Making the move from the city into smaller communities

Ever fancied a tree-change or sea-change?

We ask some inspirational people working in food, wine, PR and tourism about their move from the big city to smaller communities in the country or by the sea and the lifestyle changes they’ve experienced as a result.

Rowland Milhinch, Winemaker and Owner, Scion Vineyard & Winery

What do you do?

Winemaker and owner of Scion Vineyard & Winery in Rutherglen.

What did you do in Melbourne?

Graphic designer.

When did you make the move to Rutherglen?

Progressively over three years, starting around 2006.

Was the move easier or harder than you first thought?

The transition was a rollercoaster of excitement and frustration! Starting a new business in a new community was an exciting challenge. However, this journey evolved at an arm’s length from my close friends and networks. At times this was frustrating. Upon reflection, this has helped strengthen my resolve to be successful. Plus I’ve built some great networks and friends-for-life. There are many likeminded ‘tree-changers’ who are doing some super things which inspires and encourages me.

Do you continue to work in Melbourne and if so, how do you make this work?

We visit Melbourne for trade events and wholesale accounts through necessity, which is manageable. Although it’s great to return home to fresh air and open spaces.

What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed since moving?

Being out and about five nights a week is no longer a thing! I value the balance nature offers with such a busy and intense day-to-day workplace. Fundamentally I’m much more aware of self and place having made the move.

What do you love about Rutherglen?

There is much opportunity for me as an artisan wine producer. Working hard toward a contemporary, dynamic approach to wine and business has seen us grow – the journey so far has been really exciting and rewarding! As far as lifestyle goes, the proximity to wilderness is amazing, and local North East Victorian produce is hard to beat.  

Any advice to others who are thinking of making a change? Just do it! A clear plan is important, but be assured that if you’re passionate, local community will support you and help you grow.


Matthew White, Marketing Manager at Tourism North East

What do you do?

Marketing Manager at Tourism North East in Victoria’s High Country.

What did you do in Melbourne?

Vice President – Client Services at GMR Marketing (a global 'integrated marketing' agency) based in San Francisco, California.

When and why did you make the move to Bright?

My wife and I have had corporate jobs in international cities most of our working lives. Moving back from San Francisco, we were determined to restore some balance to our lives and started investigating our options. The High Country immediately appealed to us. Its laid-back atmosphere; sweeping vistas; incredible array of food, wine and craft beer made it a pretty easy choice!

Was the move easier or harder than you first thought?

The decision to move here was actually easier than we thought. Since arriving, the local community has been incredible in welcoming us and making us feel at home right away. I will say however that we underestimated the long driving distances in the country, sometimes for mundane tasks, and getting our heads around this aspect of life has been a little difficult...but the good far outweighs any small difficulties.

How much work do you do in Melbourne and how do you make this work?

I'm constantly working with agencies and partners in Melbourne, but thankfully technology eases this burden a little. The telephone, Skype and of course email all get a workout and so far I have found this is manageable with a 2-3 day trip to Melbourne each month for face to face meetings. 

What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed since moving?

Our work/life balance is back! We've said goodbye to long hours in the office and swapped that with more time skiing, our bikes, with our dog Woody and most importantly with each other. We've now got space to compost, have started growing our own vegetables and are certainly eating much better with produce from our own garden or the local farmers markets. All round there is no doubt – we are fitter, happier and healthier. 

What do you love about Bright?

The array of incredible restaurants, funky bars, its own craft brewery, world class cellar doors, mountain bike park and two great bike shops instantly appealed to us. But, at the end of the day, it is the wide-open spaces, access to mountains, local produce and fresh air that made Bright the spot for us.

Any other comments or advice to others who are thinking of making a sea or tree change?

I don't think there is ever a good time to make a life changing move, so just bite the bullet, book the moving company and do it...the rest (jobs, school, place to live) will work itself out. If you don't do it today, you'll have one less day to enjoy it all when you get here.


