Life in Tasmania – Week 6 & 7

This time two weeks ago, our sub-leasing tenant decided to break the lease in our Sydney home rather unexpectedly, so my partner and I were forced to make a decision as to whether we would find another tenant to occupy the apartment or discontinue to the lease. We chose the latter because we simply could not see ourselves coming back to live in Sydney again after living and loving the life in Tasmania for over a month. So we decided to leave Sydney permanently and settle in Tasmania long-term (instead of waiting until September this year to make the decision). It didn’t seem like the most ideal scenario at first, but looking back now, we are very happy with the decision as it allows us to focus on investing time, money and energy in enriching our (family/work/social) life here in Tasmania.

This decision meant we had to fly back to Sydney to sort it all out. And we did. As soon as we got off the Hobart-to-Sydney plane at the Sydney Domestic Airport, we immediately found ourselves overwhelmed by with crowds of people trying to go from A to B in a hurried manner, not to mention the crazy amount of traffic as we were trying to leave the airport even though it was off peak hour (well apparently Sydney has entered permanent peak hour), air pollution, construction sites and cranes lifting things up and down. Chaotic and messy – was the city we once loved living in. Good thing, though, was that it further confirmed how happy we were with our decision to move out of Sydney to peaceful Tasmania. For the next 10 days, we went through all the old furniture and boxes of stuff sitting in the garage, moved some, got rid of most of some, cleaned up and handed the keys back to the agent. Hard work yes, but it felt incredibly liberating, both physically and mentally. We still managed to catch up with some of our closest members and friends to say hello/goodbye, which was lovely.

Being back home in Tasmania (and back into our slow-paced daily routine) after spending a busy week in Sydney brought us a huge sense of calm, relief and gratitude. Having said that, Hobart was having a busy couple of weeks (supposedly the busiest time of the year here) with lots of visitors thanks to Dark MOFO – a fortnight of festivities and unconventional artistic experiences including the annual Nude Solstice Swim, where hundreds of people plunge into the River Derwent at sunrise to welcome back the return of the light after the longest night. Due to the road closure, there was a bit of inconvenience getting here and there but overall the city felt organised and well under control. We enjoyed walking around the city central glowing in Dark MOFO spirit and seeing the art installations with its symbolic red lights (including real fires being shot into the sky) and up-side-down crosses (which offended many Christians) everywhere, in both obvious and unexpected places. We also enjoyed the company of DARK CHOCO (i.e. dark hot chocolate) that kept our hands nice and warm 🙂

Another highlight of the weeks was our two consecutive visits at Margate Train located in Margate, Southern Tasmania, a 5-10 minute drive south of Blackmans Bay / Kingston area where we live and about a 20-25 minute drive from the Hobart CBD. Formerly known as the Tasman Limited that was built in England and used as a passenger service between Hobart and Launceston, it ceased to operate as a working train after its final rail journey in July 1978. Since then, the site where the train settled has transitioned into a charming little business/tourism district with quirky, quaint shops and eatery both inside and outside the train including Devils BreweryBootiful (a vegan boot store!) and the Pancake Train.

 

We opened the door into the Pancake Train carriage and were absolutely delighted to have an authentic experience of being on the train – they kept most of the original interior of the train (including the overhead baggage area, the seats and tables, etc.) so much so it felt as if it was about to leave and take us somewhere! Julian (my 2-year-old son) liked everything about it. The cafe staff were so friendly and brought us delicious food for us. The Apple Crumble pancake was to-die-for (not too sweet, not too blend) which came with oven-baked Tasmanian apple slices with a drizzle of Tasmanian maple syrup. The staff also brought us coloured pencils and paper (the space really sparked my creative spirit so I started drawing straight away!) as well as a basket full of train-themed toys for our son to play with. Speaking of play, there’s also a play area outside the train with the beautiful little wooden train (but big enough to be a playground equipment) with separate carriages for children to play and get all imaginative. Julian told me that the little red train was his favourite and that he wanted to become a train driver. Bless. Naturally, he made the rest of the family the make-believe passengers while he was driving the train to his wonderful imaginary world! It’s definitely one of the places we’ll take family and friends to when they visit us.

