Sea Change Stories

Insights and tips from the unique and personal stories of sea changers, tree changers and major lifestyle changers

From ‘No Idea’ to Complete Sea Change

How baskets became the key to Andrew and Matthew’s Sea Change Success

When Andrew came home from another grueling day selling real estate in Melbourne, he’d finally had ‘enough’. With the GFC in full force, the pressure was relentless and he and his partner Matthew knew it was time to action their sea change Happiness Plan.

They’d talked about moving to a warmer climate and after considering other options, they chose Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The only problem was that Andrew had no idea what he was going to do for work! Matthew successfully negotiated a remote working arrangement with the company he works for in Melbourne. But for Andrew, the move triggered a whole new direction and a brand new career.

Many months of careful research, countless decisions, detailed planning and a few interesting challenges later, they finally made the move. One Sunday, not long after they’d arrived, the boys were wandering around the Noosa Farmers’ Market. Customers were buying fresh and natural organic produce only to put it into plastic shopping bags.

Somehow this didn’t seem quite ‘right’…’.

With a friend in Sydney importing beautiful handmade baskets, the boys ‘joined the dots’. Seeing a way to meet a local need, make a positive difference to the environment and build a potentially successful business, they approached the organisers of the market. Initially dubious (the market only provided locally sourced products), the organisers gave them one weekend to set up their basket stall and see how it went.

The initial trial was a success and Farmer Drew – the Market Basket Specialist was born! 18 months later the business is thriving, they’ve added complimentary products to their range and are now building an online presence. As Noosa is a thriving holiday destination, visitors are telling their friends and online orders are growing.

Starting a new business in a new location takes imagination, courage and persistence. When I asked the boys what they’d learnt along the way, here’s how they summed it up.

Farmer Drew’s Top 10 Tips for Starting a Sea Change Business:

1. Find and fill a gap in the market. Notice what’s missing, establish the need and provide a niche product that is ‘in keeping’ with the environment in which you’re selling it.

2. Do something that matters. Whilst the business provides an income, knowing that they are making a positive difference to the environment provides a greater level of satisfaction. Andrew’s baskets are helping to ‘save the planet in style’.

3. Build trusted relationships with other business owners. Andrew and Matthew had no prior experience selling from a market stall and much of what they’ve learnt has been gained by listening to other stall holders. Tapping into the friendly market community has forged new friendships as the stall holders help each other out.

4. Trial your offering first to see what sells. The boys tested a small range of baskets at different markets to determine what would sell best, before building their stock and expanding their range.

5. Don’t over commit financially, keep start up costs low. Not wanting to go into debt to launch the business, Andrew’s initial stock was small. This ensured he wasn’t left with a garage full of unsold baskets if the idea didn’t take off.

6. Consider taking a part-time job while the business is becoming established. Andrew concedes this may have helped bring in more income in the early days and connect into the community more easily. However, the trade-off is that if you are working elsewhere, it will take longer to establish your business.

7. Start small, proceed slowly and steadily. Andrew built Farmer Drew’s local Noosa presence before launching his website. This helped him become clearer about the brand, look and feel he wanted before he engaged a web designer.

8. Quality is king! Ensure your products are premium quality. Your reputation is built on the quality of what you sell and this needs to be reflected in your marketing and brand.

9. Provide consistently outstanding customer service. The number of glowing customer endorsements on the Farmer Drew Facebook page reflects the boys commitment to delight every one of their customers. It’s the little things that count, like hand written ‘thank you’ notes with every order.

10. Success doesn’t happen overnight! Know that it will take longer than you think or want to take your business from concept to break-even to profit. When Andrew and Matthew decided to make a sea change, their goal was to be debt free and live a simpler life. 18 months later they’ve achieved their goal.

Today you’ll find them in t-shirts and shorts, working from home and living their dream. If you’re ever in Noosa on a Sunday, pop down to the local Farmer’s Market and say ‘hello’.

Learn more from the boys’ sea change adventure in a full 1 hour video interview

Andrew and Matthew generously shared many more ‘lessons learnt’ (including how Matthew negotiated his remote working arrangement with his employer; the traps of not reading the removalist’s fine-print; a simple way to narrow down house choices; dealing with friends’ concerns and more) – your bonus gift when you purchase DREAM IT! DESIGN IT! DO IT! our online sea change coaching program


A Small Town with Plenty to Do!

Living in regional Victoria, boredom and loneliness are optional

With a population of just over a thousand, the small town of Yea lies between Seymour and Alexandra, 110km north east of Melbourne. If you’re passing through on the Melba Highway, you’ll notice a pleasant main street with most of the usual things you’d expect in a small country town.

After surviving the Black Saturday fires which wiped out his beautiful stone house at Buxton, John and his partner were ready for a new start. Having grown up in Healesville, John was already familiar with the lifestyle that comes with living and working in Melbourne during the week and escaping to the country for the weekend.

