Moving Rural and Maintaining a Good Work Life Balance

Anthony Smith - 08/11/2019
With the exception of my first job at Woolies, at the ripe old age of 14, I have always lived at least 45 minutes from work. Whether that be driving to my first job outside of university in Balwyn North, or catching the train and walking to my next job in St Kilda.

Up until now, I’ve always lived in the outer south eastern suburbs around Wantirna, Croydon and Boronia, so a commute was always inevitable, especially in my line of work as the majority of jobs are inner suburbs or right in the CBD.
To give you a little bit of back story, my wife and I started dating back 2009 and I quickly learnt that she was a ‘horse girl’. She lived in Wantirna but agisted her horses at her friend’s property out in Maccelsfield, in the Yarra Ranges. Her dream was to always move to her own property and have her horses in her backyard.
Fast forward a few years and it’s 2014. My wife and I have bought our first large piece of land, and fortunately for us, it was down the Mornington Peninsula in the quant little town of Moorooduc, just next door to Mornington and off the Peninsula Freeway.

When we first looked at it, I wasn’t keen because it needed a lot of work. But the upside to that is it was going cheap. So, after lots of discussion, we discovered that it did tick all our pre-requisites boxes.
  • It had close access to a freeway
  • Access to internet with workable speeds
  • It was close to public transport
  • Had plenty of potential and something we could turn into a home
So almost five years after moving onto a 15 acre property, starting a horse agistment business, after bringing two beautiful girls into the world, after pouring hours of love, sweat, tears and of course money into the property, we have completely transformed it into something that we love and appreciate.
We still have things that need doing, but from what it was we’re probably 80-90% complete in terms of what we wanted and needed to do. For those of you wondering what horse agistment is, people pay us to keep their horses in a paddock on our property. We currently have eight horses agisted with us along with four and a half of ours. The half is a foal due around New Years.

*Disclaimer* moving rural, especially onto a decent chunk of land does require more work that your suburban block, and definitely more than your apartment/townhouse living.
You now have more grass to mow, but you get to do it sitting down on a ride on mower. Your standard 500ml Roundup bottle no longer does the trick – you need a 10 or 20 litre backpack to get on top of those pesky little weeds and grass appearing where you don’t want it. The maintenance required is greater and more frequent than your standard residence, but that’s part of the fun, right?
A lot of us work indoors, we sit down all day and stare into a screen. The thing I have learned to appreciate the most is getting home and going outside getting my hands dirty. I can’t tell you the amount of hands on skills and trades I’ve learnt just by getting out there and giving it a go. Plumbing, carpentry, landscaping, fencing you name it, I’ve tried it! There are so many good online resources to refer to that will guide you through most of the common fixes and tasks.
I haven’t even started talking about the views yet! I can’t tell you how amazing it is to sit at the dinner table and look out across the wide open spaces and soak up that serenity. Who needs Bonnie Doon? Doing the dishes is much more fun at night when you've got a spectacular view.
Now of course you must be wondering about my commute. For me, this is the only downside to living where I do, but it’s severely outweighed by all the positives.
On a Monday and one other day, I will drive into work. Given I’m so close to the freeway, if I leave early enough it generally only takes an hour. Early can be anywhere from 5:30am to 6:30am depending on if I go to the gym or not. Mondays are good because every second week is an RDO so the roads are generally better.
Tuesday or Wednesday are gym days, so I’ll leave at 5:30am to get to work, and at the gym by 7:00am. The downside to driving is the cost. Tolls will set you back $22-ish for the day. Then there is your parking which is around $22 as well. That’s $44 for the day before you factor in fuel and the rest for the 140km round trip. So this can add up rather quickly, which is why I don’t drive all the time.
On the other days I catch the train. This involves driving to Frankston Metro Station and catching a train to Flinders Street then walking up to Bourke St. This is a more relaxing journey, however it takes at least 1 hour and 45 minutes door to door. This is why I drive once or twice a week, but only on days when the traffic should be better.
Generally speaking, I’m out of the house around 12 hours a day if I’m on the train, or 11 if I drive. This would definitely take its toll if I didn’t work from home.
I am fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to work from home, and very fortunate to have a great employer who actively encourages working from home. I generally do this at least once a week but increased this to two after the birth of my second daughter to support my wife.
Working from home brings an array of benefits. First up, I don’t need to get up quite as early, I get to wake up and see my kids in the morning, have breakfast with them and enjoy some quality family time. I get to help out with dinner, pick the kids up from day care, admire the great views out of the office window and of course, save myself two and half to four hours a day not in a car or train.
Technology today is at a point that allows us to connect back into those in the office more seamlessly than ever before. Chat applications such as Slack and Microsoft Teams allow me to stay in contact with colleagues, Teams allows me to call a colleague and have a face to face conversation and even share my screen with them to work through a problem or debug something. 
The cloud has us more integrated than ever. I can be working on a document with multiple people at the same time and have our changes and updates seamlessly saved into one file. Working remotely no longer means working secluded in your home office and only contactable via the phone or email.
The days I am in the office I try and get into work between 7:30am to 8:00am, then I’ll leave at 4:30pm which generally gets me home by around 6:15pm in the evening if I’m on the train or 5:45pm if driving. Sometimes this can mean I don’t have a full 8 working hours in the office, but the benefit of having 1 hour on the train morning and night gives me a chance to continue working on my laptop, which I generally save for those admin jobs like emails, planning and the likes. Once that’s all out of the way you can take care of those life admin tasks that bank up, or even relax with some Netflix, reading or study.
It seems like a lot of work, but once you setup a plan and get into a routine it’s really not. Most days you don’t notice it, and the days you do, when you get home and give the kids a big hug, look out the windows and soak up those views you quickly forget about it all as the smile breaks out.
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