Why a sea change is good for your soul

It's been seven months since Rose Jacobs and her family waved goodbye to the hustle and bustle of city living. Here's why they have no regrets!

I have heard of so many people choosing a ‘sea change’, feeling fed up with the chaos and the aggression of a large city. So when my husband Steven and I decided to move our family to the tropical islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, we knew that this was more of a ‘palm tree change’.

And as such the obstacles were potentially going to be larger. Thankfully, we have since discovered that the rewards have also been far more extraordinary.

Why should you make the move?

Everyone asks me: “Why the change?” Well, it wasn’t as if our lives in the eastern suburbs of Sydney were anything to complain about – on paper. A beautiful big home on the beach, loads of supportive friends, an exciting social life, two healthy kids and our careers were both going great, working as television presenters for the main networks.

And yet, something wasn’t right. Steven and I both grew up in the country and so when we imagined raising our own family, we naturally assumed that our kids would enjoy the luxuries we had when we were young...climbing trees, riding bikes, playing freely with friends in the park, feeling excited about a day at the beach. The reality of life for us as a family in Sydney was far from this.

Our kids were obsessed with ipads, sugar, television, movies, and material possessions. This was against everything we wanted and it was happening despite our strongest parenting efforts to avoid it.

On top of this, Steven and I were both feeling a level of discontent within our own environments. Our friends gathered mostly for socially acceptable drinking sessions, our jobs required insane amounts of time on the road, we were ships passing in the night and we felt dissatisfied with our overall wellbeing. We both felt like life was chaotic above rewarding. It wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying our lives and feeling grateful for the positives, but there was a small voice that kept saying “this isn’t as good as it can get”.

Some people would argue that life is what you make it and if you can’t be happy living in Sydney then you can’t be happy anywhere. Well, I agree that we create our own happiness and there are pro’s and cons to every environment, but I would add that it’s much easier to be happy in your own skin when you are living in the right environment.

The big decision

So, one night, we made the decision. And in retrospect, the process of coming to that final conclusion was far harder than the process of making the move and readjusting our lives in a new country – albeit a tropical island in the south pacific.

We packed up our two cavoodle dogs and our life possessions. We threw, donated and sold as much of our belongings as possible and handed over the keys of our ‘much loved’ home to some new tenants and left the country. The feeling was exquisite!

Vanuatu wasn’t a completely random choice. We have been holidaying here for many years and have already made great friends here and have a solid understanding of how the local community operates. So, we were braced for a certain amount of transitional angst, registering cars, getting visas, changing the kids’ schools. But not for one moment has it been overwhelming or regrettable.

We have had moments of adjustment to the new pace. The traffic moves at a snail pace. Access to basic things is hard. The kids miss their Sydney friends. But every single morning we greet the sunrise from our deck. We watch our kids run across the grass with the dogs and our two new adopted rescue pets. I collect ingredients from my herb, fruit and vege garden for our meals, Steven has mastered the art of building a beach bonfire every evening and in our hearts we know we have made the right decision.

Settling in to a new life

The kids have settled beautifully into the International School here. Last night I won an award for a photo entry I put in the local art contest of a portrait of our kids’ school teacher. Steven has started his beginner French lessons he has wanted to do his entire life. And the sense of community, inner contentment, family connection and communal desire for a better way of life is something we experience every single day.

We now have better quality time with our family and friends in Australia with regular trips either way and more meaningful weekly conversations. We eat better, sleep sounder, we have no television, our kids climb trees and we do family snorkelling sessions almost every day… and yes, it’s winter!

We only have one regret. We took so long to take the leap of faith and do it! Our fears held us back for so long, believing that such a change would be too good to be true – or only for the rare few. Our new friends here haven’t made the move because they are super wealthy or because they had no reservations.

They are just like us. They wanted the best for their kids. They wanted the best for their marriages, for their health, for their appreciation of life. And I can honestly say I believe we have found it. No regrets!

For more sea change success stories watch Starting Up, Starting Over on Lifestyle from August 30 at 9:30pm.

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