I am still thinking of the same three places I was considering over a year ago, Alice Springs, Albany or the Sunshine Coast. It has to be somewhere I have at least one great friend as I am just not into the idea of starting again completely. And it has to be somewhere that I really love, so that I wake up each day thinking I am in paradise and this was definitely worth it - even though I miss folks back home.
As I have been sorting though things ready to move, I have found a few old diaries and notes to myself which have been helpful. I think I have ruled out Alice based on these findings. Although I love it dearly, I was actually ready to leave when I did. I also returned in 2010 for a visit and felt that yes - my time there was done. I do have many fond memories of the place, lots of lovely friends that are still there, I love the Alice Springs Steiner School and would so happy for BB to school there. But it is isolated. I used to travel a lot with work so I was always getting out and about, to cities around Australia as well as to communities within the Territory. I think if I was just there, not travelling and not being able to afford to travel often with a family, I would feel a bit trapped. I also don't like the fact that in summer you are confined to the air condition, though an Alice winter is the most amazing weather one could ever ask for. I think it would be a great place to grow up as a kid, but not so great when you are a teenager, and as we do have a life in two countries I would really like to find a place within each that we can call home for the long haul. I have always dreamed of living by the sea, and clearly Alice is not the place for that. I also feel it would be like trying to step back into the past - but things have changed, people have moved on. And so have I.
So that leaves Albany or the Sunshine Coast and I am still very torn between these two places. Albany is in Western Australia - the Australia I fell in love with. I love it because it is so vast and beautiful, underpopulated and isolated. Albany is cool and wet in winter and has mild summers, so ideal in that you can be outdoors all year round. Some people think the cool winters and the wind are a disadvantage, but I don't actually mind a refreshing breezy walk on the beach at all. I have a great friend there and BB loves her daughter. I have a professional history there too, and teaching is incredibly well paid in WA. I have several friends around the state from the 5 years I lived in Perth and Kalgoorlie. Albany is a good sized town so it has all you need. It is also right by the beach. There is another little town, Denmark, about 50km along the coast which in many ways I like more - but then I think about all the time I would spend driving that 50km and it puts me right off.
Planning to drive to Albany was also part of my plan to remind myself just how big Australia is. WA as a whole is very isolated from the rest of the country. If we were to drive non stop from Albany to the place where BB's Aussie grandparents live in the next State, it would take longer than it would to fly to my parents in the UK. The thing I was trying to remind myself of is that if we lived there, we would be almost as isolated as in Alice (more so in some ways) and flying really would be our only option when we wanted to go somewhere. Again not something that I could really afford to do that often. In many ways the pros list and the cons list of Albany are the same. I love that its isolated and sparsely populated, but they are disadvantages too. The idea that I could earn a decent wage as a teacher is comforting, but then again I don't really think deep down that I actually want to teach again.
The Sunshine Coast (very north hinterland region) is a place I am less familiar with. I have visited the area three or 4 times, though every time I have been I have loved it and thought it would be an amazing place to live. I have a best friend there too, another person that it would be lovely to hang around with. It's subtropical, so fairly warm all year round, slightly cool for a very short winter, and humid in the summer. It's much more densely populated than WA and less isolated - there are lots of little places and you can go from place to place easily (one of the things I like about the UK). There is also public transport which would be great for BB when he gets older. There is a lot to do there too as it is a great holiday place. It's not so good for finding work though.
I also worry that the climate might make me a bit lazy and not want to do much, and I actually think I would miss winter. And the beaches are crowded. We would have to live inland as its A) too expensive and B) too busy on the coast, so I would have to give up on my dream of my daily walk on the beach - I guess you can't have it all. Pomona (about 25km inland) is the place I fell in love with over this way and my friend lives in the next town. Property is quite reasonably priced there too, and on the whole the houses are much nicer than in WA. It floods quite frequently though so you would need to be careful where you lived. I do have a lot of friends on that side of the country too, maybe people would call in and see us on their way past which would be awesome.
I think on the whole I am leaning towards WA - but that does change quite frequently. I think perhaps after living in England where there is a LOT of places to visit and many organised events and much paid for entertainment, I have some notion that having more stuff around will be better for BB when he's older, so I am trying to convince myself to go East for that reason. But the lack of all commercialism that is another reason why I fell in love with Australia. In WA, though there are things to do, he would have to learn to make his own fun more, which is not a bad thing, and my friend there is an excellent teacher when it comes to that! Also, BB just wants to live right next to his friend G, who is Albany...
Another advantage is that WA is only 7 hours ahead of the UK (8 in winter) - that makes it much easier to be able to talk to people back in the UK. Even in Alice, which is 8 1/2 (9 1/2) hours ahead I noticed that it wasn't so easy. Queensland is 10 or 11 hours ahead, depending on the time of year. Its hard to find a time to Skype - 6pm QLD time would be just 7am GMT, and if you have kids that need to sleep in Australia, and ageing parents that are no longer up at the crack of dawn in the UK, that doesn't really work for anyone. Maintaining that contact is really important to me - so WA is in the lead on that front too.
In a way, Western Australia feels like going back home, and Queensland feels like a new adventure - though I have never lived in Albany, so that would really be like a new adventure in my Australia home...
Mmm... this is making it sound like Albany is the winner isn't it!