HALE W18 Masthead

Settling into our seachange

Virginia Jones

“Do we really have to go to the beach? We went there yesterday AND the day before!”

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback. I had visions of having this conversation with my daughter once she was in her teens but we were only six weeks into our life changing move to the NSW North Coast and already she was bored.

And, in truth, we did sort of HAVE to go to the beach. I still hadn’t found any ongoing work after our big move from Canberra and we needed outings that were cheap and accessible. Plus, after the recent rains, we were all a bit bored with the local library.

Adjusting to life away from the national capital after more than a decade of contented years was both harder and easier than I had expected. The greatest problem I think is that none of us actually disliked living in Canberra. I’m happy to admit that I hated the endless winters and longed to be closer to the sound of the sea but I also knew that we had it good, especially given our wonderful network of friends.

The trouble was that although life in Canberra was comfortable and enjoyable, my husband and I had always agreed it wasn’t our ‘forever’ place. We both pictured a future where we were closer to the beach and extended family so moving somewhere coastal, north of Canberra was our long term plan.

But then, last year, life conspired to make it a more short term plan. Suddenly both of us were faced with jobs that were not as secure as we had imagined. As a family we became unsettled. Our eldest daughter starts school next year so we figured that maybe the time was right after all.

Fast forward around a year and we’re back at the holiday house which had become our home and I’m arguing with Miss 5 about our plans for the day.

It has been at those moments, more than any others, that I have longed for a friend to call and invite on our daily outing. My opinionated first born and her two year old sister needed to see people other than me in those early days but daycare is expensive when work is minimal so it was a luxury confined to just two days a week.

It has now been around five months since we packed up and moved to a little village called Cabarita Beach between Tweed Heads and Byron Bay. I’ve managed to find some casual work and my two year old no longer calls the beach ‘the sandpit’, but we are still new and a sense of community is a slow growing beast.

Mostly we are busy with newfound activities like surf lifesaving and the general flow of managing a family of four but occasionally I’m reminded that we don’t yet really belong. Most recently it happened when I was filling out the paperwork for my daughter’s school next year. It asked the standard question about a local contact person they could call if my husband and I were not available.

We had nothing.

In Canberra those questions were easy. We would just list one of our many friends who the kids were familiar with and we trusted.

We don’t have those kind of friends here yet. We are slowly, slowly getting to know people but these are not favours you ask of NEW friends. This is OLD friend territory.

Then the form asked me to name our local doctor – TBA

Our local dentist – TBA

You get the picture.

The other thing I’ve realised is that after a long time in one place, without even knowing it, you surround yourself with like-minded people. There is a certain ease to conversation when you know you share values and ideals.

Life here is less predictable. Almost half of the parents on the North Coast of NSW are anti vaccination and most people don’t much care about the political machinations at Parliament House.

So I’ve learnt to respond accordingly. On the day that Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister I found I had no adult with whom to discuss events as they unfolded.

I did the only thing that seemed right under the circumstances. I cooked ten family meals.

Despite these hiccups, we are still glad we made the move. I can’t believe I get to fall asleep listening to the sea EVERY night and our girls are thriving.

Of course, we will continue to miss our friends for years to come but maybe they’ll visit us and go for a surf. We like to think so.

Image of ‘kids on the beach at sunset‘ via Shutterstock

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