A semi-retired, freelance journalist and publicist who happily describes himself as ‘professionally unemployed’, John has a wealth of tree changing experience. I recently caught up with him to discover his secrets for choosing a location and settling into a new town.

Caroline: Why did you choose Yea for your next tree change location?

John: We looked at Warburton and the upper Yarra Valley but after Black Saturday were wary of anywhere that only had one way in and one way out. House prices also seemed to be high in the area.

Yea ticked all our boxes:

  • It’s within an hour and a half of Melbourne with great transport links. The Melba Highway is an easy drive via Yarra Glen and with Seymour only 30 minutes away, we’ve also got the option of catching the train. It’s a comfortable 68 minute trip, with weekday trains leaving almost every hour to Melbourne.
  • Yea is big enough to have all the basics – supermarket, hospital, schools, nice eateries etc. It also has good employment opportunities, especially if you’re a tradie.
  • A good internet connection makes it easy to connect with friends and family and work from home. A number of local people run online businesses so being out of Melbourne isn’t an issue.
  • We found the right place quickly and easily. Looking on the internet on Friday, we found a house and placed an offer on Saturday which was accepted on Sunday! It’s a 10 minute walk to the main street and big enough to accommodate friends coming up from Melbourne.

Caroline: How did you make friends when you first arrived?

John: I already knew a fair bit about the area but basically – I started talking to people. With a great interest in horses, I’d been historically involved in horse racing and previously chaired a picnic racing club. When I mentioned this to someone down the street they urged me to contact the local racing club. Turning up to the first meeting, I knew I could help and was immediately elected Vice-President and Treasurer!

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘greenie’, I am interested in the local environment and noticed that a couple of local Landcare groups are very active. They offer a regular schedule of farm walks and visits to their project sites and I have found them of great interest and value.

At one of their farm walks recently a bloke (currently a dentist who is moving here from Melbourne) asked me how could he form a local Bridge Club and would I be interested. My card playing skills amount to a feisty game of 500 but I suggested that via local publicity, he could generate interest and confirm that it’s for beginners who might want to add Bridge to their suite of skills.

Caroline: So what happens when you check out a local group and discover that it’s not for you?

John: It’s OK to say, ‘it’s not my cup of tea’! I was invited to the local Bowls Club for their weekly Bingo night. Curious to see what it was like, I went along, was warmly welcomed and shown the ropes of Bingo. However, it’s not my thing and having thanked them for the invitation, I backed out gracefully. Likewise, while I enjoy football, I don’t feel compelled to turn up to watch the local comp but could if I wanted to.

I guess the lesson here is to not commit to something until you’re ready. Everyone knowing everyone in a small country town is a bit of a misnomer. After 2 years I probably know 10 – 15 people well, based on the things I am involved in and who I see regularly.

Caroline: Now you’ve been there a while, what else have you noticed about Yea and the surrounding region?

John: There’s plenty to do and get involved in.

As well as horse racing and different landcare activities, I’ve connected with local beekeepers (there’s a hive in my back garden); helped promote the upcoming Alexandra Truck Show; go to all the local clearing sales; visited The Baldessin Press in St Andrews and attended Walker Events around Mansfield which showcase local producers.

Caroline: What are your top tips to help would-be tree changers settle easily into a new community?

John: Subscribe to the local newspaper before you move there. The local paper costs ~ $35 a year and I had it delivered to my home in Melbourne before we moved. (This is a tip we often share through Sea Change Success as a great way to see what’s on in a local community and get a feel for the area). There is an immense range of choices to complement or expand existing interests or create new ones but often these take a bit of investigation to uncover. Taking time and making the effort to connect to groups who share your interests and get involved with new ones is well worth it.

From John’s experience, it’s easy to see that being bored and lonely in the country is optional! It doesn’t take much to connect with a new community – curiosity, friendliness and a willingness to help will all go a long way to helping you settle in.

If you’d like help to find the right community and location for you, contact Possibility to Reality today. We’ll soon find somewhere that you’ll fit right in.


Pack your bags – It’s time to live abroad

What it’s like to live and work from… anywhere

Many people harbour a dream to live and work overseas. Yet the fear of living in a foreign country far from family and friends often stops us dead in our tracks.

Last month I was contacted by someone who’s done it, made it work and loves it! Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to find out how he made it happen.

Connor’s experience and practical advice show that a ‘living abroad’ sea change is more within your grasp than you may think.

The following story of how an expat Pom came to call Buenos Aires home shows that it’s easier than ever to sea change abroad.

How it all started

When Connor first headed to Argentina in 2005, he simply wanted to see a bit of the world and learn Spanish. Not long out of university, he’d been working in call centres and doing office admin type jobs. He’d also taught English to foreign students in the UK which became his ticket to living and working in another country.

Hearing that English teaching work in Buenos Aires was relatively easy to find, he completed a teaching certificate. Soon after arriving, Connor started teaching English for a few companies which provided a steady source of income as he adjusted to his new country.

