1. any heavenly body.
2. a person's destiny, temperament, etc.

Whether you’re reading this because you’re gluten intolerant, suffer from PVFS or CFS, are starting to grow your own veggies, embracing natural and/or alternative remedies, or just want to enjoy the journey with us, please remember I’m not a medical expert, nor am I here to debate global warming. Being diagnosed with a life-changing illness, looking for answers or changing the way one lives can all be overwhelming events, so I hope that by sharing the triumphs and tragedies, you too will benefit in some way from our journey.

I hope you enjoy the journey and if you leave this blog having learnt only one new recipe or started to think about finding your star, then this blog’s purpose has been served.

My two favourite sayings:
Pondering the choices we make at the crossroads is like revision in the school of life. Regretting the mistakes or taking for granted the successes means we have learnt nought.
An attentive student will gain wisdom from the mistakes and joy from the successes. Cartillyer – 2008

'Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.' Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Ten Step Tree Change

We had two important reasons for moving to rural Victoria at the end of December. The first was my health, and the second was that we wanted to live the rural lifestyle. It was our dream. It was also our challenge, because, let’s face it, if it were easy, we’d already be doing it instead of dreaming about it.

Following is our journey summarised into ten steps.

Step 1: Get everyone on the same page.

Before we did anything about moving to a rural lifestyle, we talked about it as a family all of the time. We discussed our expectations (kids are huge romantics!) and what the reality would probably be. We cut out pictures of animals, buildings and rural views to stick in books or pin to boards. It gave us all an insight into how each of us saw our dream. 

We also decided that it had to happen before Boywonder finished primary school, because the closer they were to their teen years, the harder it would be to tear them away from the only life they’d ever known – suburbia.

Step 2: Start living the dream right now, right where you are!

Our dream included self-sufficiency, so I began reading up on keeping chickens and I started growing as many fruit and vegetables as I could in our backyard (we lived in a townhouse). I wanted to be ready to get stuck into it as soon as our dream became reality.

Step 3: Research, research, research – attend expos, Google jobs, real estate and essential services.

Although we couldn’t afford a mortgage, we looked at rural properties for sale on real estate websites. This was a great way to realise the varied geography found in Victoria, from dry and desolate looking properties to the thick forested areas with high bushfire ratings.

Our first real step towards making it happen was attending the Regional Victoria Living Expo. This helped us gather information on potential areas that we might like to live in. It also helped us think about what things were important to us. For example, we have children, so schools and adequate medical services were important to us. The expo was also great at showcasing what each area had to offer regarding things to do, jobs and the future development of the area.

Step 4: Define the dream, but don’t limit the dream.

The amount of information we gathered was quite overwhelming, so we had to narrow it down. Since earning an income was a priority, we narrowed down the areas we liked into two groups. The first was the areas too far from Melbourne to commute, so it would mean securing work in the rural area we lived in or the nearest large town (no easy feat without skills in the right fields). The second was the areas within commuting distance to Melbourne, so Mr T could continue to work at his current job.

At this point it still felt like we were all talk. Apart from visiting the expo, talk was all we’d really done about it. Having knowledge of the different areas was one thing, but what’s the use of knowledge if you don’t use it?

Step 5: Be proactive – contact people, visit places.

We decided to send Mr T’s resume to every potential regional employer in his field of work in the entire state of Victoria. We thought we’d let fate pick an area for us. We got a positive response from one about a future position that was being created and it happened to be in the area that we most wanted to live. But alas, it was not to be. Job cuts and mergers prevented the position from further development and we were back to square one. We also saw a careers adviser to find out how to transfer Mr T’s skills to other industries.

While working on the job prospects and investigating housing, we visited the area/s we liked as much as possible, but not as tourists. It was important to talk to the locals about the area – ask what they liked and disliked about living there. What do they find the most challenging? Where do they recommend living, shopping, sending their kids to school, etc. Most people are inclined to talk glowingly about their beloved town, but if you’re honest about wanting to know the ‘real’ town, most will be bluntly honest with you.

