‘Um… have you seen this one?’ I said to Mr Smaggle as I pointed at the house listing in the window of the real estate agent in Beechworth.
It was perfect. A few acres with a modern house tucked behind a gorgeous patch of fruit trees. Double garage, a wonderful outdoor entertaining area. Minutes drive from the main strip of the closest little town. We called the agent immediately.
She agreed to meet us at the property that afternoon so we sat at a cafe and waited until 4pm. We drove slowly up the driveway and low key started freaking out. It was exactly what we were looking for. I rolled my 8-month pregnant belly out of the car and tried to act cool but I failed immediately.
‘Oh my god look at those parrots in the tree!’
‘Holy shit those ceilings are so high!’
‘We can build a tree house for our girl right there!’
‘Look at that kitchen! Our friends can sit at the bench and talk to me while I cook dinner!’
As it turns out, when it comes to property perusal, I have zero game face.
After openly gushing about how much we loved it to the agent and depleting any bargaining power we may have had, we spent the whole drive back to Melbourne trying to figure out if we could actually buy it and live there. We’d been looking at buying a house for a few years but hadn’t found anything that really excited us until now.
By the time we went to bed that night, the house was all we had talked about. We knew we had to try to make it happen. Our deposit was sitting there ready to go but we were looking at houses so casually, we hadn’t even applied for pre-approval for a loan so we started doing that immediately. I won’t go into details because it’s super boring but let’s just say getting a hasty loan for our dream property a month before the birth of our first child was a level of stress I wasn’t prepared for. After weeks of back and forth and providing FBI level financial details to our lender (including stupid requests like signing affidavits to explain old bank accounts that were overdrawn by $6 – for real), we finally made and had our offer accepted for our house, two days after our daughter was born. It was a very busy week to say the least. Hot tip: if you want to get a loan, try to make sure one person in your partnership has a ‘real’ job. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how solid your business is or how many employees you have that own property of their own, banks do not like business owners, let alone two of them. I look back on those weeks and I wonder how we managed to pull it off but somehow, miraculously, we did.
And so Smaggle headquarters has relocated – out of Melbourne and to the North East of Victoria!
It may seem like this happened very suddenly and I guess it kind of did in a way but we were looking at moving to a country town for at least the last few years and have spent most weekends perusing different options. We looked at Braidwood, Bungendore, Castlemaine, Hepburn, Maldon, Macedon and areas near the NSW south coast – pretty much any cute country town that was driving distance(ish) from Melbourne. We hadn’t considered the North East but we saw an article in a magazine about some people who had tree changed to the area and we decided to go and check it out. We went to the North East for our 1st anniversary 12 years ago and absolutely loved it but hadn’t been back since.
I’ve been asked a few questions about the move, here and on Instagram so I thought I’d try to answer them!
Did you move because you needed more space for bub?
No. We had every intention of staying in our small townhouse for at least the first year of her life. Babies are very small, you can put them anywhere. She’s spent the first two months of her life in our arms or asleep in her bassinet next to our bed so her area requirements are pretty small. The timing was purely coincidental.
Did you move to be closer to grandparents?
Not really. It’s certainly a bonus to be closer to Canberra, where we’re both from and where our families live but it didn’t factor hugely in our decision making. We could very easily have ended up in Castlemaine if we found the right place there. We are super stoked to be so close to our family and our hometown though. All of our friends have kids so I’m thrilled our girl has a ready-made gang to hang out with a few hours away. Can’t say the grandparents are disappointed either!
Are you sad to be leaving Melbourne?
This is going to sound completely bananas but I don’t feel like we’ve ‘left’ Melbourne. We travel so often and would spend months at a time out of Melbourne anyway so even though it was where we were based and it felt like home, we already know what it’s like to not really live there. Does that make sense? We moved out of Fitzroy a year ago and moved to Brunswick West and we just didn’t love it as much. I love Brunswick as a suburb, we just lived in a very average area of it where we couldn’t comfortably walk to the main drag of Sydney Road so it felt like we lived in suburbia which really isn’t our cup of tea. We like to live urban or rural and in between just doesn’t work for us. We have lots of friends and family in Melbourne and will be there all the time – it’s only a 3-hour drive. And although we love Melbourne we didn’t do much of the stuff that makes living in Melbourne worth it. We’re not foodies so restaurants were wasted on us. We’re not hugely into pub culture either. We’d occasionally go to concerts or shows but not really that often. We’re massive homebodies and at this stage in our lives, the country seemed to be the best place to live our quiet little life with our gorgeous girl.
Why didn’t you say anything about your move?
Honestly it just never really came up! Also buying a house happens extremely quickly, usually in under 30 days. So you’re either moving or you aren’t. It seemed weird to mention it unless it was definitely happening. The sale went through two days after our girl was born late last year so we were too busy to really focus on it. Then we blinked and it was moving day and we realised we hadn’t really talked about it much. So it seems weird but I promise it’s not. We had close friends and family members come over to our house to meet Harriet and we totally forgot to tell them we were moving to the country and then had to awkwardly text them after they left. Babies are so distracting.
It was all about the property we bought. If we found something we loved as much in Braidwood or Castlemaine, we would have moved there. A year ago we almost bought an old bank building in Ballarat! Not to sound too woo about it but we were sort of waiting until it really felt right and we just clicked with the North East. We are absolutely loving the area, couldn’t be happier living here.