Self-employment… the ultimate freedom

Realising the advantages of being self-employed, Connor started to find his own students and provide online lessons. Building a portfolio career, he added freelance writing, internet marketing teaching languages to help others realise the dream of working for themselves from anywhere.

Although he’d almost ‘fallen into it’ to support himself, he’s very glad he did. “The freedom is the best thing about it for me, as I can work from Argentina, then from the UK when I head home, or from anywhere else I travel to.”

Other advantages include the ability to earn pounds, dollars and euros (which go a lot further than pesos), creating a better standard of living than would have been possible on the equivalent wage in the UK.

A typical ‘day in the life of Connor’

Although no two days are the same, as an early riser Connor spends the morning working on both his clients’ projects and his own website. An online business is transportable and location free and with clients from all over the globe, Connor chooses where and when he will and won’t work.

Afternoons usually involve less intensive work such as marketing or running English classes. Wanting to really enjoy the Argentine way of life, Connor has plenty of time away from work. Any day of the week he may head off to Tigre (a nearby delta), and take a boat trip around the islands. He enjoys walking along the banks of the river, eating out at new restaurants and searching for the best steak in Buenos Aires!

Increasingly more big musicals such as ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, are now arriving in Buenos Aires, all translated into Spanish. These provide a great evening out and an enjoyable way to brush up on his Spanish.

The secret to living and working abroad – Connor’s Top Tips:

  1. Patience, Persistence and Preparation are ‘must haves’Living abroad can be both hard and very rewarding. With nothing working as easily or as well as in a developed country, bureaucracy can be at best frustrating, at worst a nightmare! Preparing for the cultural shift will help you accept the differences.
  2. Find ways to earn your income in different currencies
    Wages in Argentina aren’t great so earning in dollars and other strong currencies ensures a better quality of living. Freelancing for clients in other countries is a great way to make this possible.
  3. Use your skills, expertise and interests
    Connor’s English teaching skills made his South American sea change possible. He’s always been interested in writing for a living and had written articles for various publications to build experience. With his online business, he’s learnt from scratch. Persistence and hard work are the keys to success.
  4. Don’t work too hard!

The huge attraction of living in a different country is the unique experiences it offers and you won’t have them stuck inside your office all day. Find a job that creates plenty of free time and travel to a country where the cost of living is lower. Then get outside, see the country and enjoy all it has to offer.

Now married to an Argentine, Connor is happily settled in Buenos Aires where for the foreseeable future you’ll find him building his business and taking the time to enjoy his South American adventure. Being flexible, curious and open to opportunities, anything is possible.
Are you ready to make your ‘living abroad dream’ to a reality?


Tree Changing – what it’s really like to move to the country

‘Give me a home among the gum trees…’

We’re all familiar with John Williamson’s catchy tune and if you’re like Max Hyde, you may have a rosy picture of peaceful country living. But when reality sets in, things aren’t always as we imagine and hope they’ll be.

Max is the owner of Hyde Media and publisher of a range of rural publications including Town & Country Farmer magazine. He recently moved from the leafy outer suburbs of Melbourne to Tallarook in northern Victoria, a lifestyle change that has brought some unanticipated challenges and the realisation of a long-held dream.


Born in England, Max’s family moved to Australia in 1963. With a double major in English at Monash University, he worked for an advertising firm for 10 years before moving on to senior sales and marketing roles with Fairfax and ACP.

First Rural Living Experience

In the mid-90s, Max and his wife Julie decided to retire and bought a Victorian mansion in Bendigo to convert into a B&B. However, the reality of renovating what was formerly council offices with no kitchen or bathrooms and being ‘on call’ 24/7, soon took the gloss off the country B&B dream.

Whilst a sociable experience, it also proved frustrating. People arriving at six pm when they say they’ll be there by three, keeps you waiting and housebound. Yet in many ways it was good preparation for what lay ahead.

Back to the City

Returning to Melbourne, Max took a sales and marketing role with News Limited, before starting Hyde Media in 2002. Specialising in rural media sales and representation, Hyde Media promotes broad acre, wool, dairy and a diverse range of rural sectors.

12 years of living in Ringwood passed as they renovated their home and built a granny flat for Max’s mum. But it was the purchase of Town & Country Farmer magazine that triggered thoughts of returning to the country. Max says, “I would read each issue and wonder why we were not living the life that many of our readers were.”

Finding the Perfect Property

Max and Julie spent a few years looking for properties and when Max’s mum eventually went into a nursing home in late 2011, they were ready to move. With Yarra Glen or Yea as potential locations, they contacted real estate agents to keep an eye out for the perfect property.

Thinking it would take 6 months, they were surprised to get a call from one of the agents 3 days later to say, ‘you have to buy this one immediately’! Their perfect property was actually in Tallarook and when they put in an offer, it was quickly accepted.