As I have decided to end my unofficial Maternity Leave at the end of June, I’ll start working from July on a part-time basis. This means I will be spending more time in the Hobart CBD area for client meetings, etc. so I will be exploring different cafes and other interesting little cultural spots. After all, we moved to Tasmania for its  combination of nature and culture, and I am very keen to find more about the cultural aspect of living here.

Life in Tasmania – Week 4 & 5

Goodbye autumn, hello winter. The last week of Autumn 2018 also marked one-month anniversary of our life in Tasmania. Over the last two weeks the temperature dropped quite dramatically too; ranging between 10-15°C maximum and 3-5°C minimum. Most of the golden autumn leaves have been either blown away or flooded away. It really looks and feels like winter in Tasmania. The mountains (especially Mt. Wellington) surrounding the Hobart area get extra misty in the morning, not to mention the smokes from chimneys of the houses probably from the extra usage of fireplaces to keep the house warm. We also bought a big bulk of firewood for our fireplace too (enough to fill the boot of the car) with a strong desire to survive our first winter in Tasmania (i.e. the closest island to Antarctica).

I didn’t post an update on Week 4 earlier because we had two seperate family member visits over the last fortnight that kept us busier than usual, you know, showing them around now we are the Tassie locals. One thing we were a little concerned about leaving Sydney was being too far away thus not being able to spend as much time with our family. However we have noticed that the time we spend with them is becoming more about “quality” than quantity. Both family members came here from Sydney to stay with us for the weekend (which sounds too short) but they were extra engaged and “in the moment” (especially with our children), making each moment count. We also find ourselves making the most of their company while they are around and appreciate their presence in our life more than ever. So even though we are physically further away from them, we feel closer to them mentally and emotionally. (Regular FaceTime sessions also helps!)

Now that we have been here for one good month, a good sense of rhythm, routine and structure (both daily and weekly) has started developing, too. For example, when we wake up in the morning, my partner takes our baby daughter for a walk (just before or after the sunrise) while my 2-year-old son and I make breakfast for the family. And we all sit around the table and eat breakfast together, which is a really nice way to start the day.  We have recurring, weekly activities on specific days like going to the local library on Wednesday mornings (for a musical program for children as well as borrowing/returning books), having my ‘me time’ (i.e. my alone time which I usually spend on writing in cafes with good coffee) on Thursday mornings and attending the local playgroup on Friday mornings. On the weekends, we love going the local markets (including the Salamanca Market, Huon Farmer’s Market and Kingston Beach Handmade Market) to get fresh produce and connect with local businesses/communities. All of these regular activities together acts as a bone structure to our week which helps us stay grounded and create a balanced lifestyle in line with our values. Ironically, having a structure means we can let ourselves enjoy those spontaneous moments when they come in between these activities.

The love of live music (especially jazz) my partner and I share means we actively look for places (restaurants, bars, markets, you name it!) that offer live music everywhere we go. And we found this awesome weekly live music event in Hobart called Rektango that’s on every Friday night in the intimate courtyard space of Salamanca Arts Centre. Apparently it’s been going for 15 years! We arrived there about 5pm just as the band was setting up. By 5:30pm the band started playing very funky, soulful and jazzy tunes. The space started getting filled quickly with people of all age groups: small children (including ours), big children, teenagers, young and old adults as well as seniors… dancing, laughing or just enjoying the music. What a scene. Surrounded by old, heritage sandstone buildings, the space had such a unique and eclectic vibe. The little bar in the corner was serving mulled wine, perfect for the chilly evening. We absolutely loved everything about Rektango. It’s definitely something we’ll be going to regularly as a family. Salty Dog is another great venue/restaurant that offers live music every Sunday afternoon in Kingston Beach (near where we live). It has a courtyard that has a sandpit for children to play in and roaring outdoor fire with bean bags to sit/lie on… plus they have really good food!

A sense of community has begun to develop as well, which is very important to us when it comes to our emotional well-being (as all human beings need to have a sense of belonging in order to thrive!). We have recently met quite a few families with small children in the local library and playgroup. Despite the differences in our cultural and professional background, we all have one thing in common: having moved to Tasmania (all the way from Denmark, Chile as well as other states of Australia) with the intention to create a slower, more balanced life for ourselves as well as our children. Given the share intention, we naturally connected with each other and had a lot to talk about. Every family we have met so far seems very happy with the quality of life Tasmania has to offer. We are looking forward developing quality friendships with some of them over time – slowly and naturally.

