Mental Health Comes First

Take a Tree change for a higher quality of life

A few years ago we were in Sydney. The traffic woke us. The buses roared below our apartment. We drank too much. We worked too much. One day our rent went up and I said ‘I have a house’.

That’s not to say we passively drift with the breeze and end up wherever we end up. In fact, we have the rudder and direct the flight path with earnestness, as well as lightness.

Right now the carpet is hovering over the meadows of Asphodel. By that, I mean we have a heavenly life in a country village. We are two hours train ride from Sydney. We neither make nor need a lot of money. Yet we are veritably bathed in riches.

When you first move to the country —outside a metropolitan city — many people you leave behind think you’re having a tree change. And that a tree change is a sign of weakness. And that it won’t last. They don’t say it, because that would be rude. But that’s what they think.

They see the pursuit of a humble, quaint, and frankly boring existence with a backyard. 

They might even become patronising. Couldn’t cope with the city? Toss ambition to the wind and opt out of life. 

People have interesting reactions. Bemusement. Disbelief. Puzzlement. Disappointment. Envy. Curiosity. Rejection.

What you are doing is confronting. It offends sensibilities. It’s a middle finger to the man and the hapless followers of the man. It defies the convention of work. Of pain. Of doing-what-we-have-always-done-because-that’s-what-we-have-always-done.

Have pity.

When you shine a light on dysfunction, it hurts the eyes a bit.

A new mindset

Here’s the thing. Escaping to the country is not a tree change. It’s a Paradigm Shift.

It’s a move from  ‘How much can I make?’ to ‘How little do we need?’

Our two-bedroom cottage is like a mansion to city visitors.

We have trees in our garden. We pick fruit on the street when we leave the house.

We walk our kids to school and preschool.

We make boats from sticks and leaves and race them along the gutters during the rain.

We wear gumboots and go rainstomping.

Everyone knows us by name.

We have all had COVID and received deliveries of cake, soup, craft, puzzles, and chocolate.

There are four cafes in our main street. We go to each of them regularly.

We all sleep in one bed, most nights.

I work from home in the garage. We renovated it and made it a nice little retreat pad. When people stay over, this is where they sleep. There’s a nice little Japanese-style bathroom and laundry on the end, down a step.

This is the meaning of life. And these are kind of obvious things, are they not?

Your values, perhaps for the first time, become very clear. You see what is truly important: Your family. Your relationships. Contributing to your community. Eating well. Love. Maintaining your body in good condition. Allowing your spirit to frequently soar.

But when you’re busy, you forget them. They don’t really land with you. You know they’re the most important things in life in your head, but you don’t make any emotional connection with the truth of it. Until you go slow.

And then you are struck by how much certainty you have that these are by far the important things in life.

In late capitalism, we are kept very busy. Kids. Work. Shopping. Football. Culture. News. We don’t have time to think. We’re very active.

It’s a great gift to yourself to go slowly. Cut back to the basics. Go a bit Walden for a while. The benefits can’t be truly appreciated until you do it.

Join our subscribers.

Stay in the loop with everything you need to know.