How I moved to the country and changed my life

Lots of Lekeal clients move to the country in search of a tree change. Drawn to the warm weather and relaxed lifestyle, people from all over Victoria and New South Wales are relocating to Yarrawonga, Wangaratta and Albury to enjoy everything regional life has to offer.

To find out what it’s like to leave the big smoke behind and embrace life along the border, we spoke to Di Bonnick about moving to Yarrawonga with her husband Doug. Both very active retirees, Di and Doug moved to Yarrawonga in August last year after an illness left Di needing a warmer climate.

Keen Caravan Club members, the couple were already quite familiar with the area but there were a few surprises in store. Here’s what Di had to say about the move.

From seachange to treechange

Doug and Di both grew up in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and moved to Black Rock when they got married. Later they built a house in Frankston, and that’s where they stayed through their working lives. Di worked as a credit manager for Phillips Industries and Doug was a truck engineer for Mercedes-Benz.

When the truck division closed down, Doug retired and with their two children flown from the nest, they bought a property in Somerville.

While moving from the seaside to the Murray might not seem like a huge shift, Di has noticed a big difference between life on the city limits and home among the gum trees.

“I could travel from Mornington to Southland Shopping Centre, but it could take me a couple of hours with the traffic and everything,” says Di. “And yet I can go from Yarrawonga to Albury in an hour. That surprised me. I didn’t realise that life was easier up here.”

Downsizing, then upsizing

Finding that their old home was needing constant repairs, five years ago Doug and Di decided to downsize and move into a Mornington Peninsula retirement village. All went well until 10 years ago when Di was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant.

Thankfully her treatment was successful, but the illness left her with scarred lungs and susceptible to catching pneumonia. “I had five really bad bouts of pneumonia in the retirement village,” she says.

Di’s doctor advised the couple to move somewhere warmer, and Yarrawonga instantly sprang to mind.

“Our best friends live down the road in Zorro Drive, and we’ve always visited them,” says Di. “We caravanned in Yarrawonga for years and years, so when we were up visiting we looked at the display home and just loved it.”

Moving from a retirement village to a custom home in Yarrawonga was like downsizing in reverse – suddenly the couple had more space than they knew what to do with.

“I went to Ken and I said, ‘I love this house, but can you squash it down a bit?’ Which he did,” Di laughs. “It was made to fit Doug and I, and we just love it.”

Perfect weather for it

The great news is that the tree change has been a brilliant move for Di’s health.

“I love the weather,” she says. “We moved out of Mornington in February last year and lived in Echuca with some friends until our house was built. I have not had a cold or sniffle since!”

That’s not all she loves about life in Yarrawonga. “I love the lake. I love how friendly people are. Country people are different to city people. They’re just very open, very friendly. I love the town. I just love the area.”

Not as far as you think

Di and Doug moved to the country with the expectation that there would be some trade-offs, but they have turned out to be less significant than imagined.

“You can’t move to the country and not expect to make compromises,” says Di. Access to medical services was an important one. “There’s a hospital in Yarrawonga, but if you need emergency you go to Wangaratta. It’s 54kms away, but you’d travel further than that from the Mornington Peninsula to get to the Alfred. And it’s on a straight road!”

Being further away from family was another concern, but there was a pleasant surprise there too.

“My son’s so busy, it’s actually brought us closer because we go and actually stay with them, and they love us coming down to stay,” says Di. “Especially my granddaughter.”

Doug and Di build their dream home

Of course, another big benefit of moving to the country was building their dream home – and at a much more reasonable price than in the city.

“I could never have built the house that I’ve got in Yarrawonga in Melbourne for the price that I paid for it,” says Di. “Value for money-wise, there’s just no comparison to Melbourne prices. The workmanship is exactly the same as what you get with a top-notch builder in Melbourne, and for nothing like the cost.”

Working with a custom builder meant Doug and Di could get all the features they wanted. Doug, who missed gardening during the years at the retirement village, got a full watering system installed in the front and back of the house so the garden would be taken care of while they’re out in the caravan.

Di, an avid patchworker and quilter, got her perfect sewing room, converting a wardrobe into custom storage for her carefully-catalogued collection of patterns and fabrics. “It’s just wonderful!”

The couple enjoyed working with Lekeal through every stage of the process. “With all the tradesmen and people we dealt with, we had nothing but politeness and courtesy,” says Di. “Nothing was ever too much of a hassle, and Noelene in the Selection Centre in Albury couldn’t have been more helpful.”

Di’s advice: just do it

For anyone considering a tree change of their own, Di’s advice is simple: do your research, and then go for it.

“We’ve met four other couples in our street who have all retired from different parts of Victoria,” Di says. “They all say the same thing – it’s the best thing they ever did. Research well, stay in the area and suss it out, and then just do it.”

If you need advice or want to get started on your new life, the Lekeal team is always here to help. Get in touch to find out more about making your tree change a reality!

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