Tallarook is closer to Melbourne than Yea and is only 6km to Seymour which has all the essential services, including a fast train service to the city. It’s also in one of Melbourne’s growth corridors and as the suburbs creep ever further into the north, the property will hold its value.

Although a beautiful, tranquil rural setting provides the perfect back drop for a more relaxed lifestyle, Max and Julie have also encountered some unexpected realities.

The Unexpected and Hidden Traps

Technology challenges – be persistent

The biggest hurdle Max and Julie have faced has been technology – or rather, the lack of! Used to cable broadband and with the National Broadband Network still some way off, it was a shock to discover no cable and no ADSL – basic requirements for running a home-based business. Getting a VPN connection to connect to their server has been a major struggle. At first they were told it couldn’t be done. Yet, 3 months and loads of persistence later, they’ve overcome the challenge.

No Postal Delivery – be flexible

Assuming wrongly that the mail would be delivered to the end of their drive, going into Seymour to collect their mail is now part of the daily routine. The upside is that returning home reminds them daily of how beautiful their place is.

Finding Local Staff – think outside the square

Thinking it would be relatively easy to find people who would jump at a creative and flexible work opportunity, Max was surprised that initial advertising for staff didn’t attract any interest. Where in the city he would have received many applicants, he’s now tapping into local communities to recruit his team.

Escaping Alpacas – be resourceful

When their small herd of alpacas escaped, Max became an instant expert on all things fencing! With no instructions from the previous owner, he’s had to develop his own local network of people and resources who can help.

Swapping convenience for ambience – enjoy the small pleasures

While Max and Julie miss the convenience of central heating, wood heaters are excellent and are so much nicer to sit around on cold evenings than huddling over a vent!

Best lessons learnt

There’s no doubt that although rewarding, owning a hobby farm creates a steep learning curve. Max’s words of wisdom are worth taking on board for anyone thinking of moving to the country.

  • Keep your mind open re location. You can’t check out every area, so listen to others.
  • Never presume! While it wouldn’t have stopped them moving, having no mail delivery or ADSL were surprises for which they weren’t prepared.
  • Patience is a Virtue – a ‘must have’ philosophy. Country people don’t always work by city clocks but slowing down is one of the reasons for moving out of the city – so embrace it!

A friend of Max’s pointed out, “As the owners of a property, you are like a ship’s captain. You are responsible for all the people, animals and yourself on the property at all times. Always respect the property and all who sail in her, including dams, machinery, people and animals. Even the ‘nasties’ like snakes, spiders and scorpions are part of the land too!”

As Max and Julie contemplate how to develop their beautiful property, they are both acutely aware that as custodians, it is both a privilege and a responsibility.

If a hobby farm and rural lifestyle is your tree change dream but you’re worried about the potential ‘gotchas’ or how to get started?


Everyone Said We Were Mad!

When John, a 38 year old successful banking executive decided to throw in his high paid job.

His parents said it was downright irresponsible, while his CEO couldn’t understand why or how he could walk away from a secure and solid corporate career to run a charter boat business in the Whitsundays, his family, friends and colleagues were shocked….

But John and his wife Meredith were fed up with the long hours he worked, the constant travelling and relentless stress. Sure the money was great but John rarely saw his two young boys and was missing out on the most important years of their lives. Then there was the pressure of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ – the unspoken expectation that they would live in an expensive leafy suburb, drive the latest model European car and send their boys to the best schools.

While they longed for a simpler, less pressured lifestyle they simply couldn’t see a way out. It came to a head when, thanks to a delayed flight from Hong Kong, John missed his son Jed’s school concert in which he had a leading part. The disappointment on Jed’s face and Meredith’s mounting anger when he finally arrived home late that night, was the breaking point. Something had to change.

The opportunity came when an old school friend contacted John to see if he was interested in going into business with him in Queensland. This appealed to John who had long wanted to be his own boss. Careful research uncovered a business with great potential and John was able to secure investors, thanks to his solid business reputation and thorough due diligence. Well prepared, they went into it with ‘eyes wide open’ about what such a change would involve.

18 months later, John, Meredith and their boys successfully relocated to Airlie Beach, are enjoying a more relaxed, fulfilling lifestyle and have no regrets. The biggest challenges they overcame included:

  • Believing they could make the change – swapping doubt for self confidence.
  • Managing other’s expectations – understanding and respecting other’s opinions whilst believing that what they were doing was ‘right’.
  • Managing the financial aspects – building a financial buffer to cover expenses until the business could pay John a wage, realising assets and reassessing their cost of living.
  • Making new friends in a place where they knew nobody – connecting with people who have common interests and being who they really are, rather than being defined by John’s career.

John believes one of the keys to making it work was ensuring the charter boat business was set up with clearly defined goals, roles and responsibilities’, ensuring the workload is shared. “It would have been too easy to work on the business 24/7 – there was just so much to do in the first year. But I went in determined not to let the business dictate my life the way my former career had. Knowing how to create work/life boundaries and sticking to them has created a good balance. You can’t live life through the rear view mirror so learning how to focus on the future helped us develop the right mindset.”