Mauro Callegari, Chef, Owner and Director of The Independent Gembrook

What do you do?

Chef, owner and director of The Independent Gembrook Restaurant and Bar.

What did you do in Melbourne?

Executive Chef at True South, Blackrock.

When and why did you make the move to Gembrook?

August 2013. I was opening my own restaurant.

Was the move easier or harder than you first thought?

The move itself was easy. Getting got to know the area, people and suppliers took a longer time than I anticipated, but at the same time it was very rewarding. On a personal level, I love the country side, I feel like I’m on holidays when I am in the Dandenongs. I enjoy my days off more than I did when I was living in the suburbs and city.

Do you continue to work in Melbourne and if so, how do you make this work?

I still do consultancy work. I ensure my meetings don’t fall during peak times to avoid traffic. I enjoy staying in the CBD once a month, catching up with friends, past colleagues and enjoying city life.

What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed since moving?

Enjoying time off with my son. I find we do far more outdoor activities and scenic drives together. I also get to enjoy my motor bike more often living up here. I have also grown a strong interest in eating as fresh as possible, and now I implement this at home. Many of my suppliers are farmers, my son and I visit them and they give us home grown vegetables to cook with at home. 

What do you love about Gembrook?

I love that it’s a small community. A lot of creative people live in the area, and it is actually a lot closer to the CBD than what people think.

Any other comments or advice for others who are thinking of making a sea or tree change?

Do it, you won’t regret it. You will feel a lot more in contact with yourself. You will start to understand more of the real meaning of life. I enjoy my free time a lot more now, there is so much so do in this area. In terms of purchasing a property, you get very good value for money in this area. I have a four-bedroom home on half an acre land for the price of a small two-bedroom apartment in the CBD. I have not regretted it.


Jenny Brookes, PR Director

What do you do?

PR Director of Condensed Melbourne

What did you do in Melbourne?
Group Marketing Manager of Sand Hill Road (Pub Group)

When and why did you make the move to Noosa?
Almost a year now. While I love the fast pace of Melbourne and everything that comes with the big city, my husband and I decided it was important to wind down a little and enjoy the simple life.

Was the move easier or harder than you first thought?
The one thing we found harder than expected was renting - we had to move three times within the first eight months. Having family and friends visit frequently has made the move much easier too – we were very adamant on getting a big house that can accommodate visitors to reduce the risk of feeling isolated and homesick – we have that many requests for visits that I’ve created an accommodation calendar to keep track!

Do you continue to work in Melbourne and if so, how do you make this work?
Yes. My husband and I now run our own PR and Branding Studio (Condensed Melbourne) and Sand Hill Road is one our key clients -  they have been fantastic in supporting my move and trusting me to work remotely for them. I come down once a month to meet with them and have a structured reporting process in place to ensure there is an effective flow of communication. We have a number of other clients around Australia that we manage remotely. I enjoy coming back to Melbourne once a month for my city fix and think it’s important to keep one foot in each place, both for my career and to ensure that when we eventually return it won’t be too much of a cultural shock.

What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed since moving?
It is extraordinary how much time (and frustration) you save each day not having to sit in traffic. It has allowed for that little bit extra ‘me’ time to spend on cooking or exercising. 

What do you love about Sunshine?
You obviously can’t go past the stunning beaches and walks in both Sunshine Beach and Noosa – I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful landscape anywhere in the world. The weather is another obvious plus and we particularly love the small community that exists within Sunshine Beach – there’s something so comforting and therapeutic about walking to our local café each morning with the sea breeze on your face and sound of waves crashing behind you.

Any advice to others who are thinking of making a change?
The biggest piece of advice I can give is that if it’s something you really want to do then make a commitment and do it. Lock in a timeframe then work out the steps you need to take to make that dream happen, whether it’s financially, professionally or whatever the road blocks might be. If you want it badly enough, there is always a way.