Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tree Change & the Loss of the Familiar

Another wonderful photo from Gordon Smith because I like it and because it seemed somehow to fit with this story.

One of my dreams for this blog is that it will develop to the point that reader questions and discussion become its core, allowing me to moderate discussion while feeding in new material from time about the wonders and diversity of Regional Australia. Given this, you will understand why I am so pleased to get comments and questions.

My last post Tree Change - defining your needs continued the story of Katrina and Tom and their search for a regional alternative. This story led Contessa to post a question that I thought we might discuss while I am doing the research to write the next post on Katrina and Tom.

I will quote Contessa's question in a moment and then provide some comments. Please feel free to post your own ideas as comments or questions.

Contessa's Question

My partner, Ian and I have talked about moving to Tassie for the past 10 yrs. I am a cold climate person and a passionate gardener and we both adore Tasmania, although the evil grip that Gunns seems to have makes me very angry and nervous for the future of this beautiful island.

We have the opportunity to buy our own slice of heaven, a certified organic property in Sheffield and I keep swinging back and forth with my feelings on moving. Every time I'm in Tassie I want to live there. Now we have the real chance to do it...I keep having emotional, unsettled, am-I-going-to-regret this thoughts. Will I miss our home of the past 12 years? What about leaving our 4 grown (early 20's) independent kids and family all here in Melbourne? Our entire lives have been spent here and we live in St Kilda.

I don't want you to tell me what to do...I just need some guidance on how to read and interpret my fluctuating emotions. It's not the physical stuff that concerns me, it's just KNOWING if this is the RIGHT thing. I JUST can't tell.I know this is a most unusual request...if you can think of anywhere else I could seek guidance, please let me know.

My Response

As Contessa says, only she and her partner can work this out. Our role is simply to help her clarify issues in her own mind.

I have not been to Sheffield for over forty years, so I thought that I should look it up on the web. Located 27k (27 minutes driving time) from the major centre of Devenport (population 26,000), Sheffield is a small community set in beautiful surrounds that has reinvented itself in recent years as a tourist centre. So Ian and the Contessa will be moving from the cosmopolitan urban life of St Kilda into a very attractive but much smaller community.

When you look at Contessa's concerns, the critical issue for her is to identify just what her real concerns are. Three issues arise:

  1. To what degree are Contessa's concerns due to lack of information? She and Ian appear to have done a fair bit of research, so this may not be an issue.
  2. To what degree are Contessa's concerns due to worries about risk, about burning bridges behind her? I think that the key here is for Contessa to write any such concerns down so that she can then then address them individually.
  3. Linked to 2, to what degree are Contessa's concerns due, as she really suggests, to worries about loss of things that have been important to her, the area that has been familiar all her life, the house, loss of contact with the family?

Number three is by far the most difficult because it centres on the important emotional content of life. It is also a major cause of relocation failure in that people find that they miss elements of their past life more than they expected. So it's not surprising that feelings should fluctuate.

There are no easy answers here. However, again I think that it helps to break things up into bits then look at just what each bit means. For example, how easy will it be for the kids to visit? How easy will it be to return to Melbourne from time to time? In some cases, you may be able to build some of these elements into your plans.

The advantage of this type of chunking approach is that it helps identify where the core concerns are.


Contessa said...

Thanks! I am a very emotional person and tears come easily espacially around all of life's big issues.
It really is about my family. The fact that it means they are now all truly independent and we won't be having our weekly family dinners. It's only less than an hour by plan to Launceston and forward planning means return flights can be had for as little as $140...BUT it's still a wrench.
All the childrens' responses have been positive because they have heard us talk about doing this for years. I don't think any of them really believed I would do it though.
Thay have all expressed sadness at losing this their family home and of no more "gatherings" for which we are renowned. Like me they will no be able to go past the house, once sold without incredible sadness. I am emotional now...writing this.
I know this is a normal reaction and that we can create new's just that 1st huge step.
I also crave the friendship of like minded people. I am at a time in life where I no longer suffer fools, bigots, homophobics etc. Is this going to make things even more difficult?
I sense I must go through's my old "change' issue. I am the eldest child of 5 and it's said eldest children detest change...but I have implemented change many times in my life. After leaving my childhood home at 19, I moved every 2 years for 15 yrs until this home where We have all been very settled.
Thanks for providing an avenue for me to vent and for your useful support.

Contessa said...