When when John’s parents came to stay recently his father walked around the marina noticing how enthusiastically John talked about his work. “Far from thinking you’re mad, I now see why you had to do this and I’m even more proud of you now.”

* John and Meredith did the P2R Lifestyle Business Kickstart Program to get clear about what they wanted, plan the move and adjust easily to such a major life change.

We didn’t realise what NOT making the move was costing us

Malcolm and Genevieve, both in their mid-thirties, had a relatively good life, living in Sydney. Malcolm was a self-employed plumber and Gen worked for a city based legal firm.

The daily commute was a real grind for Gen and Malcolm was finding that being stuck in traffic on Sydney’s congested roads was costing him too much time travelling between jobs..

“It was really stressful and inefficient and I found myself spending more time travelling in my ute than working on jobs,” says Malcolm. Gen also found herself falling asleep on the train and felt constantly tired at work. By the time she got home she was too tired to cook so they often had take-away for dinner.

To make life easier and manage the shortage of time, they employed a cleaner, gardener and had their car washed once a month which added $450 a month to their bills. Reality struck when they did a budget and realised that this money could be coming off their $480,000 mortgage. They were really struggling to make ends meet.

Once they’d made the decision to move to the country, they set about researching the options; deciding where they wanted to go and how they wanted to live. They moved to Central West NSW 3 years ago and have no regrets. Malcolm’s plumbing business has grown and he’s just taken on 2 apprentices. Gen has made a complete career change by moving into interior decorating. Employed by a local blind and curtain company, she works 4 days a week and loves helping people design their homes. Most exciting of all, they are expecting their first baby at the end of the year!

Their tree change has given them a lot more time together, they are healthier, happier and in spite of a drop in combined income, are financially better off. Gen says, “It’s amazing how you adapt to live on what you earn. We don’t miss any of the things we spent our money on in the city. Out here people have time to stop and talk and genuinely care about you. It’s easier to make real friends in a small community.”

* Malcolm and Genevieve’s story is part of the DREAM IT! DESIGN IT! DO IT! self-guided Sea Change program which shows you how to easily work out your financial needs.

It’s a Cold Place – don’t underestimate the challenges

Making a sea or tree change is a big undertaking. You can’t always anticipate what it will be like and the reality is often a long way from the dream.

I caught up with Mike, a tree changer who faced some interesting challenges. While he couldn’t have foreseen many of the implications of his tree change, there is much to learn from the benefit of his hindsight…

Mike and Cathy had a tree change on their ‘to do’ list when they married 20 years ago. They wanted a simpler, healthier, country lifestyle for their two children in their formative years. A country farm with a beautiful old style homestead, growing their own vegetables and being as self sufficient as possible were all part of the dream. Their original plan was to move to the country when the children were young, with the idea of moving back to Melbourne for their high school years. Researching the options, they decided on Kyneton, a beautiful rural community 85km north of Melbourne. This was based on easy access to Mike’s work (a relatively short drive down the Calder Freeway); proximity to Melbourne based family and friends and familiarity with the region. Mike had spent time there in his childhood and Cathy’s family had lived in the area.

Mike is passionate about food and works in the industry. Kyneton is located in a rapidly developing ‘food bowl’ which makes it culturally interesting. With property prices in surrounding areas such as Daylesford becoming more expensive, this seemed the ideal location.

Once they had found their ideal 30 acre property with beautiful views, the fun began….

CC: What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Mike: Once we had made the decision to move, planning the project had to be juggled with our existing lives which meant time on weekends was tied up with organising everything to make it happen.

We found a property without a house on it and bought an existing house to relocate. There were a number of problems with this and we ended up moving into a rented holiday house in Kyneton so our children could start prep and kinder in February. House relocation has its problems and we ended up having to demolish the relocated house and build a new one which caused both financial and emotional stress – something we hadn’t or couldn’t have anticipated. We eventually moved in five years later, so it all took a lot longer than planned.

The weather was an ongoing challenge. Nine years of drought had left its mark meaning there was little water for stock, the garden or household use. Having an open aspect and lovely views are great, but they also mean you are completely exposed to the elements. Still living relatively close to Melbourne has its pros and cons. Family and friends still think of you as being nearby and expect you to attend lunches, dinners and events as though you still live in a neighbouring suburb.

The enormity of the task – the size of the block and what we wanted to achieve, whilst still working in Melbourne, was often overwhelming. After many hours of commuting during the week (leaving and coming home in the dark in winter), there was little energy or time left on the weekend to develop the farm and create the lifestyle we had wanted.

Changing family circumstances mean that we are now living back in Melbourne. This has been disruptive for the children who have had to change schools and the initial difficulties took the shine off ‘country living’ for Cathy, who has also changed jobs.

CC: So what kept you going and what did you and your family get out of it?

