Goodbye, Big City (at least for now)

“It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.” ~ Ernie Harwell

I’ve always been a city girl.

Born in Seoul, South Korea which is one of the most densely populated and fast-paced cities in the world, I grew up surrounded by high-rise buildings. Then I moved to Da Lian, a port city in China also with a large population at the age of 13, and to Sydney when I was 15. And I’ve called it home ever since. As a Sydney-sider, I have lived in different suburbs from Bondi Beach, Paddington, Pyrmont, Glebe, North Sydney, Chatswood to Five Dock (all of which are within 15min drive from the Sydney CBD). So the idea of leaving the big city life was something quite different, yet I knew it was worth pondering for many reasons, especially since I started a family.

When I first arrived in Sydney back in 2005, I was amazed by the slow and easy-going nature of its lifestyle. It was such a huge contrast to the cities like Seoul where I grew up. Unlike the Tourism Australia ads I saw on TV as a child, there were no Kangaroos jumping around everywhere. However, it did felt like a small, semi-rural town. I remember making an eye contact with people walking on the streets so naturally and say “G’day” to each other (of course, it was before the invention of smartphones which helped!). In the span of just ten years, Sydney has EXPLODED into this busy, big city full of hustle-and-bustles everywhere beyond the CBD area. With the soaring housing price and employment rates, Sydney is thriving commercially, however it is slowly but surely losing the once relaxed atmosphere and pace of life it had to offer ten years ago. Although it still is far less crowded than other major global cities in Asia Pacific like Seoul, Shanghai or Singapore, it’s well on the way to becoming one. According to the Sydney Morning Herald article, Sydney will reach a population of 6 million by 2028 at current growth rates.

To me and my young family (as well as many other families with small children I’ve spoken to), Sydney is becoming less and less pleasant due to the increasingly congested traffic, construction sites and high cost of living. For example, we were paying $900 per week in a 2-bedroom apartment in Chatswood which was fine when my partner and I were both working full-time on big salaries. The situation changed dramatically when I had stopped working as I fell pregnant with my second child in early 2017. My partner had also decided to stop working 9-5 for a big company and started his own consultancy so he could be more flexible and spend more time with the family. All of a sudden, our income halved and we could no longer afford living in a $900pw apartment, not to mention the need for a bigger place to live in for our growing family. And that was when we had to ask ourselves the question “Do we want to continue living in Sydney, where we don’t necessarily enjoy living in anymore, but have to keep working nine-to-five (or more) Monday to Friday just to be able to afford the rent for a tiny apartment? Do we want our children to grow up surrounded by fast cars and construction sites?” The answer was clearly NO.

We have realised, what we truly want is to live a life slowly, mindfully and meaningfully where we have enough time, space and money to enjoy simple things (like singing and dancing, going for bush walks, reading books, cooking and eating together, being playful and creative (both with family and work), etc. on a daily basis. And it turns out, we don’t have to live in the big city to in order to enjoy these simple things. In fact, the big city life will get in our way of finding space (both physically and mentally) to do these things. What’s more, we want to do less “big city things” including mindlessly shopping around and spending money on things we don’t need (and produce more waste), walking through the crowd of people rushing everywhere and being stuck in traffic, just to name a few. Most importantly, we don’t have to live in the city for work either, none of us has an office job. We have digital and business skills which means the majority of our work can be done online. For a long time, we have been going for weekend getaways to peaceful & quiet, semi-rural areas to “get away” from the city. Now we want to do the other way around: living in peace & quiet and going for weekend trips to the city (mainly to see family & friends) every couple of months. This makes perfect sense.

After countless conversations with my partner and nights spent on contemplating this idea, we have finally decided to make our first step towards leaving the big city by going on a six-month adventure to Tasmania – a beautiful island/state with a great mixture of nature (national parks, rainforests and stunning beaches throughout) as well as culture (thanks to MONA and many other cultural hotspots). When my partner and I first visited Tasmania in 2015, we fell in love with it and knew it was the kinda place we wanted our children to grow up in. Yes it was a holiday after all and we will never know about the place until we live in it. So we believe, six months of actually living there means we will be able to get the feel for the Tasmanian lifestyle and decide whether we want to settle there long-term. So instead of moving everything from Sydney to Hobart, we will only take the essentials and move to a fully-furnished place on a short-term lease to test the water first. According to our research so far, the short-term rental properties in Tasmania are about half of what similar properties cost in Sydney (e.g. $400-450 for a 3-bedroom place).

By reducing the cost of living by half, we will also reduce pressure on ourselves to earn enough money to make ends meet while increasing time and energy spent doing things that “matter” to us the most, as opposed to doing what “everybody else” is doing and living with herd mentality that is so epidemic in this city life bombarded by media and advertising that scream “you should buy _____ (insert whatever) because it will make you happy” and equivalent messages that constantly tell us to do and buy more things all the time. What the world needs, I believe, is less things but more time and space to work out what truly makes us happy and to do more of those. By leaving this hectic life behind, we are hoping not only to find time to spend time with each other, but also to find a sense of community and develop slow, quality and genuine relatonships with like-minded people and families.

Like any big change, there will be lots of challenges both physically and emotionally, including being away from our family and friends, getting lost in the middle of nowhere and not having the world’s fastest internet connection (although some people say the internet is faster in rural areas with NBN in place), etc. But we are ready to make a change and take this opportunity to make a positive difference in our lives as well as our children’s. We may not like the lifestyle and want to move back to the city at the end of our adventure, but it’s highly likely that we will love it and never look back… either way, it will be a great, unforgettable experience for us all.

So goodbye big city life in Sydney (at least for now), hello life in Tasmania!

p.s. I am not leaving my blog though, in fact I’ll be writing a lot more and be sure to keep you posted.