Every year, around this time, thousands of Australians ask themselves the same question: is this the year to finally make a sea-change?
With memories of those long, lazy, fun-filled hours on holiday fading fast as they brave the commuter crush, numbers are crunched, and Seek searches re-filtered as they contemplate a hasty U-turn back to coastal bliss.
It’s not always an easy as it may sound, however. A 2005 report for the National Sea Change Taskforce, now known as the Australian Coastal Councils Association, revealed that within two years of uprooting, some 20 percent of sea or tree changers returned to the city.
Sea-change coach Caroline Cameron has helped many people resolve all those issues, and more, in her 11-plus years of coaching sea/tree changers through her executive, career and lifestyle coaching business.
“Everyone’s got their own fixed view of what it’s like, particularly if they watched the old Seachange series on ABC TV set in the bucolic coastal town,” says Caroline.
“They think, ‘we’ll just quit the rat race and it’ll all work out beautifully’, and it doesn’t always.
“But I’ve never come across a problem that couldn’t have been avoided with careful research, planning and preparation, and that’s really where this side of the business has grown; helping people to make that move confidently and successfully.”
While Baby Boomers, alternative life-stylers and young families used to make up most of the 30-40 clients she helped make the move each year, the ‘active 50-plus’ sea-changer is the biggest growth sector for Caroline now.
“With technology changes with the nbn and mobile coverage improving all the time there’s never been a better time for those over 50 to make a sea or tree change,” she says.
“The flexibility of being able to live and work from anywhere has now been made possible, along with the growing numbers of people in this age bracket who will go on working because they’re fit and healthy and they love their work until their mid-70s or early 80s even.
“So, we don’t necessarily have to give up the job and retire in the traditional sense of the word. There’s an exciting redefining of what retirement means – and I hope someone comes up with a new word for it to be honest!”
Caroline’s 3 biggest mistakes sea-changers make and how to avoid them
Mistake # 1: Being Vague about What You Really Want
Many would be lifestyle-changers are clear on what they no longer want and what’s wrong with their current lives. This includes:
- Lack of time to do what they really want to do
- Stuck in an unfulfilling job
- The stresses of city living (cost, congestion, crime, smog etc)
However, when asked what they would have instead (if only they could), people often struggle to articulate what their dream lifestyle looks like.
In the words of Lewis Carroll, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” This is certainly the case with any major lifestyle change. There’s a lot riding on it and if you are uncertain about what your sea change includes, chances are it will fall well short of your expectations.
People who are crystal clear about what their new lifestyle will look like find it quicker and easier to make decisions and are more committed to making it happen sooner.
With clarity comes motivation and the excitement of creating what’s possible spurs them into action.
Be specific about how your sea changed lifestyle will look, sound and feel.
Ask – what are my passions, interests and priorities? What’s really important to me? What will my sea change include and what will it take to create it?
Mistake # 2: Lack of Research and Planning = unrealistic expectations
It’s amazing how often people stake everything they have on an ‘it’ll be right, mate’ approach and don’t really think through all the options. This mistake, coupled with no real plan, increases the risks.
The media frequently report stories of city people who moved to the country, only to find the shops close at 5pm; nothing moves in town on a Sunday and the mail is only delivered twice a week!
Interestingly, many failed sea-changers talk about problems they were completely unaware of before they made the move.
Create realistic expectations based on knowledge.
The simple way to avoid this is to do your research. Find out the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ of any location you’re considering. Make sure you’re going in with your eyes wide open.
Nowhere will be perfect but many perceived shortcomings will be far outweighed by the significant pluses if you’re fully aware of what your new life will be like.
Doing your homework will give you more certainty that what you’re planning is ‘right’ for you. Putting in the time and effort now will pay you back many times over and help you sleep well at night as you adapt to the change.
Mistake # 3: Focusing on What’s Missing and What’s Wrong
Talking to people who have made a seachange and had major regrets, their stories are sadly laden with everything that was wrong or lacking in their supposed ‘dream life’. Once they made the move, they start to doubt the wisdom of their decision.
Unfortunately, once they discover one shortcoming with their new location, job or lifestyle, it snowballs into an avalanche of seemingly insurmountable problems.
The ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ trap.
It’s tempting to look back on your old life with rose-coloured glasses. Things you didn’t notice or couldn’t tolerate suddenly look terrific compared with the new and unfamiliar aspects of your new lifestyle.
Likewise, we have tendency to re-write history and forget how bad things were.
Luckily, this insidious trap is easily avoided. Reminding yourself of the reasons you made the move and seeking ‘proof’ that it was the right one, will expand your perspective.
If you wanted a simpler, more fulfilling life, where you’re doing what you love with those you love, actively create it!
Take the pressure off and give yourself time.
It probably took you years to fall into the rut you were in – so long that you didn’t even notice it happening to start with, right?
Recognise that adjusting to a slower paced, relaxed lifestyle with more time and better quality relationships takes conscious effort to start with.
Regularly acknowledge what’s right about your new lifestyle.
Successful sea-changers often have to pinch themselves to believe that they are actually living their dream. Be proud of what you’ve achieved and that you had the courage to do it.
Give your sea-change every chance to succeed and be even better than you imagined.