What it’s really like to make a sea change

What does it take to make a successful sea change? Chantelle Ellem swapped life in a Bondi apartment for a family home in Tweed Heads.

In March 2012 my husband and I went to Bilambil Heights, near Tweed Heads, for a holiday – and we both thought, “I could live here”.  

Home was an apartment in Bondi but our daughter, Lacey, had just turned four and we wanted another baby.  

We wanted a bigger home, a backyard and a dog. We had a great life, but we were thinking for the future.  

Chantelle Ellem sea change

How we changed our lives 

I worked from home as an editor and blogger – so could work anywhere – and my husband worked at Sydney airport. 

He applied for a transfer and it came through in six weeks, more quickly than we expected.  

As the pieces fell into place we thought the move was meant to be. 

We found the house we now live in and sold our Bondi apartment.  

Three months after we first thought about making a sea change, we moved.  

sea change sandcastles

Settling in to our new way of life 

I admit the first night I sat in our bedroom, cried and thought, ‘what have we done? We have no family here, no friends’. It was a bit scary. 

It was strange to go to a shop and not know anyone, and to not know where anything was.  

You have to put in effort to make friends. 

We met friends through our daughters’ school – Lacey is now 10 and Lulu is four. 

We have a small petrol station and corner shop that is a social hub and we have a neighbourhood Christmas party every year. People say hello and look out for each other 

I admit the first night I sat in our bedroom, cried and thought, ‘what have we done? We have no family here, no friends’.

We’re on the border of NSW and Queensland and it’s lush and green.  

The girls’ school is surrounded by farmland and we’re 10 minutes from the beach. Some mornings I take our dog there and I’m the only one – in Bondi you’d struggle to find a place for your towel!  

We have a little café five minutes away and a supermarket 15 minutes away – in Bondi we lived across the road from a supermarket.  

Only one place here delivers takeaway food – in Sydney we could get whatever we wanted delivered and I miss that!  

But making a sea change is the best decision I made. Nearly every day I say to my husband: “Can you believe we did this?” 

Chantelle Ellem

The 3 mistakes to avoid when making a sea or tree change 

  • Being vague about what you really want 

Be specific about how your sea/tree change lifestyle will look, sound, feel and be.  Decide what you do and don’t want and, most importantly, be crystal clear on why you want to make a sea/tree change. 

  • Blinkered Vision  

Create realistic expectations based on knowledge. Visit possible locations at different times of year with a view to living there – versus visiting or holidaying – and ask lots of questions. Include the facts and your feelings to make well-informed decisions. 

  • Taking a short-term view and expecting to fit in immediately  

Reach out, join community groups based on your interests, and become active in your local community. Like any major life change, it takes time to adjust and make new friends. Give it time – be friendly and approachable and keep making the effort.  

Source: Caroline Cameron, Sea Change Success 

As told to Sarah Marinos. Chantelle Ellem blogs at Fat Mum Slim