Is the tree change dream just a fantasy or can you really make rural living your reality?

Have you ever considered a tree change to a rural area? It seems a more tranquil community-based lifestyle is enticing more of us than ever before.

When the opportunity arises along with retirement or if we are just ready for a lifestyle change, many of us are questioning the need to live in urban areas. But is rural living all its cracked up to be?

David Spalding, 54, shares his story of moving from bustling Birmingham in the U.K. to the relaxing rainforest in the Gold Coast hinterland.

What exactly is a tree change? It is an appealing lifestyle change from the city to the country. Expect a quieter, more tranquil setting and a heightened sense of community. 

David’s tree change
David Spalding, 54, is an early retiree who was very successful running his own business who currently lives in an isolated valley in the Gold Coast hinterland, Austinville. He and his wife Alison had resided in the English city of Birmingham for most of their lives until they set off in 2010 on what was supposed to be a three-year holiday to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. However, their first stop, a visit to their daughter on the Gold Coast, halted their holiday plans and caused the pair to settle in what has now become their own dream community.

“We wanted to travel the world; now we’ve come here,” says David. “You’ve got to do it because you’ve only got one life and if it all goes pear-shaped we can always go back. But unless you try it, what’s the point of staying in the same place?”

Moving to the Gold Coast hinterland
“We always knew we wanted to live in the bush rather than the city because – why live in the city with all the noise, the hassle and the congestion and everything when you can live in the bush five minutes from [the nearest town] and 20 minutes from the beach?” David says enthusiastically. “There’s a proper community out here.”

David says that Austinville's tight-knit community is a delight compare to their previous living situation in a locked private estate in the U.K., where he didn’t even know his own neighbours.

Community support and new friends
“Austinville has been a complete and utter revelation,” he says. David and his wife are very involved with the community. “We go to local functions, yoga, the pub on Friday nights, meet ups with locals on the golf course,” he adds. David also says it is up to you how involved you want to be but making a small effort with others does reap many rewards.

David Austinville Quiz Night

David and friends clowning around at 'quiz night'

David has found that Australians in rural areas have been very open and welcoming. There is no judgement about the car you drive or what clubs you are part of and others are willing to lend a helping hand. It has been a new chapter in many ways with the couple both taking up horse riding and yoga, activities that they says they never would have considered if they were still living in an urban setting. 

Ok, so there are some downsides
However, despite the many benefits of rural living, David also admits that there are some downsides to living in the hinterland. One of these is getting 'flooded-in' about twice a year. As a result of the distance, driving and access to healthcare is also an annoyance. “If you lived in the city, you could use the light rail and the bus system, which has free bus rides for over 65s. If I get to 75 to 80 and I can’t drive, how am I going to get to healthcare? It’s a big problem. Because Australia is so much bigger than the U.K., it doesn’t seem to have the local infrastructure to service the outlying areas,” he adds.

David Flooded Creek

Getting 'flooded in' close to home 

This lack of public transport also means that social gatherings require more planning.
“Alison’s 20-year-old nephew just visited and he wouldn’t drive so Alison had to drive him everywhere. Here you need a car because public transport is awful. There is no bus system, taxi drivers think it’s too far out and rip you off. In reality, going out at night requires planning and the majority of people say they can’t be bothered, or suggest eating at someone’s house instead of going out.”

Ready for a tree change?
However, all things considered, David would highly recommend a tree change for anyone considering it. Community support, new friends, the opportunity to try new things and create an exciting new life. What’s not to love?

Is a tree change calling you? In Australia, the 65-74 years age group has the smallest proportion of people of all age groups living in major urban areas.

Find out about the country change movement here

Have you undertaken or ever considered a tree change? What was your experience like? Join the conversation below…