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.

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.