Monday, 14 December 2015

TREE CHANGE



One of the reasons I love to travel, and it's an important part of my life, is that it helps me to put what I value into perspective. For this reason, the most transformative type of travel is to foreign countries. It helps me to step out of my daily patterns of living, and consider new ways of being.

This feeling came over me after our European holiday in the middle of the year. Thoughts had been bubbling away for some time but taking time out to assess what mattered the most for us as a family became a crucial piece in our puzzle. 

We got to stay at three amazing places that had a profound impact on our consideration as to how we wanted to live our lives. The first was an historic mill house in the mountains near Varallo. Here we learnt to slow down and relax together as a family, as well as enjoy spending time in a smaller house but on a larger piece of land. The children roamed the garden, splashed around and built dams in a stream that flowed from a nearby waterfall, and we cleared our minds with the fresh mountain air.

Our second base was on an organic olive farm in the hills above Verona. This beautiful place left an indelible mark. Again, we were staying in accommodation with much less space than our current home but every day the children spent their days - or least wanted to - running around the farm. When we went sightseeing they were eager to return to see the horses or play with Viva, the gentlest and friendliest dog I've ever met.

The children loved picking fruit, such as peaches and figs, straight off the trees. They were mesmerised watching bees buzzing around bunches of lavender, and butterflies fluttering along the flower beds. They also enjoyed finding and smelling the different herbs that were often planted as ground cover on various parts of the farm.

Each morning we enjoyed honey made from the bees on the farm, jams from the fruit and homemade bread and yoghurt. We sat under a giant olive tree and took our time to savour and share our food, and ease into the day.

While we were acutely aware that we were on holiday - the best kind - talk started to turn more to how we could replicate more of this lifestyle at home.

Our last main stay was in an apartment in Helsinki. While it was a city base, we were living in a place that was about one-third of the size of our current house, yet it felt so much more functional. We were free of so much "stuff", we were able to engage with each other easier, and the space was light and bright.

While we love our current home, it is a typical Sydney terrace - long and narrow. It has the all-important north-facing aspect but it doesn't feel light and airy. We have designed changes to the house, which have been approved by council, with a focus on capturing more north light and creating a greater open-plan family-friendly living area. But after our holiday, we started to question if this was the path we really wanted to go down right now. It's one thing to build a beautiful house, but is it the home you really want? Where you live, and its environment, is just as important to your well-being as the four walls and the belongings that surround you.

The weekend after we returned from our overseas adventure, we started a search to buy a property in the countryside. For years we have considered moving back towards the coast but that felt too claustrophobic. We wanted to live somewhere that the children could run free, roam and explore. Having a quarter-acre block or a square patch of lawn out the back seemed like a compromise in the big-picture dream we'd had while overseas.

We looked north of Sydney, closer towards family, but inland. There was an area that we had visited previously, and that seemed to tick many boxes. It is a verdant valley with many horse farms. It is only about 90 minutes north of Sydney and 30 minutes from the coast - the same time it currently takes us to get from inner Sydney to the beaches in the east. 

Every farm we visited the children wanted to run and run and run. It felt right. There was talk of tree houses, fruit trees, living a more sustainable life. It felt good, and our instincts were telling us to keep pursuing this dream.

After about four months of looking we found a place to call home. We've already learnt a lot along the way but there's still a long way to go. We're not frightened of a challenge. And we love adventure. We can't wait for our new family journey to begin.

image the indigo crew 

4 comments:

  1. Beautifully written! Having moved away from Sydney a year ago now and lived in London and now Dubai within that year, all the up rooting and travel has made us assess what is fundamental to making a house a home and how to create this in different countries where values differ from that of our Australian background. We have plans to settle back in Sydney where our families are but its the case of 'ignorance is bliss', travel has opened our eyes and although I get very nostalgic for Sydney terraces and street scenes I can't help wonder whether like you it's the path we want to go down when we return! Sending all my best wishes to you and your beautiful family on your new adventure and really looking forward to reading all about it in 2016!

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  2. This is wonderful! My husband and I are making a semi-step in a similar direction, moving from Melbourne to Geelong and then we will see how we go. I am quite certain we will end up more rural but he's not sure. Best wishes with it!

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  3. How wonderful, Natalie. I can feel the excitement just reading your post. It will be a challenge, but it will also be a wonderful adventure and I don't think you ever regret adventures. Good luck. Can't wait to hear more about it next year x

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  4. I loved reading this post Natalie, made me feel that tremble of excitement and new mornings waking up in a place with so much to do and new things to explore! On our honeymoon two years ago my husband and I also stayed at an olive tree farm in the hills above Verona. It was one of the most magical places I have ever stayed. I daydreamed about moving to Verona after that. Your new place looks and sounds like heaven. Can't wait to see more.

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