So far so good 🙂

 

 

Life in Tasmania – Week 3

What an eventful week! We had one of the wildest, wettest weathers ever recorded in Tasmania since 1893 with over 100mm of rain within a day that flooded the city of Hobart as well as its surrounding suburbs including where we live. Thankfully our house didn’t get flooded but we were out of power for 24 hours. This has never happened to me or my partner so we weren’t so prepared for the situation (not that we could predict it to happen), however we learned a lot in the process of dealing with it.

In the first few hours of the power outage, we enjoyed the strange yet wonderful feelings of: waking up slowly to the dim light of dawn as the sun was yet to rise (instead of turning all the bright lights in the living room), making and having breakfast by the candlelight, starting the fire in the fireplace for warmth (instead of the heater) and having the extra reason to snuggle with each other instead of “getting on with our day” as per usual. It forced us to find and take pleasure in simple things with our children that do not rely on having the power (like reading picture books, drawing on the notepad, playing peekaboo, walking in the rain, etc.).

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We even heated up the left-over chicken soup and toasted our bread on the stove of the fireplace for lunch. When the sun started going down, it was a different story though. ‘Didn’t know being out of power can be so much fun!’ we said to each other until the sun started going down… it got dark very quickly. Because we didn’t have any torch handy in the house, we relied heavily on the one candle we had, a tiny clippable reading light and the flashlights on the back of our phones that were on the verge of running out of batteries (which is better than nothing!). Talking about being resourceful. At least the kids went to bed happily, and we went to bed nice and early thinking the power would be back on the next day.

Unfortunately it didn’t. So we spent another full day without the power and without knowing when we would have it back again. We started appreciating things we would usually take for granted like having a working fridge, dishwasher and microwave as well as being able to turn the kettle on for much needed cups of tea to cope with the extreme weather condition. And we also felt so grateful the little fireplace and logs that kept us warm and fed (as used for cooking and heating up food although it would take a lot longer than the normal stove). As “over it” as we were towards the end of the powerless hours (both literally and metaphorically), we felt lucky to be alive and living in the first-world country where we usually wouldn’t have to worry about not having electricity connected. When the power came back (finally!), the light turned on like magic and it never looked and felt so bright before…

As we got the power back on, the week got better too. Our 2-year-old started his first week at the local early learning centre (just about a 5-min walk from our house). Apart from a few teary moments here and there, he settled very well, making Mummy and Daddy proud. This meant we got to have two rather relaxing days just with our baby girl. In fact, I managed to have my “me time” for the first time since moving to Tasmania.

So I put my hiking gear on and went for a walk from Blackmans Bay to Kingston Beach. The chilly, overcast weather didn’t stop me from exploring, since it was much better than having torrential rain that only ended a few days before (it’s all relative, isn’t it?). With mountain and ocean views throughout, it was a very pleasant and picturesque walk. Kingston Beach not only offers nature beauty but also quite a few lovely beachfront cafes including FIKA which is my favourite so far (not only for its high-quality food & coffee but the modern, minimalist yet warm and intimate design/atmosphere). It’s one of those places that inspires one’s creative mind so I got a lot of writing done within an hour, too.  Here is a few snapshots of my walk:

 

Towards the end of the week, we stumbled upon the headquarter of The Art of Tea the Tasmanian tea brand which offers over 100 varieties of black, white, green, organic, chai and oolong tea blends. I bought the Tasmanian Lavender & Green Tea blend and the NUDI blend that was produced in partnership with MONA that contains dried pieces of dark chocolate, very unique and different. As it’s getting colder and colder in Tasmania, I am finding myself drinking more and more cups of tea to stay warm. So more options, the merrier! To celebrate this daily tea-making-and-drinking ritual, I also got myself a hand-knitted Tea Cosy from the Kingston Beach Handcraft Market. Super cozy indeed.

