullet that was going to solve everything. It definitely took stresses out of our lives, but it didn't take every stress out of our lives, and it didn't stop other stresses from turning up.  

To be happy, to be contented, to be satisfied with how much I was growing and flourishing still took work, even after the big move.  

That's been the biggest lesson from the sea change – we've loved it, we've certainly enjoyed it, and we don't regret it at all – but it's not a panacea and it doesn't solve everything.  

Over the years we've had since we made the move in 2017, we've worked on ourselves, we've done a lot of personal growth, a lot of professional growth, to be able to be in a position where we really enjoy and love the life that we have.  

Making the sea change was part of that, but it wasn’t the major factor in making us what we are today. In fact, the majority of our success was really us working together as a couple and working individually, and our own personal development and professional development.  

We've learnt so much about all of that development that we've started making a course on all of the things that we've done to live the flourishing life that we're living, both professionally and at home. We believe these changes can be applied by ANYONE not just people making a big move to the country.  

We are so excited to share it with you! 

Check out our course below to hear about those learnings and how much we've developed over these years after our move. 

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