Mike Perspective was all important over these years. A friend’s son was diagnosed with cancer and when something like that happens you gain perspective on your own challenges.

I had a really supportive employer which made a big difference. They were flexible and trusting and keeping my job was vital through this time. I enjoy my work in the corporate world and the satisfaction gained from being successful, counteracted the challenges we faced establishing our home and farm. I also gained a heap of new handyman skills!

Our children learnt how to overcome problems and deal with what life throws at you. My daughter had to write an essay on her ‘heroes’ for school and she chose her parents to write about. It really came home to me what an impact the challenges we faced had on our kids. They learnt how to overcome adversity and move on.

CC: With the benefit and wisdom of hindsight, what lessons have you learnt and what advice would you give other would-be tree changers?


  1. Think about life in five year chunks; know what you want and how you’re going to achieve it. Consider what you will need at different life stages and build these into your plan.
  2. Move for the reasons that suit you and plan ahead for the ‘what if…?’ and worse case scenarios. This includes illness, aging parent needs and changing financial circumstances.
  3. Really think about the implications of moving within commuting distance of the city. Look at the reality harshly. The cost will inevitably be higher than you anticipated.
  4. Consider what skills you have and if you’re planning to move to a farm, get some farming skills. If you need to ‘get a man in’ for work around home, then a farm may not be for you.

CC: Finally, with all you’ve experienced and gone through, would you do it again?

Mike: “Hell, yeah! Life’s for living and different experiences.”

Although their tree change didn’t pan out as they expected, Mike and Cathy gained a lot from it. Rather than being a ‘failed tree change’ they took away invaluable experience, amazing resilience and perspective about what’s important. If you have tried and seemingly failed, it’s worth taking a look at what you learnt from it. Armed with this knowledge and insight, what would you do differently next time?

* You can read more of Mike’s story and the experiences of 4 other sea and tree changers in Sea Changing Made Easy The Emotional Side.

A Freedom Plan converts a dream into a reality

33 year old Jeni had been with Qantas for 15 years and when she was offered a redundancy package, it seemed like the perfect time to do what she really wanted.

With a passion for travel, she had 2 choices – either work with a friend who owns a travel agency or see if she could make it as a freelance travel photographer…

As a flight attendant I’d travelled all around the world and loved it but had always been constrained by flight schedules and work. I researched and weighed up both options and because freedom is so important to me, decided to give freelance photography a go. I’d had a few photos published in glossy travel magazines and knew it would take a lot of work to convert my hobby and passion into a profession.

Once I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve I set to work creating my ‘Freedom Plan’. To start with it was overwhelming – I had over 40 different actions to change the life I had to the one I wanted! This included selling my house and putting my belongings into storage; completing an intensive professional photography course; establishing relationships with media outlets which could use my photographs; teaming up with travel writers who were looking for great photos and setting up a business structure and website.

Breaking my goals down into manageable steps and putting them on a timeline made it manageable. I pinned them on the fridge to keep me focused and followed the plan, one step at a time. The whole thing took 8 months to set up but by the time I left Qantas, I was ready to go.

2 years later I’m now living the life I always dreamed of – exploring my favourite countries and staying however long I want. Although the income was initially ‘patchy’ it’s now more consistent and I’m much better at taking and selling photos that are unique and in demand.

If I had to pinpoint one thing that made it happen, I’d say it was my Freedom Plan. It kept me on track and gave me a structured way to get things done. I never used to be a great ‘planner’ but now I’m a convert. Without it I’d still be playing it safe enviously organising other people’s travels.

* Jeni undertook the P2R Sea Change Kickstart program to get her lifestyle change moving.

If you enjoyed Jeni’s story, you’ll be inspired by the experiences of more than 30 other life redesigners in The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen TODAY!

It was like landing on Mars!

After 12 years living and working overseas, David and Anna decided it was time to return to Australia. Their 3 young children were being raised in a contrived expat lifestyle and they wanted them to have a more normal upbringing, closer to family.

While they had travelled extensively and had wonderful experiences, they were also ready to put down roots. The only problem was they didn’t know how or where..

With family in both New South Wales and Victoria they couldn’t decide where they wanted to be and while David dreamt of living in the country, Anna was worried it would be too quiet. They’d also lost their sense of what was normal, having been away for so long. They knew things had changed; they just weren’t sure what that reality would mean for them.

Going round in circles, spending hours on internet, making and re-making decisions, they finally came to P2R for help, having been referred by a friend. Over the next 6 months they did the P2R Expat New Start program, dialling in via Skype from Nanjing every fortnight. Working with Caroline they identified what was important to them and why, developed a set of location criteria and set about researching the options. Narrowing these down to their ‘Top 3’, they used a 2 week holiday back in Australia to check them out. Finding work was a top priority and David, a chartered accountant wanted to move from a large corporate organisation to a medium sized business. Having been out of the workforce since their children were born, Anna also wanted to return to her graphic design career.