Will you ever go back to Melbourne?
I hope so! I love it there. We also have plans to eventually live overseas for a while. I basically want to live everywhere.
What will you do about school for Harriet?
No idea. She’s not even talking yet so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Also, there are schools in the North East and I’m a teacher – I’m sure we can figure something out.
So you’re a country family now?
For the moment yes! We’re loving it so far but if we hate it, we’ll move somewhere else.
What will you do for work?
We’ve both worked from home and for ourselves for years – Mr Smaggle for ten years and me for five – so we’ll keep doing that.
But you love living in the city!
We sure do but that doesn’t mean we don’t also love the country. Mr Smags has a family farm in Gerringong and we’ve spent months there at a time and we absolutely love it. So luckily we’ve managed to kind of practice living in the country before we committed.
How many dogs will you be getting?
Love this question. At least one and it will have to be a hypo-allergenic one as Mr Smags is allergic. We’re part of a few Groodle rescue sites so we’re always keeping an eye out there but we’re a little wary of getting a rescue while our girl is little. Mates of ours have a Tibetan terrier (I think that’s what she is) called Molly and she’s the best dog I’ve ever met. Scrappy, sweet, snuggly and looks like a living teddy bear – so we’re super interested in one of those. I feel like I’m going to end up being like Life of Pikelet… with a merry band of rescue dogs!
Have you explored the Rail Trail?
Not yet but it’s on our list! I love cycling but hate doing on it roads with cars (because I got hit by a car on my bike in Melbourne) so this is definitely on our list of things to do.
Do you have a fire plan?
Yep. Leave. In all seriousness though, we do. The CFA open day was on a few weeks ago so we went and met our local firefighters and we know the best place to go in an emergency. We have an extra water tank reserved for fires and we have an escape plan for wherever the fire is coming from.
What do you miss from Melbourne?
Oh good question! F45 is the main thing I miss and we also used to get coffee from Kines which we also miss. You can get great coffee in the North East but we just really loved that cafe. I miss my besties – Steph and Nina. They both have kids so I’m kind of pre-mourning the loss of raising my baby alongside their babies. Having said that, they’ve both already booked in weekends to come and visit so I suspect I’ll still be seeing lots of them anyway. The availability of the things I love. There’s no supplier of Banjo bears, No Grainer bread and Fropro in the North East. No Ubereats. No Uber. Not that I used those things that often but when you need them, you really need them and there’s no real alternative.
What’s been the hardest thing about the move?
Um… nothing really! Even doing it with a newborn wasn’t that hard. She slept the whole three-hour drive and then happily hung out on my parent’s laps while we unpacked. Leaving my mates I think was the hardest part but we all have kids and didn’t really hang out that often anyway. Now I live a 3-hour drive away they’ll come here and hang out properly and we’ll get to have some quality time together rather than grabbing a quick coffee whenever we’re both free (and child-free) at the same time.
What has surprised you about the North East?
It’s not very multi-cultural which isn’t a surprise, it’s just something I’m very aware of now I’ve moved here.
I’m American so I know nothing about where you’ve moved – what’s the climate like? Is it coastal? Rural?
It’s about an hours drive from the Victoria snowfields so it gets very cold. We’re about a 40-minute drive from a few bigger cities that have malls, supermarkets and cinemas. Beechworth is pretty close to where we live and there’s a great IGA (independent grocer), health food store, doctor, etc. So yeah, it’s kind of rural but not really. When we lived in Melbourne it would sometimes take us 40 minutes to get from one end of a suburb to the other so 40 minutes doesn’t phase us at all.
How did you choose the North East?
Randomly! We just found a property we loved and went with it. Why not?
Are you going to fall in love with Pinot Noir? Because you need to if you’re going to live there.
I’ll try but I’m not making any promises. I’m usually not a fan of pinot (I love big bold, punch in the face, red wine like cab sav and shiraz) but it’s growing on me.
Didn’t you just move?
About a year ago which actually made this move much easier because we already downsized everything less than a year ago.
What plans do you have for your little slice of heaven?
So many plans! Here’s the list –
- Build a shipping container office space
- Buy a bus and turn it into an Airbnb
- Finally have an amazing guest room our family and friends can stay in
- Learn how to make quince paste, plum jam and apple cider (we have lots of fruit trees on the property)
- Not let the veggie patch die
- Make a tire swing for our girl
- Crochet a gorgeous stack of blankets and store them in a box near the outdoor fireplace for chilly evenings drinking wine
- Build her an amazing tree house
- Have a proper party just for fun
What’s the best part of country living?
The days are so long! In a good way – in the city, everything seems to take ages. Shopping, public transport, driving. In the country, everything is so much quicker. We went to the hospital in Wangaratta for an appointment this week, got a free park right at the front door, we were seen immediately and the appointment took about 15 minutes. If we were in Melbourne that would have taken hours and cost us around $20 for parking. I also feel really well here. The air is fresh and clear and I spend heaps of time outdoors. I’m also eating way healthier because I have to pre-plan all my food. I can’t just order Ubereats or duck up the road for a midnight snack. We’re 40 minutes away from the nearest late-night supermarket so there are far less spontaneous after-dinner treats.
So that’s the story behind our move.