Step 6: Be realistic with your expectations.

We knew that even if Mr T found a job in a rural area, the wage drop would be drastic. We also knew that we’d be giving up his current job security. We started to focus on areas that were no more than two hours total travel time each way for Mr T to keep working in Melbourne.

Finding a suitable home was a challenge for us too. We didn’t own our own home and didn’t earn enough for a mortgage, so we had to rent. Finding a rental property on acreage in a rural area that one likes isn’t easy. I spent many months searching for rentals that were within two hours travel of Mr T’s workplace and finally found one that allowed us to have animals, build vegetable gardens and plant fruit trees. Finding this wasn’t easy, so when we found one, we grabbed it!

Step 7: Create new ties before cutting the old ties.

It’s much easier to have the new ties in place before cutting the old ties. Our new school, kindergarten and home were sorted before we cut ties with the old.

Before moving to our new home, we took the kids to the area to tour the different schools. Once chosen, we returned at a later date to their future school for the kids to spend a day in the classroom with their new classmates.

I cannot stress how much this day made the transition so much easier for our kids. Yes, they were so nervous and terrified at the start of the day that they both had tears in their eyes, but at the end of it, they both greeted us with the biggest smiles and were too busy saying goodbye to their new friends to answer our questions about how it all went.

Step 8: Answer the big question – What If?

Something else that is very good at putting one off taking that leap into the unknown is the most menacing question we’ve ever asked ourselves. We do it all our lives, and the scarier the challenge, the more we ask it. As we signed the new lease and moved ahead with our plan that question started to raise its head every opportunity it had. What if?

What if it didn’t work out? What if we don’t like the lifestyle? What if the kids don’t like their school? What if it turns out we can’t afford to live there? What if there are snakes everywhere? What if, What if, What if? Those damn ‘what if’ questions can make one hyperventilate if you let them get to you.

Moving oneself to a new life is scary enough, but there’s an incredible amount of added pressure when moving your children to a new life. This is when the ‘what if’ questions attack with a vengeance. What if the kids don’t make friends? What if the other kids tease them? What if they start doing worse at the new school? What if they are miserable? What if we’re making the wrong decision for our kids? The image of one’s children looking hurt/sad/lonely rips your heart out, but when it’s caused by a decision you’ve made it’s even harder to deal with.

My biggest ‘What If’ moment was when I had to withdraw Miss Flora from her kindergarten. It took a lot of effort and determination to ensure she was in the group I wanted her in the following year at her kindergarten. There was a queue to get in that group, so each time I started to tell the kindergarten that I wouldn’t be sending her there next year, the ‘what if’ question asked me ‘what if the move didn’t go ahead?’ Despite the fact we’d signed a new lease and enrolled them in their new school and kindergarten, I still asked myself, ‘What if it didn’t go ahead?’ It’s going ahead lady! Now snap out of it and cut that tie! I knew giving up that position couldn’t be reversed and my kids had been so happy at that kindergarten. Out of all the ties I had to cut, it was the hardest. I went home and cried after I told them.

Everytime a ‘what if’ question popped up, I answered it.

 - What if it doesn’t work out? We’ll just move back to Melbourne.

- What if the kids don’t like their school? Send them to another school; there are a few in the area.

Being able to provide an answer to the ‘What Ifs’ takes away their power. If that pesky ‘what if’ overwhelms you, ask yourself this:

What if I never did it? What if I stayed where I already was in my current location, with my current routine, doing the same things I’ve always done? Would I regret not trying more than I’d regret trying and failing? If you know you will regret not giving it a go so much more, then the ‘what if’ questions get easier to answer.

Step 9: Remember not all ‘What If’ questions are bad.

What if the kids love their new school, do better at it than they did at the old school and make lots of great friends?

What if everything does work out for the better?

For us, it has, but not without a few challenges along the way…

But that’s another post!

I almost forgot Step 10: Embrace your new life and the challenges that come with it. 

Every challenge you overcome will make you stronger and happier.
We've arrived!

Below are some of the websites that helped us with our journey.

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