Through the process they discovered that while they wanted to be closer to family, they were keen to maintain their independence and make a fresh new start. When David was offered a job in Albury NSW, it ticked many of their boxes. 12 months later they are happily settled and Anna is updating her graphic design skills as part of her ‘return to work’ plan. When I last caught up with Anna, here’s how she described their biggest challenges.

“Originally I’d have said agreeing on where we wanted to live but once we had our criteria sorted, done the research and David found his ideal job, that bit didn’t seem so hard. Breaking it down into 3 distinct stages also helped take the pressure off so I didn’t feel overwhelmed about having to do it all at the same time.

To be honest, the first few months back in Australia were the most challenging. Having lived overseas for so long, with the last 2 years in China, it was like landing on Mars! We had to adapt to what everyone else took for granted as normal. Having had servants to do things for so long, we had to look after ourselves again. But we were prepared for it and through the coaching had developed ways to adjust. The kids love the freedom of living here, I’ve made some terrific new friends – we’re now all a lot more relaxed and settled. It’s just great to have somewhere that finally feels like home.”

* David and Anna completed the P2R Expat New Start Program for those who are returning to Australia after a long period overseas.

Adam and Karen

What does a happy collection of chooks, ducks, geese, sheep, pigs and alpacas, and a successful IT consultancy servicing clients in Finland and the U.S. have in common? You’ll find them all on the rural property that Adam Donnison and Karen Chisholm call home in Redbank.

The couple made the move five years ago to escape the suburbanisation of the Dandenong Ranges. They wanted more land around them, and also dreamed of starting a cider-apple orchard and cider mill with heritage varieties.

“We moved from the edge of the Yarra Valley wine district to the Pyrenees Wine Region,” Karen said. “And if you want to live near a winery with some land around you, you won’t get a better deal than coming to the Pyrenees.”

Two existing businesses relocated with them: Saki Computer Services provides computer consulting, web development and bespoke software development to global, national and local clients; and Saki Envirotech is focused on the design and development of technological solutions to on-farm problems.

“We develop environmental management systems that, for example, monitor and control heat and humidity in our chook pens, or use remote tank sensors and management to monitor and control water usage,” Adam explained. “All are low-power microprocessor controlled and all tested in real-world situations on our property. So not only have the positive changes we’ve made to the property since we came here made it more liveable and easier to manage, many are helping us further develop our business too.”

Adam is currently contracted by a Finnish company to provide IT infrastructure design, administration and web development for their global websites, and by a US company for web development.

“As long as we have Internet access, Saki Computer Services can work anywhere, and has at times,” he said. In addition, Karen provides web development and social media strategies and support for a number of authors, and local businesses, as well as maintaining a well-respected author database and crime fiction review site.

There’s one more goal on their to-do list though, which Karen admitted is providing plenty of motivation: “We are also still working towards getting the cider orchard to its first harvest, which is an exciting prospect.”

Q & A with Karen and Adam

What is the best thing about living in the Pyrenees?

The people. We have great neighbours, and there is a great community.

What has surprised you about the Pyrenees?

The level of artistic and cultural activities – we have been to a number of art exhibitions, Adam has taken part in a number of plays put on by the Moonambel Arts and History Group, and Karen has even started a local writers group after prompting from the community.

What advice would you give to anyone considering moving to the Pyrenees?

Be realistic. Don’t expect suburban amenities in a rural area. Prepare to be self-reliant, or expect to spend a lot of time waiting. Check the local by-laws with Council, especially if you’re planning business operations or new buildings, and also make sure that where you are moving to has good mobile phone coverage.

What advantages does the Pyrenees offer for your business?

Lower land costs and rates mean that you can afford to spend more on other areas such as equipment and research and development.

Are there any peculiarities to running a business in the Pyrenees that you think others should be aware of?

Nobody in Melbourne knows where we are! So you have to be really explicit in instructions to transport companies otherwise your parts may end up in Hamilton. Most of the businesses around you will be only too happy to help out if they think you can help bring people (and hence business) to the area. When we were talking about starting to make cider, all of the wineries (who we thought may have been potential business rivals) were extremely supportive.


Sarah and Ian

Relocating from the inner city buzz of Brunswick to the stately heritage charm of rural Eurambeen Homestead is a journey that has thrown up plenty of surprises for Sarah Beaumont and Ian Glover.

None the least of these was discovering the potential for business ventures.

“As a serial entrepreneur, I see many golden opportunities here,” Sarah said. “For investors, the entry cost of property is low and the returns are good. It is possible to positively gear here. City property investors tend to steer clear of regional areas as they believe that the capital appreciation isn’t there. I don’t think this is true and eventually, they will realise what great opportunities they are missing out on.”

Sarah is actively involved in the local business group B4B (Business for Beaufort) and in mentoring local businesses. She particularly enjoys working with proactive and positive business operators who have a vision for growing and developing the region, and is pleased to be part of an increasing tendency towards collaboration and proactive initiatives among the B4B network.

