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Published: January 29th 2014
A long time has passed since the last blog entry in March - and, as you might expect, rather a lot has happened in that time. Nothing less, in fact, than a comprehensive reboot of our entire existence. When I last blogged from Palawan in the Philippines, Alex and I were on our way halfway across the globe to Australia, the country we have chosen to spend the next years - hopefully many - of our lives in. A big decision, and one we didn't take lightly. Almost a year later, we are both happier than we have ever been.
Things felt rather different on Monday 25th March, 2013, as we stepped out of the plane onto the tarmac of Hobart's tiny airport (far too piddly for air-bridges). Not content with moving to the other side of the world, we had picked Australia's furthest-flung state - Tasmania - as our home. A wild and mountainous island, perched on the very southern edge of the world seemingly a stone's throw from Antarctica. With nothing but two bags each - containing little more than shoes, clothes and degree certificates - we looked at each other and gulped. Under the warm Sun of
a late southern summer day, the what-on-Earth-have-we-done?
feeling which had occupied my thoughts since we took off from London quickly turned to excitement. Here we were, presented with the rare chance to make a new life for ourselves in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Our first days in Hobart were occupied with the rather dull practicalities of modern existence: bank accounts, driving licences, tax file numbers. The prosaic nuts and bolts of emigrating. Fortunately we had, with only a couple of weeks to spare, arranged from the UK a short-term let of a furnished flat in one of Hobart's northern suburbs, and thus avoided what we had deeply dreaded: having to spend the first few days of this new life in a hostel dorm...Alex had also had the bright idea of renting a car for our first week, so the drudgery of filling out forms was thankfully interspersed with some little jaunts out of Hobart, most of them to places we had visited on our previous trip to Tasmania in 2006 - even seven years later, it felt like we'd been there only a few days before. Snug Falls, Hartz Mountains, Cockle Creek. All, reassuringly,
even more enchanting than we remembered them. One of our motivations for moving here - the tremendous beauty of the place - quickly proved to be well justified.
The following few months saw us settle down far more quickly that we could possibly have ever expected. One car, then two. One job, then two. A more permanent place to live. Alex quickly found an excellent job with the state water supply company while I, after a rather frustratingly slow start occupied with paperwork and certifications, struck gold at one of Hobart's best schools. We gradually discovered the delights of Hobart - a quiet and compact but exceedingly friendly and quirky place, and arguably one of the most spectacularly-sited cities in the world. Ten months in, looking across the Derwent River to the hulking mass of Mount Wellington with the twinkling lights of the city almost cowering beneath it as I type, Hobart most definitely feels like home. With its buzzing seafront, fantastic fresh produce markets, idiosyncratic cafes, arthouse cinemas and beautiful stone buildings, little old Hobart is a real treasure.
Leaving friends and family behind was always going to be the hardest thing about settling in Tasmania. It
hasn't been easy, but our passion for walking - Tassie is a bushwalker's paradise - has enabled us to quickly make new but lasting friendships, not always the easiest proposition when you're starting from square one! Within a couple of weeks of arriving, however, we joined an informal walking club, made up mostly of new arrivals to the state from other parts of Australia. Indeed, Tasmania is such an incredibly tightly-knit place (everybody seems to know everybody else, and what they're up to) that meeting new people is not necessarily as easy as it might be in a larger city. Fortunately for us, it wasn't long before we were out almost every weekend exploring this island's truly incredible array of landcapes - from the cliffs and crashing waves of the southwest coast, to the brilliant white sand beaches and pink granite of Freycinet, to the lush temperate rainforest of Tasmania's heart, with a hundred others in between.
Tasmania is, let's be honest about it, a bit of an oddball - the mainland's old-fashioned and ever-so-slightly batty maiden aunt, if you will. Hobart's streets are deserted after 5pm, everything is shut on a Sunday, the weather is beyond
many parts of the state feel like they never left the 1950s. But we have miles-long sandy beaches mere minutes from our house, enough national parks and spellbinding walks to last us a lifetime, complete and unspoiled wilderness within a couple of hours of the city, the friendliest and most welcoming folk imaginable, some of Australia's best locally-grown food and, above all, a quality of life which beats - hands down - anything we've had before.
It's very early days yet, but things are looking up Down Under.
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