VIEWPOINT: Country Living

WITH all this talk of decentralisation and the economic benefits it will bring, it got me thinking of my own country shift.

From the perspective of a regional town, decentralisation makes perfect sense for a number of reasons; it puts government bodies into communities, it alleviates pressure on major centres and it makes services more accessible. 

But from the perspective of city folk, it may not seem as charming. 

So, I want to address this piece to any city slickers contemplating making the move. 

The term 'decentralisation' to someone who might love the city could sounds a lot like 'displacement' or 'uprooting,' but don't let the big word scare you. 

There is so much unknown beauty to the land around you and you won't know until you take that leap of faith and relocate. 

So, here is my story of how I became a country convert, and why I think everyone should live regionally for a time. 

Born and raised in Adelaide, I have done my fair share of relocating. 

With our family business based out of Bangkok I would commute to Singapore for weekends and Bangkok for school holidays. As a part-time expat kid I traveled the route to South-East Asia so frequently I knew my flight and passport number off by heart before I even got to customs. 

I up and left Adelaide at 18 to study a degree in Journalism at Bond University on the Gold Coast. 

From the Gold Coast, I moved to London, then the following year I moved to Mt Buller for a stint as a ski instructor, then back to the Gold Coast, then here to Swan Hill. 

Point being, I have been a city girl most of my life.

When I first perused the main drag of Swan Hill, with my life packed up in the back of my Volkswagen Golf (the first sign of city life), I was not scoping for local shops, potential houses to rent or cafes to eat at.

No, my first priority was seeing if Swan Hill had a beauty salon that offered 'Signature Nail System' manicures (there is one, by the way).

How does the saying go, 'We're not in Kansas anymore Toto?' 

My first few weeks in the Mallee were undeniably a baptism of fire, and after reporting on a few out of control burn-offs I quickly learnt to swap my heels for a pair of sturdy Timberland boots. 

However, I didn't notice any larger change than my shoe choice until my trip to Melbourne last weekend. 

Sitting in traffic in the CBD of Melbourne, I realised that there is beauty in the busy, but serenity in the silent. 

I was overwhelmed by the people and the hustle and bustle, and while Melbourne is beautiful and cultured, I found myself homesick for a sunburnt country. 

The skyscrapers may look good on an Instagram post, but nothing quite beats a Mallee sunrise and sunset, the view only interrupted by the odd gum tree. 

The sound of people's conversations on the tram were interesting, but it will never calm the clutter in my head like the sound of the wind playing in the fresh wheat. 

When I first moved to the Mallee, all I knew of canola was that plenty of hipster health lovers in the Gold Coast ate the seeds and that it featured on butter labels. 

Now I drive past the changing landscape on my morning commute in awe, the rolling yellow canola paddocks so perfect they deserve a post card. 

The people in Melbourne, while friendly, seem distant, caught up in their charging march through the crowds on Flinders Street. 

Swan Hillians will always greet you with a smile, whether it be the barista at my local Cafe 202 or the girls at the Ultima Netball Club. 

Talking of country folk, when I first came here the girls in the office would tease me and say, "everyone finds love in Swan Hill, you just wait." 

I scoffed at them, thinking to myself "yeah right there is no one out here!"... I mean if I couldn't find love in a city of millions why would I in a town of thousands?

Yet, I have found myself dating a farmer, a country boy whose daily uniform is high-vis instead of white collar. 

My "city" friends couldn't believe it when I called to inform them that I found Prince Charming on a paddock in rural North-West Victoria of all places. 

And while I felt I was adapting to 'country living' just fine on my own, dating a farmer quickly showed me that I had only dipped one manicured toe in. 

He has taught me how to drive a tractor, jump start a car and how to spot the difference between wheat, barley and lentils.

And when I inevitably bogged my car after this recent downpour, I learnt how a car gets pulled out of mud. 

While all of these things may seem like common sense knowledge to native Swan Hillians, it has been a steep learning curve for this city chic.

But I am proud of how much I have learnt and how the country has chipped my nails and dirtied my shoes.

As I awoke Sunday morning to the honking traffic outside my window in South Yarra, I thought about weekends spent out on the farm, the silent mornings, the sing song of magpies and watching kangaroos skip, hop and play through the fields. 

So, when my friends, who are spread out across some of the world's largest, busiest cities ask me how I am going out here, I tell them that the biggest surprise has been how much I have loved it.

I am sure that I will probably end up living in the city again soon, heck I will probably live in Melbourne.

But I am also sure that while I may live in the city again, it is the country that has my heart.

And when the hustle and bustle gets to be too much, it will be the gentle brushing of gum leaves in the wind, the smell of dirt in the air and the clear, impossibly big night skies that I will think of with longing.

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