Tree Change

This New Year’s Eve I went to bed at 9.30pm and have no regrets that I didn’t make it to midnight. Phil and I ate dim sum, drank a beer, sat in the garden and watched the sun go down while finishing off leftover Christmas pudding, then went to bed. Party on!

For me, this year is about no regrets. It’s about living life to the fullest and doing what makes you happy. On New Year’s Day we got up at 4.45am, drove up to Mount Buffalo and watched the sun rise over the Victorian Alps. This is what I want to do more of this year - enjoy the world, be outside, stay fit and hang out with the people I love.

To be honest my new year really started two months ago when Phil and I quit our jobs, rented out our Sydney apartment and moved our lives down to Bright, Victoria. I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front recently, but that’s mainly because I’ve been so busy enjoying my new life. I thought it was high time I sat down and started writing about it.

Phil and I had been living in Sydney on and off since we were teenagers. We had a few years away living in Darwin and travelling overseas, but have been back there for the last nine years. For the most part we loved it. Sydney was our home. We had an apartment, good jobs and a great group of friends. We were an active part of the local cycling community.

But i’ve always been prone to itchy feet syndrome and my toes were really starting to twitch. I’d subdued them by going on some brilliant cycling holidays, running tours and editing the newsletter for Sydney Cycling Club, and starting up this blog.

However inside I felt I really needed a change. Sydney was starting to lose it’s glow. I was feeling unfulfilled by my job. My body was becoming sore from sitting at a desk all day and I was starting to have neck issues. It frustrated me that I had to park 15 minutes away from my apartment and when I actually tried to drive I’d sit in traffic for half an hour before getting anywhere. I was sick of being honked at by cars when cycling. I was starting to become outraged that cafes would charge $20 for a slice of avocado on toast sprinkled with dukkah. It ruined my morning if I was served a less than perfect coffee.

In short I was becoming grumpy.

When I started blogging I began to follow various travel bloggers and photographers, particularly those that focused on getting outdoors, hiking, biking and stretching your limits. I joined a few facebook groups for women that opened my eyes to a whole world out there of people who think like me and are passionate about adventure. I’ve always loved cooking and I started to read more about sustainable lifestyles, growing your own veggies, making your own sourdough etc.

I took to staring at my half dead rosemary and chilli plant on the terrace of our one bedroom apartment and dreaming about having a garden. The only wildlife I saw in our suburb in the four years we were living there was a blue swimmer crab that had escaped from one of the local Asian restaurants. I wanted a dog and chickens and bees...and maybe a goat! It became obvious. I wanted a seachange...well actually a treechange as i’ve never been much of a beach person.

Luckily for me, Phil had started to feel the same way. I’m the impulsive one in our relationship so once I established that we both wanted a change I was ready to pack the car and cruise off into the sunset. However Phil is more of a logical mover and shaker so he suggested we continue working for 12 months, save our money, work out exactly where we were going to go and plan the change, rather than throwing everything to the wind. I reluctantly agreed (not without a bit of grumbling and toe twitching).

We then went through the exciting process of deciding where to move. The obvious factor was that we both wanted to live somewhere with a good cycling culture. As Phil is a teacher and I work in digital marketing we figured we could find work in most places.

Our shortlist came down to Adelaide, Tasmania, Bright or the South of France (Ok, that last one was just my fantasy). We’ve spent the last few Christmas’ in Bright with friends and absolutely loved it. We decided to head back last January alone to suss out whether we could live there (as we’d only been there on holiday in the silly season when you feel a bit euphoric).

Bright is a beautiful little town. I’ve written an article about why I think it’s the best place to cycle in Australia which you can read here if you like. It’s only got a population of about 2,500, which was a bit daunting when we realised that more people lived in our Sydney apartment block than the entire town of Bright. It’s located 3 hours drive from Melbourne in the Victorian Alps in a valley at the base of Mount Buffalo, with close access to Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. When my sister visited recently she described it as being a mixture of English village and American alpine ski resort, which I think sums it up well. It has a gorgeous river running through it that is great to swim in the Summer. It is touristy, so not dead quiet. It is surrounded by wineries, has a brewery and a few great cafes and bars. It has a tiny cinema and a chocolate factory that I’m yet to visit. You can park right out the front of Woolworths!

Most importantly for us it has access to top notch hiking trails, rock climbing and cycling and holds some of Australia’s top cycling events like the Tour of Bright, Alpine Classic and Three Peaks. It’s also got a rail trail running right through it that goes the 100km to Wangaratta - perfect for our touring bikes.

It pretty much ticks every box.

So Bright became number one on our list and the others were scratched.

I could go on about the last 12 months and getting set up (and list how many times I paid $20 for avocado on toast), but really it all comes down to the fact that we’ve done it. The tree change is real and we are living our dream. In November we threw in the Sydney towel, quit our jobs, discarded the now dead rosemary, rented out our apartment, packed up our car and drove south to Bright with plans of sleeping in a tent. We had no house, no job and no real plans other than adventure. My toes stopped twitching!

Luck or providence was on our side and we were only homeless for 5 nights. We’ve found a 3 bedroom house to rent just out of Bright that is pretty close to my dream home. It backs on to a farm and we have friendly cows that visit the back fence. We live 600 meters from a winery and have lovely views out the back of the vines. Out the front we have views of Mount Buffalo. We have a huge veggie patch and a fountain. The garden is amazing and i’m finding the roses daunting but a challenge to look forward to. We have parrots visit every day to say Hi. I’ve launched a war on snails. We had to buy a lawnmower and Phil is researching types of grass. He makes me walk around and inspect his mowing. We have a garage. And a clothes line - I can actually hang out sheets!

In six weeks we’ve turned on the TV three times. Everyday we go cycling or hiking or swimming in the river. In winter I expect we’ll ski.

We are a million miles from our lives in Sydney.

We’re not working yet so life is pretty grand and we’ve got plans to start up a cycling business down here so watch this space.

So this year is about change and no regrets. We’ve made the biggest leap and now it’s all about enjoying life and trying new things. I’m keen to give rock climbing and mountain biking a go so look out for my articles about how that goes down - probably with a few scratches. I expect we’ll be staying put for a while so sadly I won’t be able to write much about overseas travels this year, but I’ve got a lot banked in my memory that i’ll be putting down on paper and great cycling tips to share.

I’m looking forward to sharing our local adventures too as we hope to do a bit of cycle touring in the area.

So stay tuned for a fun year ahead of living life to the fullest. Happy New Year!

Cycling up Mount Hotham

Walking Razorback Ridge

Cycling Cresta Valley

Sunset over our backyard

Cycling Buckland Valley

Potatoes in my potato patch!

Cycling up Mount Buffalo

Enjoying a vino at Ringer Reef winery

Cycling Happy Valley

New Year's Day on Mount Buffalo

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