Sorry for all typos! I forgot to edit before posting!

Jim Belshaw said...

I really did understand on this one, Contessa. I still miss my family home. Can you keep the house and rent it? Would the collective kids like to buy the house?

If you could work out an arrangement to keep the house it might help.

On values (bigots etc), my experience of smaller communities is that they are more conservative. But here have a look at Farmer Dave's site - This would have been inconceivable twenty years ago.

The real point about smaller communities is that they judge by contribution. So plan to be involved locally and to contribute.

Also look at something like myspace as a way of setting up a fmaily site. And the role of the farm itself. You might use this to bring you in touch with new people, and tax deductible marketing trips are not to be sneezed at as a way of keeping in touch and doing new things.

Contessa said...

hriutceKeeping the house is not an option if we go with the property we would like to buy. Part of this plan is to be almost debt free. Keeping it would mean we have almost 1m debt, if we also bought the Tassie farm. That would do my head in even more!
Our kids could not afford to buy it, as well as not really being in a house-buying headspace.
I am already a myspace-aholic and have thought of this as a way of networking and seeking out like-minded souls in Tassie. Here's a link to mypage And thanks for the tax deduction tip! If we had enough to buy a tiny 1 br flat in Melbourne, do you think we could claim that for farm business as well?!

Jim Belshaw said...

Contessa, for some reason I was not able to check the myspace link. Got an unexpected error message! Will try again later.

A few additional thoughts for you to consider.

On the farm, look at your exit strategy. You will want cash for your retirement.

The idea of a small flat is not a bad one so long as you buy well. I know of several couples from Armidale who did this, buy a flat in Sydney, which they then rented thus getting a tax deduction while keeping a toe hold in the Sydney market. In both cases they later used the flat as a base for their Sydney trips. By then, they no longer needed the rent.

This really gave them the best of all possible worlds. I have always loved regional life, but I also love being able to get out for a break. From my viewpoint, the big smoke is a great place to visit. I just hate living there!

I assume that you have both got technical advice on tax and super. This is important when you have a little bit of money to begin with in working out the best arrangement that will optimise life style choices and business realities.

Contessa said...

Jim, you really are helping me think clearly...not emotionally. It's great.
The retirement (a looooong way off) should be fine, we have a very small amount of super, but we own a beachhouse/shack at Venus Bay own Victoria (2hrs out of Melb) as well. We are not selling that...yet. My biggest hurdle is my emotions...blame my Italian/Irish blood for that I guess!

Jim Belshaw said...

On the Italian link, Contessa, one of my favourite blogs is David Anderson's on Italy -

Contessa said...

Jim, we have been searching everywhere for SOME idea of how much (approx) it is going to cost us to move...removalists costs...any clues as to how we can work out a guestimate?

Jim Belshaw said...

Crikey, Contessa, that's hard.

I would do two things. First, get some quotes from Melbourne removalists to provide a costing base. Then ring Devenport removalists to get a counter cost.

My experience has been that local removalists can have a back load problem. That is, more people going to Melbourne from Devenport that are coming from Devenport to Melbourne. This may give you a lower rate.

As I said, I don't pretend to have expertise in this area.

Contessa said...

Jim, the difference in removalist quotes is HUGE...we have one from a Tassie company and one from a Vic company and the Vic one is twice as much.
We have signed the docs! BUT there has been a last minute hitch where the vendor raised GST at the signing! We said no, our lawyers said no and he said well if it has to be paid, I'm not paying it...AARRGGGHHH...there is no mention of it in his contract but we had it included as not chargeable in ours. So we are waiting for that to be cleared up and then it's ON! WOW!

Jim Belshaw said...

How very exiting Contessa. I am glad that the removalist hint was helpful. I am going to run the exchange here as a separate post because it might be helpful to others. Hope that the GST issue will be sorted out.

Do post from time to time about your experiences. I know that this will be of interest to our still small if growing pool of readers. Who knows, I may be able to give the farm some plugs as well!

Contessa said...

Jim, I want to sincerely thank-you for helping me sort through the massive emotional swings I have been going through about all this. It REALLY has helped me think clearly. The GST is sorted, we don't have to pay although it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to find that information CLEARLY stated anywhere, ESPECIALLY on the Tax office website. So off we go! that the decision is made, I am very excited. So, THANKS once again for helping me work through everything. I will keep you posted.

Jim Belshaw said...

Contessa, I look forward to following the saga!