SS Turner: The Truth About Living in Rural Australia
After spending most of our respective adult lives’ travelling the world, my wife and I moved to a small rural community in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland, Australia a couple of years ago. We both love nature so we were attracted by the prospect of a simple life surrounded by beautiful countryside. We also dreamt of our children experiencing a more traditional nature-based childhood as opposed to sitting in front of screens within a built-up city environment. So we bought a property with a few acres and made the move to the country. That was only two years ago, but it feels like we’ve been living here a lot longer than that. As global citizens, we knew the changes we’d experience living in rural Australia would be dramatic. We were right…
I’m an optimist so it’s easier for me to dwell on the pros of the move… For us, the biggest benefit of moving to rural Australia has been the lifestyle advantages. We wake up in the mornings with the sun rising across a stunning vineyard backshadowed by the Pacific Ocean glistening in the distance. It’s quite an experience. The Sunshine Coast Hinterland is a truly beautiful part of the world. From that first special moment of the day onward, we enjoy everything about living in our country home. There’s ample space for our children to run around and play in nature, there are fruit trees delivering delicious avocados, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons, and limes like clockwork, and there are exotic birds and wildlife in abundance. For example, there’s a pack of dingoes living in a forest area only meters from our bedroom who we often hear howling in the middle of the night—it’s so haunting, otherworldly, and beautiful. We also have four meter pythons who slither inside on occasion to keep us on our toes. It’s never boring! We even enjoy the many hours of gardening required to maintain our property each week. There’s just something about getting your hands dirty that boosts your physical and mental health in profound ways which are hard to overstate. So the living in the country close to nature and without neighbors in sight has been amazing. We are officially country bumpkins.
However, all these beautiful upsides don’t come without costs… Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge for us has been a social challenge. We’ve found that most locals appear to be friendly at face value, but very few people are open to genuine new friendships. Most people in rural Australian communities make their long-term friendships at school. Full stop. So there’s minimal social mobility. Surprisingly, this conservative social dynamic is countered by remarkably eventful community politics powered by a gossip mill on overdrive. Maybe it’s the community’s way of spicing up their lives in an otherwise slow-moving world. In our experience, most people are often talking about others behind their backs, and most of the time their comments range from judgmental to downright mean. This was quite a shock for us to witness so we’ve adopted a policy of not engaging in gossip about anyone behind their backs. The good news is not gossiping has helped us identify the few locals who are on the same page and we’ve developed friendships with them.
The final challenge of Australia rural life for us is the way many men and women interact like it’s the nineteen fifties. You heard that right. At local social functions, most men and women split off into totally separate groups that give each other a wide berth and minimal attention. As a man who’s always got on well with women, I found this situation hard to fathom. For example, I attended a community function recently where the men and women separated into two groups as per usual. A while later, a panicked man came running over to the men’s group to say, “Just to warn you guys, some of the women will be here within the next couple of minutes! So you may want to start thinking about what you’re saying.” At the time, the subject being discussed was cane toads. In that moment, I realized I was never going to be on the same page as most locals on this issue. And that’s fine.
So overall, we’re happy we made the move to rural Australia. It’s certainly been a far more challenging experience than we anticipated beforehand. But that’s forced us to grow in ways we’d never have imagined. My wife and I are now far more aware of our values and all we stand for as a family. And despite the social challenges, the assimilation process has led to us making friends with people who are genuinely on the same page as us. Here’s hoping the pros of Australian rural life continue to outweigh the cons longer term.
SS Turner’s novel, The Connection Game, is now available.
About the Author...
S.S. Turner has been an avid reader, writer, and explorer of the natural world throughout his life which has been spent in England, Scotland and Australia. Just like Freddy in his first novel, Secrets of a River Swimmer, he worked in the global fund management sector for many years but realized it didn't align with his values. In recent years, he's been focused on inspiring positive change through his writing as well as trying not to laugh in unfortunate situations. He now lives in Australia with his wife, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and ten chickens.