Between the two of them, Sarah and Ian run a multitude of businesses from their new home. These include an organisational development consultancy, engineering and general maintenance service, online electronics business specialising in digital programmable ignitions for racing bikes, and teaching yoga and mindfulness.

Ian was quick to admit that they weren’t entirely prepared for how big a change the move would be. “Many of the things that we took for granted in the city were no longer present and we simply had to adjust. Our nearest town of Beaufort is only two hours from Melbourne but at times, it has felt like we have moved to another country… in both a positive and a challenging way.”

The sometimes unreliable local telecommunications have provided a challenge to working from their rural property at times. However Ian has been able to build a very creative internet solution so they can use the mobile phone system as the basis for their online work.

Their joint venture, and inspiration for the move, has been restoring their new historic home – Eurambeen Homestead – to its former glory, along with the Edna Walling-designed gardens. The property now has a selection of short term accommodation options to offer and is a beautiful venue for special events.

Ian and Sarah still find time to contribute to the local community – both volunteer with the CFA and are now trained for fire response duties.

Q&A with Sarah and Ian

How did you discover the Pyrenees before you made the move?

Our first visit to this area was to attend an event at the Avoca Shire Turf Club. We stayed at a delightful B&B, went to the Avoca pub for a fantastic dinner, drank brilliant wines and had a great weekend. Like many Melbournians we are foodies and enjoy good wine. We took home wine, olive oil, capers and a great impression of the place.

What made you decide to move to the Pyrenees?

We knew that in the next stage of our life we were looking for a lifestyle that included: somewhere beautiful and in contact with nature (which we missed in the inner city); a larger garden including an organic vegetable garden; a place where we could eventually retire; a place not too far from Melbourne so we could operate our existing businesses (ideally on a train line); and a place where we could create other income streams. When we visited Eurambeen, the property ticked all those boxes and more.

What is the best thing about living in the Pyrenees?

We have made fantastic friendships here. In our previous lives, as busy career driven city people, our social life suffered. To have the time to build great relationships is just wonderful. The sheer physical beauty of the place and the wildlife around us is also special. Every day we have a wonderful nature experience that inspires and delights us, and we love introducing those experiences to visitors.

What do you consider to be your proudest achievement(s) since you moved to the Pyrenees?

We are enjoying building another business from the ground up. The initial concept of creating a ‘lifestyle business’ which incorporates accommodation and events is working. Seeing the business really begin to flourish is very satisfying.

What advice would you give to anyone considering moving to the Pyrenees?

If you are adaptive, entrepreneurial and can spot opportunities, plus enjoy hard work, then this area is going to absolutely sing to you.

Carmichael and Vera

Long stints away from home whilst working between Ballarat and Beaufort began to take their toll on Carmichael Stabbins and his partner Vera Cerna.

The solution was an easy decision to make. Last year Vera and Carmichael bought into the very affordable Beaufort property market. Already they are enjoying the produce from their new vegetable garden on their bigger-than-average town block. They hope soon to start renovations to their miner’s cottage to make it even more comfortable.

“I work as part of the landscaping team for the new Western Highway Duplication project,” Carmichael explained. “I have always loved the sense of achievement of the job, but now that I get to come home each night to spend time with Vera in the garden, it’s even more enjoyable”.

VicRoads’ Western Highway Duplication project will transform the Ballarat to Stawell section of this major freight route into a four-lane divided highway. With the easternmost section expected to be completed during 2015, it will make Ballarat’s services, attractions, major retail shops and employment options even more accessible for Beaufort residents.

In the meantime, Vera and Carmichael have found their new home town meets many of their needs already. They are particularly impressed with the direct train service to Melbourne via Ballarat, local hospital and medical services, a choice of sports, markets, and weekend activities from nature experiences to wineries.

They are also enjoying the slower pace of life and beautiful surrounds that Beaufort offers.

“We were surprised at how beautiful and close the Mt Cole State Forest is,” Vera said. “And it’s even better that we can take our dog Zora there with us too – she loves to get out even more than we do.”

Whilst Vera and Carmichael had already bought their property when they visited the Regional Victoria Living Expo last year, they did find it a useful opportunity to meet some Council staff, find out more about their new home, and talk with a few locals.

Vera’s parting advice for anyone considering the tree-change and moving to Beaufort is “Just do it. And stock up on firewood!”

They are also enjoying the slower pace of life and beautiful surrounds that Beaufort offers.

“We were surprised at how beautiful and close the Mt Cole State Forest is,” Vera said. “And it’s even better that we can take our dog Zora there with us too – she loves to get out even more than we do.”

Whilst Vera and Carmichael had already bought their property when they visited the Regional Victoria Living Expo last year, they did find it a useful opportunity to meet some Council staff, find out more about their new home, and talk with a few locals.

Vera’s parting advice for anyone considering the tree-change and moving to Beaufort is “Just do it. And stock up on firewood!”