Well if 21 years ago you had told me that I would be living with my then estranged husband in a beachside village north of Sydney I would have been incredulous. Certainly, I would have been hysterical, perhaps with laughter but hysterical just the same.
But here I am, the former inner-city queen of late-night eateries and shopping, now a sea-changer, a Zoomer-not-boomer. And very happy I might add, and still with the same husband. But it could have been different. It’s not all as easy as the various television series on sea changing portray.
Let’s face it, what change is easy, but many people move in search of a new way of life, something they imagine will be simpler and less complicated and solve all their problems along the way. There’s that longed-for sense of community and, of course, the opportunity to buy a home with more space — and to meet someone special like Diver Dan from the television series. And let’s not forget those beaches.
It’s those beaches which are what my other half lives and swims for each day. I love swimming, but have an aversion to sand. If I had only kept all the sand he has brought home in those 20 years, we could have our own backyard sand-dune by now. You may have heard it said that there are more stars in the universe than all the grains of sand on the beaches of the world. Certainly a significant part of that universe arrives in our house each week.
Twenty years ago, we moved into what was essentially a shack. It was within close walking distance of the beach though. It was a very ordinary street, but the houses have had their share of facelifts, and increased in value because we are close to the village — and did I mention the beach? We have nice enough neighbours but over our time here we haven’t socialised with them that much. We’re on nodding terms with many of them, and these days talk over the fence at socially-acceptable distances, but the idea that you’ll make lots of new friends does not necessarily work out once your children have grown up. Many of our new friends are often not around. They always seem to be travelling, or did in the BC era (Before Covid). I doubt they’ll be hopping on to cruise ships at the moment, but you never know.
As well, there is that strange phenomenon that you think you’ll bump into local people all the time. You rarely see people you know accidently. Not in the supermarket, the bookshop (if you’re lucky to have one, as we do) or even the local cinema. That’s really odd, I have no idea why. It’s a complete mystery. How do they eat? In the inner-city I was constantly going to places and events and seeing people I knew, but not here.
I eventually began to make friends when I joined the local yoga and exercise classes, and from there I finally built up a circle of good chums based on books, politics, travel music, films and family. But this mostly happened after I stopped working in the city several days a week and started working from home.
Shopping is different on the coast, or perhaps I’d lived in the one area for so long I just got used to the inner-city fashions, the late-night eateries, the endless Asian restaurants with every imaginable cuisine variation. Strangely, among the sea-changers there’s a fair number of sea-changer chefs, so the restaurant scene here has come of age, provided you don’t want a booking too much after 8 pm.
These are minor niggles, compared to the improvements in your health and happiness. If you are thinking of moving, check out whether there’s a good library or a recreation centre, as well as good local schools and access to medical services (we ticked ‘yes’ to all these, thank heavens). Sadly, banks are closing their branches but that seems to be the same whether it’s city, coast or country. Now a good deal of life, particularly after Covid, seems to take place online. But, when you really get down to it, the joys of bush, sea and wildlife are just as important as having the supermarket’s latest flagship store around the corner, or cafés and bars that are open late.
So yes, you can find love, life and laughter, the second time round by taking a punt on new life outside the city. Oh, and did I mention the beach?