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Making a Sea-Change - The Search For A Better Life

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by Linda Moon (subscribe)
... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published February 1st 2013
Know the pro's and con's before you take the plunge
Hamilton Island, The Whitsundays - Queensland
The search for greater fulfillment can lead us to relocate

In Search Of A Better Life

For varying reasons, many find themselves re-evaluating their lives. Ultimately, this can involve changing the place in which one lives. Perhaps it's the discovery of more beautiful locales to live while on holidays. Understandably, many want to escape the concrete jungle and daily grind for something more meaningful and less stressed out. Perhaps it's the chance to be someone other than who we are. Regardless, it seems Australians are still making the sea-change in droves.

Sea-change is the popular term used to denote a relocation, usually from the city or suburbs, to a sea-side location. However, the term loosely covers any kind of relocation that involves significant lifestyle change, with both sea-changers and tree-changers acting out of the same motivations. Implicit is the notion that the change is somehow positive or transforming and involves an improvement in lifestyle and well-being. This phenomenon is also related to an increasing trend to "down-shifting".

The popular late 1990s Australian series "SeaChange" focused on the new life formed by corporate lawyer Laura Gibson (played by Sigrid Thornton) at Pearl Bay.

The Promised Land
The Promised Land - is the grass really greener on the other side?

Common reasons for making the move

A report by the University of Sydney for the National Sea Change Taskforce (2005) found the most common motivations for sea-changers moving to coastal regions of Australia were the need for more affordable housing, the opportunity for lifestyle change, personal circumstances (such as social networks, job opportunities), a sense of connection to perceived cultural or social groups, environmental reasons such as access to an alternative rural or beach lifestyle, and a desire for a closer sense of community.

According to the National Sea Change Taskforce, the typical sea-changer is not a retiree, but more likely to be a Gen-Xer with a young family. This is hypothesised to be in part due to a value shift between the generations, with Generation X more likely to seek out a quality lifestyle over money and success. According to ABS statistics, 79% of sea-changers to coastal communities are under 50.

Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay - one of many beautiful coastal locations. Great for a holiday, but could you live here?

Research and know the pro's and con's.

For those considering translating the sea-change dream into a serious proposition, here are the main issues you need to consider.

Work:
Making a sea-change is often associated with fewer and more limited work opportunities, worse economic outcomes and work in lower paid occupations such as the retail, restaurant, tourism and community services. These jobs not only tend to be part-time and casual, but are affected by seasonal fluctuations. The above quoted University of Sydney report found that coastal areas outside of metropolitan regions, have the highest level (17.4%) of low-income households in Australia.

Sea-change locations also generally have higher levels of unemployment and lower wages.

Pro's
Cheaper housing
- Access to beach / nature
- Sense of community
- More down time
- Different values that include less emphasis on work and money may exist in the new location
- Less crowds, traffic, pollution and noise
- The accessibility of tourist towns often enables sea-changers to retain links to family and friends

Con's
- Commuting
- Loss of old friends and social networks
- Less access to services including education, public transport and higher level health services
- Less access to city conveniences like all night chemists, entertainment, et. c- Often more use and dependence on the car can increase overall car cost
- Lower wages and work opportunities than the metropolitan regions
- Dreams don't always fit the reality


Planning and Preparing for a Sea-Change

- Visit the area you are intending to live and know it well: the facilities, weather in all seasons, shops, things to do, public transport.
- Check out the local job opportunities. Are your skills transferable? Are you prepared to do something else?
- Try renting in the area to see if you like it.
- Consider the services you need.
- Analyse exactly what you want from your sea-change.
- Save money and arrive with financial back-up as well as a plan for how you will survive.

Mount Wilson, Waterfall Walk, Blue Mountains
Finding peace in the Blue Mountains

The Author's Personal Experience

As a spa therapist, curious tourists (potential sea-changers) often ask me what it's like to live in the Blue Mountains. I live here because I can't stand the crowds, noise, traffic, pollution and impersonal nature of Sydney. Not to mention the cost of housing. I have lived several times in Sydney, but ultimately find myself back in the Mountains.

The biggest downside of living where I live is the limitations of the local job market, award wages and the weather. What slightly counters that is the reduced cost of housing. The lack of entertainment options also helps the wallet somewhat. People tend to live closer to each other and visit each others' houses. The beauty of autumn and spring makes up for the starkness of winter here.

The first time I moved back to the Mountains I shifted from one unhappy work situation to the next. I ended up moving back to Sydney for work. The second time round I came back prepared with more skills, a loan and savings. I left a full time job as a PA in Sydney to work as a casual massage therapist and store naturopath. It was the happiest time in my life. I had lots of time for my hobbies. Although I didn't earn much I had all I needed.

My advice to potential sea-changers is to sort out their work situation before they move. People in internet based business often do well here. Others survive well by starting their own small business. A local government research document supports this. Alternatively, part time commuting is quite do-able.

It's never worth it to work in a job you hate or live a life that is making you unhappy. Life is short. There's no utopia on this planet, but at the end of the day you have to live somewhere. Ultimately, a sea-change is about the pursuit of happiness.

Bellingen sunset
Bellingen at sunset - utopia doesn't exist, but this isn't bad.



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Why? Know the pro's and con's before you move.
Where: Out of the city
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