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Week 3 was also about finding opportunities to meet locals and start finding a sense of community here. As part of the community-building strategy, we went to the local library that holds weekly storytime sessions for children and met two other parents with small children who also recently moved to Tasmania from a different state/country. They were very keen to connect and create a new support network in Tasmania themselves, being away from family and friends like we are. I guess it’s human nature to long for a sense of belonging without which we cannot thrive, let alone survive. As I mentioned in last week’s post, It will takes time and effort to develop new friendships so we are willing to take it nice and slow though…

Looking forward to more beautiful surprises and special encounters in Week 4 – and the sunny days ahead of us here in Southern Tasmania 🙂

Life in Tasmania – Week 2

Last week was all about slowing down and creating space for simple things. This week was all about settling in and creating a sense of home. Living in Tasmania which is still a very much new territory for us, it’s natural for us to feel a little out of place and isolated (especially being away from family and friends). So we decided to concentrate on making our new place comfortable and spend more time in the house in order to familiarise ourselves with the space, and stay “local”.

Although we didn’t bring so much stuff here from where we lived in Sydney as we could only fit so much in the car and wanted to enjoy the simplicity of “having less”, we did bring things that make help us stay grounded (i.e. comfort objects) including: a scented candle, a couple of books we love reading including Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and JoyBook by Sarah Ban Breathnach (which is all about finding abundance and joy in everyday life) and of course some toys our children love playing with (and which keep them occupied when we need a little break!). Having these comfort objects in the new house, not to mention a bunch of fresh flowers that do make you smile and feel welcome when you walk in the house, does make a big difference both emotionally and physically.

The weather has gotten a lot cooler over the last week, so much so that we have already started using the little fireplace in the house (and it’s not even Winter yet!). One night we turned all the light off in the house, sat down on the couch in front of the fireplace and watched the beautiful log burning slowly, creating bright orange flames and crunch sounds that our 2-year-old son was completely fascinated by. People often asked us how we were going to deal with the cold weather in Tasmania (being so close to Antarctica) when we told them about our move. We found the last few summers in Sydney endlessly long, way too hot and humid (in fact, it had the record-breaking hot April) for our liking, thanks to global warming… So we are actually loving the cold and refreshing weather here so far and looking forward to having snow here in the next couple of months.

As one of the ways to celebrate and embrace the cold Autumn here, we’ve also been cooking and eating lots of soup, curries and casseroles with seasonal vegetables. The apples and mandarins are in season here and they are so sweet – the kids absolutely love them. Julian, our 2-year-old, learnt how to peel Mandarins by himself with his chubby little fingers. Serena, our 7-month-old, eats and enjoys all kinds of fruits and veggies (especially corns!) despite the fact she only has two teeth. We get all our fruit and veggies from the local Hill St. Grocer that has a wide range of fresh local picks that are beautifully stocked in store (it is the Harris Farm equivalent of independence produce grocer in Tasmania, but much smaller). We’re lucky to have one within walking distance.

Cooking is definitely becoming big part of our day-to-day activities that we like to do it creatively, slowly and mindfully, especially now that we have more time and space (and not having a huge variety of take-away restaurants in the area or convenience of ordering food online also helps!). One thing I do miss about being in Sydney a lot is having a Korean/Asian grocer nearby to buy the spices and Kimchi (to make the traditional spicy Kimchi Soup, etc.) from, but apparently there is one in Sandy Bay that I’m very keen to check out soon. Good news is that we discovered an awesome Korean restaurant located on a stylish main street of North Hobart called Kalbi, we have already been there twice and loved everything (especially their specialty – Galbi) we tried. As a native Korean, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes or would like to try Korean food in Hobart.

This week, my partner started on a new client project so he has been working from home everyday. Looking after (and spending 24/7 with) two small children on my own has been challenging (although he is around and helps out when necessary) especially I’m used to having my in-laws around for help. Yet it’s been a good challenge for me to spend every moment with them, in terms of understanding and prioritising their needs in alignment with their current growth phases. Their sleep pattern is also changing, maybe because of the change in the environment, temperature, etc. As a result, I am a little more tired than usual and certainly haven’t been the most enthusiastic and playful Mummy this week, but when I am with them I try my best to stay fully present, choosing the act of “being” over “doing”. Whenever I feel too exhausted to do “play actively” with my son (e.g. jumping on the trampoline, chasing each other, playing hide-and-seek, etc.), I simply put on some music, start singing and gently dancing along (or just with arms if we are sitting down). It is not only stimulating and entertaining enough for them, but also uplifting enough for me to forget about being so tired. I also enjoyed reading books to them and sharing hot chocolate in the afternoon sun. You know, doing the little things that don’t cost much energy (they can actually be very energising) or money. After all, I have survived this week and the whole family is healthy and alive!

