I never wanted to live in Canberra.
Although I’d never set foot in the nation’s capital, my impression was a small grey city full of uninspiring government buildings, cardigan-wearing public servants and not much else. I remember the day my friend Kate announced she and her husband and small child were moving to Canberra. I just couldn’t get my head around it. “Why”? I asked incredulously. “Why would you move from Sydney to Canberra?” To me, it seemed like they were jumping into the abyss of small town, suburban boredom. “It’s simple,” she said. “Canberra offers so much more. Good jobs, no traffic and we can afford a bigger house. It’s just better living all round.”
I thought she was stark-raving mad.
Less than six months later, it happened. My partner, Damien, called me at work and said, how do you feel about moving to Canberra? I thought he was winding me up. But he wasn’t. He was a Project Manager in the construction industry and this was 2008. The global financial crisis had decimated the construction sector all round Australia. Building in Sydney had completely stalled and people were being laid off everywhere. The only place in the country where building was happening was…Canberra.
Two months later we arrived in the bush capital. I grumbled that I would stick it out for two years, and two years only. Funny isn’t it how good things grow on you! It didn’t take Canberra long to weave its magic. The simple art of being able to get in your car and drive to any destination in Canberra in 20 minutes is pure pleasure, especially for an ex Sydney-sider. On the weekends in Sydney we rarely left my inner-west enclave for fear of wasting endless hours sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I recall one disastrous Sunday where we attempted to go to a friend’s house in Manly for lunch. After 90 minutes we were still only half way there and we gave up and went home. After eight years in Canberra the joy of driving to work in the morning on wide, well-maintained roads is still a daily highlight. I don’t think it will ever wear off.
Possibly the biggest thrill for us in moving to Canberra was being able to afford a house. And we didn’t have to buy a property two hours from the city, which is the reality many people in Sydney face. In Canberra our house is 15 minutes from the city, and 20 minutes from where I work…even in peak hour!
When it comes to the weekends, prepare to be spoilt for choice in Canberra. Perhaps you like the idea of dropping by the National Gallery to see their latest blockbuster exhibition. Or, if retail therapy is your thing, you can literally shop to you drop. From the modern slickness of the Canberra Centre with every brand under the sun to the urban coolness of the boutiques on Lonsdale St and the iconic Bus Depot markets at Kingston Foreshore. But maybe you’re an adrenaline junkie? Then pull out your mountain bike and head over to the world class downhill tracks at Mt Stromlo just 15 minutes from the city. On Sunday you may want to take a short drive out of Canberra to taste the award winning cool climate wines at one (or a few) of the many wineries in Canberra’s region. Where else in the world can you enjoy so many diverse experiences just moments away from each other?
So…I’ve been converted and Canberra is ‘home’. I discovered the drug of ‘liveability’ and I’m hooked. I’ve become addicted to a life with less stress. I’m not struggling to get to and from work. I’m not sitting in traffic jams or dilapidated public transport twice a day. I love that people in this city acknowledge each other and say “Good morning” when you pass them by. I love the clean air, the space, the entertainment and things to do, and (I almost forgot to mention) the amazing education system. I love that our city and work places are family friendly, and yet have we have hip bars and clubs tucked away in nooks and alleys and a thriving music and arts scene.
Think about it….our nation’s capital has it all and it may well be worth a look.
Article written by Debra Surman