Dusk Masthead

I Swore I’d Never Move To Canberra. Until I Did: One Year On

Sarah Bown

A lot can happen in 12 months.

Britain unfriended Europe, America is now in a relationship with Trump and “dabbing” became popular AF even though no one actually knows why.

12 months ago I wrote this article for HerCanberra revealing the story of how I came to live in here. In case you missed it or would prefer the Sparknotes version, “dragged kicking and screaming” was the general gist. A lot of readers loved it. A lot didn’t. But it was my story.

Fate, destiny and a struggling SA job market brought me to Canberra on a sunny day last April. My partner had been here since 2014 and I’d used every trick in the book to delay coming to join him. I even ran away to live with Mongolian nomads for a year. I ate camel and peed in a hole outside to avoid coming to Canberra. My demonstrated commitment to the cause was admirable.

Now don’t be hasty and assume I’m one of those Melbourne or Sydney-born city slickers who loves to hate on Canberra. I’m originally from country South Australia where the town held a party to celebrate the arrival of Cotton On and if it takes longer than six minutes to get somewhere it’s not worth going. Following that, I spent seven years in the eloquently named “StabAdelaide” which has served as the butt of its fair share of jokes. Yet, despite my background and the fact I should have known better, I bought into the trifecta of floating whispers about Canberra: “it’s small, boring and freezing”.

“Dad, what is that shadowy place over there? That Simba is Canberra, you must never go there”.

365 days into life as a Canberran and I’m willing and ready to eat my words. Canberra and I are going steady and while we’re still getting to know each other, we are well and truly Facebook official.

I like my job, my friends and the lack of traffic. I like the coffee, the birds and the access to all things arts and culture. Autumn in Canberra is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Life is less chaotic here and the sense of ease is palpable.

Of course, as much as I try to hide it the evidence of my recent arrival in Canberra is telling. I still don’t know any of the rules of rugby, I’ve gotten lost and driven around Parliament House twice and was the only one not hungover at work after budget night. But I’ll get there. Growing into a new city is a process. Like wearing in a new pair of shoes, there will be some blisters and limping to start with but give it some time and before you know it they’ll fit like a glove.

Of course, this article demands complete honesty and full disclosure so I’ll admit I’m not yet ready to take up the mantel of Canberra’s number #1 fan. But at least I’ve developed my counter argument to the pitying looks that come after the “so where are you from” question and I’m not afraid to use it. If you don’t like it here go back to your three-hour commute and irreversible coastal erosion. We don’t mind.

For anyone brand new to this city and still on the fence, let my tale be one of reassurance. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There are plenty of true blue Canberrans who can’t understand why people don’t see this as the best city in Australia. And I’m not trying to disagree with them. I’m simply one of the thousands of interstaters who help this city to grow and thrive by ignoring the rumours and deciding to come and give it a real Aussie go anyway.

Ironically, I now look forward to when my friends and family back home ask “How do you find Canberra?”

My answer is simple. “It’s right next to Lake Burley Griffin. You can’t miss it”.

Feature image: Martin Ollman

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Sarah Bown

Sarah is fresh off the plane to Canberra and quickly realising she’s not in Kansas anymore. She’s a writer and marketing professional by day and spends her free time reading way too much self-help literature followed up by too much Pinot Gris. Sarah spent 2015 working in Mongolia sharing her marketing and communications skills with local organisations. Yes it was her choice, yes they have internet and no it’s not next to Syria. She’s in Canberra to write more, exercise more, meditate more and then proceed to do Option D: none of the above. Sarah shares more newbie tips, general hilarity and plenty of things to read while procrastinating doing actual work at www.facebook.com/signedbysez.

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  • Rob Gill

    Good to see a positive response to Canberra … trust your own feelings Sarah and don’t be swayed by the clueless. The only thing is, do we really want everyone to know what a marvellous place it is? A bit like I felt about Darwin nearly 40 years ago. Stan Grant’s fatuous effort on ABC TV’s “The Link” a couple of Fridays past harked back to the prevailing wisdom of the 80s and 90s that this was a place to be avoided at all costs. I would have expected better from him.

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