 

Next week, my son will start going to an early learning centre in the local area which means he (and I) will be making new local friends. We are very much looking forward to developing and having a sense of community here (which will make or break our decision to settle long-term in Tasmania at the end of our 6-month trial). At the end of the day, things take time and we are aware of the importance of taking our time and letting things unfold naturally, instead of forcing things to happen. All we can do is take each day (or week) as it comes… 🙂

Life in Tasmania – Week 1

Despite the fact it has only been a week since we arrived in our new place where we will call “home” for the next 6 months in Tasmania, we feel settled already. Our base is located in the Kingston Beach area, about a 15-minute drive down south from Hobart CBD, yet it feels like miles away from it (even Hobart CBD seems like a “town center” rather than a city, having lived in big cities like Seoul and Sydney all my life, which I said goodbye to for now, if not forever). The neighbourhood is known for being very family-friendly. Our place just a quick stroll down to the beach and nearby bush walks being surrounded by mountains. It is an unbelievably beautiful (and under-rated) part of Australia.

The first 24 hours after my parents-in-law (who came with us from Sydney here to help us settle in the first few days) left were filled with a mixture of extreme feelings, ranging from sadness related to a sense of loss – that is – loss of our “old life” and of our support network (family and friends in Sydney) to excitement for the beginning of our “new life” in Tasmania as a family of four. One moment I would say to my partner “Sh*t, what the heck have we done to ourselves?” and “Wow – we have made it!” the next. Apparently he felt the same way. Our 2-year-old and 7-month-old seemed more or less unaffected by the whole change. Children can be so much more resilient than adults, more often than not.

Two things we have noticed in our first week in Tasmania so far are: slowness and spaciousness. To pursue a more peaceful and joyful lifestyle here, we decided not to fill days with plans in advance but take each day as it comes. This means waking up in the morning slowly and enjoying our breakfast slowly instead of rushing to go somewhere. It also means there is more space for being spontaneous and taking time to enjoy simple things like jumping on the trampoline, playing hide and seek, blowing bubbles in the sunshine or walking and making sandcastles on the beach. We find that slowness breeds spaciousness (and vice versa!).  Thanks to the “purest air on earth” Tasmania has to offer, we simply love being outside (despite the cold weather, compared to the mainland) and breathing in the fresh air deeply and slowly.

There were moments where I had the urge to participate in more “stimulating” activities like checking out tourist attractions, going to theatres and concerts, attending and organising social events, etc. but deep down I knew this urge came from the old part of me that was addicted to busy-ness and seeking external stimulus rather than inner peace. Living in a slow-paced place like Tasmania, I believe, offers a great opportunity to challenge myself to resist this urge (and the future-oriented mind that keeps asking “what’s next?”) but instead bring myself to the present moment (i.e. the here-and-now) and immerse fully in doing and enjoying simple things with my family. There is never a dull moment with small children who are full of wonder and joy in whatever they do and wherever they are. Even when we play hide-and-seek with our 2-year-old son over and over again, every single day, he manages to find new ways and places to hide and have fun no matter how many times we play it. When we allow ourselves to be playful and flexible instead of serious and rigid, we surprise ourselves with how creative and spontaneous we can be, just like children.

Here is a few snapshots of the simple yet beautiful moments from our first week:

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Next week, my partner will start working on a new project which means I will be spending more time with my children alone as the primary carer. So I am hoping to come up with fun and creative activities we can enjoy together day-to-day in the house, in the backyard and at the local beaches and parks that incorporate both play and learning, both nature and culture. Most importantly, I want us to make the most of this slow and spacious lifestyle we have started to live by bringing our full presence in each and every moment spent together – especially before I start working again in July (which may add a bit more complexity to the lifestyle), and of course before the Tasmanian weather gets too cold to call it crisp, we will see how things change then…

Overall, we’re loving it here.