City to the Sea

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In light of Country Week 2009, Focus explores the contrasting lifestyles of living in the city and living beside the sea.

Closely following James Eattell as he drove his ten tonne removal truck through the windy bends of The Lakes Way was his partner, Briana Bryon, in her father’s four wheel drive.

After a short weekend stay in the sleepy, seaside town of Forster, the couple, both in their late twenties, uprooted from Australia’s second most expensive city (Canberra), were  starting a new chapter.

They discussed, agreed, packed, and then prepared to turn over a new leaf and trade the city for the sea.

Meanwhile, Forster’s own born and bred socialite, Annique Claire, bought her first ticket out of town when she had the chance and made a beeline for the Big Smoke. Lured to the neon lights of Sydney and its endless opportunities, Annique indulges in a new urban lifestyle and wakes up every day to the prospect of something new, something different.

It’s that feeling of the ‘unknown and unfamiliar’ that captures her.

And so begins the sea change debate – a lifestyle choice and a social pattern that echoes throughout the country.

City slickers accustomed to metered parking and bursts of sporadic sirens trade their busy itinerary for a slice of paradise, without the price tag.

The same can be said for the country folk; those who desire a career in the business sector and dream of walking the inner city pavements to the beat of traffic leave their rural roots behind them for a faster pace.

Some theorists call it ‘living the dream’, while others call it a ‘passing trend’. Regardless, the Australian Bureau of Statistics say that our coastlines are crowding, with figures showing the tide of people moving to coastal communities surged by two per cent in 2004. Five years on, and they keep on coming.

“We really do live in paradise,” says Briana, a new business owner in Forster.

“We made the move seven months ago, and although there were a few culture shocks at first, we could never move back to the city now. Not after this,” she adds.

Briana and James are the owners of riverside ‘Shots of Happy’, and in their modern concept of café culture, their business boasts a hint of urban character.

“We grew up in Newtown cafés, bars and restaurants. I was taught to make coffee a particular way. We try and express a certain ambience that’s not seen in the area. I guess it’s that little bit of city still in us.”

Briana and James are the proof that it’s not just baby boomers, families and retirees who are opting for the sea and tree change. It is for all people who are wanting something special.

Annique, however, in the crux of her youth and craving more, sought a new chapter.

Brought up on clean, salty scented air and a handful of local ‘hellos’ when walking down Wharf St, the idea of starting somewhere new was adventurous. But was she ready to become anonymous?

“I left Forster when I was nineteen, straight out of high school and a baby! I mean, literally. I had been so protected, brought up in a trusting environment, I could leave the front door unlocked and the car windows down. Sydney is definitely not like that.“

Annique is studying Tourism and Hospitality Management full time at college. She admits that there are no boundaries, no problems, and no limits to achieving your dream in the metropolitan area.

“If you want creativity, it’s here. If you want money and business, you will find it here. If you want multiculturalism; it’s all here!”

But why couldn’t she stay put in paradise and study in Forster?

“One of the big reasons behind why i moved was because of the lack of options at the time. There was a college in Newcastle that did tourism and hospitality, and it was a little closer to home, but it was just not as good as the college in Sydney. The city most often has the best teaching institutions in my experience.”

When asked to sum up the two experiences, annique declares: “Forster equals relaxed and Sydney equals speedy, in a rush and always on a mission…

“People in the city are envious of where i grew up. Without a doubt. I am so grateful my parents brought me up at Forster! I would not change a thing.

“I get nostalgic when I go home for holidays; it doesn’t get any easier. But when I head back to Sydney, it’s back to business.”

Kim MacDonald, Tourism Coordinator for the Manning Great Lakes says you can strike a balance between leisure and a professional life when relocating to the region.

“Apart from the Manning Valley being a beautiful regional area, it provides the opportunity to enjoy living in a smaller, community based area where the people are friendly and caring, the pace is slower but it’s still very close to Sydney and Newcastle. We have several friends that have moved from the city … (and) if people can work in regional areas or relocate their businesses, it will continue to grow.”

Taree City Council agrees, stating that the Manning Great Lakes offers “many business opportunities – and a wide range of lifestyle choices”.

With a heavy accent on building the business sector, providing educational training courses, supporting our existing business people, and exposing artistic creativity, the Manning Great Lakes is on the map as an ideal destination to live. Think The Flair Awards … our endless art and photo galleries and museums … the charming cafés and restaurants, vineyards and festivals. The pockets of bushland and acreage, and our awe inspiring beaches. The Manning Great Lakes certainly is a hot spot with endless potential.

“What I can say is that all our friends and family who have come to visit us since we moved here in April keep repeating, ‘What a great place to live … we’re envious. You’ve gotten (the opportunity) to leave the city and you have the countryside and the coastline, and it’s all so close,’” adds Kim.

The Manning Great Lakes … the perfect place to live.

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