Lifestyle

Is a sea change or tree change right for you?

Are you dreaming of a life away from the city, surrounded by the tranquility of the bush or sea? A sea change or tree change can be the gateway to a brand new chapter - but Carolyn Tate explains what you need to consider first.

By Carolyn Tate

Is a sea change or tree change right for you?

Have you been dreaming of packing up the house and moving to the beach or the bush? Whether it’s a peaceful retreat in the countryside or the allure of falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves, a fresh start in a new idyllic location could be the start of a whole new chapter in your life.

Your children may have grown up and flown the coop. Perhaps retirement has freed you up to think about where you want to be, or your post-Covid work life offers flexibility you haven’t had before.  

Cooloola in Queensland is a small community home to suburbs like Cooloola Cove, Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay,

Covid helped to create a trend that analysts called ‘the great migration’, as Australians moved out of the cities and into coastal and rural communities. Now, we’re seeing a ‘reverse migration’ back into the cities, as those still in the workforce find it difficult to juggle responsibilities. 

Some of the hotspots for older Australians making their big sea change or tree change move include:

  • Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest in NSW’s Hunter Valley (median age of 65.5 years),
  • Bribie Island in South East Queensland (median age of 62.7 years),
  • Foster-Tuncurry on NSW’s mid-North Coast (median age of 62.3 years),
  • and Cooloola in Queensland’s Wide Bay (median age of 62.0 years).
Jimmy's Beach at Hawks Nest on the mid-North Coast of NSW is attracting older Australians looking to move.

Factors to consider for a sea change or tree change

If you’re considering whether a tree change or sea change is right for you, it might help you to ask yourself these questions to ensure you’ve thought it though:

  • Why do you want to make the move?
  • Who will make the move with you?
  •  Where do you want to move and why?
  • Who will you be leaving behind, or be living further away from? How often will you visit them or will they visit you? Will it require overnight stays?
  • Do you know anyone in the area you’d like to move to?
  • How will you meet new people?
  • Can you continue your existing hobbies and activities when you move?
  • Will you be downsizing? If so, what will you keep and what will you get rid of?
  • Will you be selling your home? Do you need to do that before you can move?
  • What costs will be associated with the move, and can you afford it comfortably?
  • Are there support services available in your new area as you get older; for example, health care, retirement and/or aged care facilities.

Benefits of a sea change or tree change

Bribie Island is attracting older Australians seeking a sea change.

We asked a group of successful sea changers and tree changers over the age of 50 to share what they loved about their sea change or tree change, and they offered these perks:

  • “It’s a slower lifestyle, with room to move.”
  •  “Housing is more affordable.”
  • “You can make new friends and quickly become an important part of a small community.”
  •  “The lifestyle feels more relaxed and easy.”
  • “You can hear yourself think!”
  •  “I feel so much safer here – I know my neighbours (although they’re 2 kilometres away!) and I can leave my windows unlocked without worrying about intruders.”
  •  “You can enjoy being in nature without having to drive to get there.”

One tree changer, Deb, who made the move from suburban Melbourne to central Victoria, said, “Moving to the country gives you much more bang for buck with real estate, we could never afford our place closer to Melbourne.

“I also love being close to work – it’s a 25-minute drive with practically no cars, where I used to do an hour and a half each way to the city. We are also lucky that on most weekends we have friends visit. One even keeps a caravan at our place and a few are looking at moving here. We’re also lucky that the kids and grandkids are close.”

Retiree John says he’s living the life he’s always wanted, after moving from suburban Brisbane to Bribie Island.

“I used to fit in fishing when I could, but since we retired and moved to Bribie, I go fishing most mornings,” he says. “It’s completely changed my mental health – I used to be stressed and tired most of the time, but it’s a slow, mindful life and I’ve never been happier.”

Potential risks of a sea change or tree change

A 2018 study found that although 94% of people who made a sea change or tree change were happy with their decision, a surprising 68% were planning on moving back at some stage.

‘Regional regret’ strikes when people miss their friends and family, or miss the facilities and faster pace of city life.

Deb says loneliness can be a real risk if you’re not proactive about making connections.

“One of the huge issues I see, especially for women, is making new friends,” she says. “Not having kids in school, you need to intentionally meet people with similar interests. Most of the women I know have volunteered and met like-minded people.”

Fellow tree changerJackie agrees.

“In 2020, when the world went mad, I suggested that it would be a good time to try living with my partner at his farm ... 3 years, 3 months, 5 days, and 2 floods later!

“Isolation is a killer for an introvert. While I have no trouble being alone, the country farm life is way more isolating than is mentally healthy. It's been a huge reality check on the importance of connection.”

Larger regional towns with good health care facilities make an attractive sea change or tree change location.

How to make a sea change or tree change work for you

 If you’re ready to take the plunge and make that move, consider these tips offered by successful sea changers and tree changers to ease your transition and increase your chances of a smooth transition.
·     Take your time and do your research – don’t be in a hurry or make an emotional decision. The saying “marry in haste, repent at leisure” could also apply to moving house.
·     Make sure you visit the local supermarket, social club, cafes, shops, restaurants and recreation spots to get a feel for who your neighbours will be, and if you feel comfortable.
·     Talk to people who already live in your desired location. What do they love about it? What do they find challenging?
·     Try renting in the area or visiting regularly during all seasons before buying a home, to ensure it’s what you really want.

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