Smug downshifters

First published in SMH in 2004

If I hear one more smug downshifter talk about how their quality of life has improved since they moved to Ballina/Yamba/Orange/Moss Vale/Bateman’s Bay, I think I am going to scream.

Why is it that once people decide to make a  a seachange, they immediately turn into sanctimonious preachers? The minute they sell up and buy in Iluka they come out with statements like “I’m quitting the rat race, I’m getting away from  all that stuff …” , the inference being that  city people are all rats, whereas they are  free spirits who have given it all up to  commune with nature.

However,  the truth is that seachangers are just moving to a slightly smaller version of Sydney. They want to move somewhere that has everything they had in Sydney minus the annoying bits: parking, traffic and Sydney waiters. But they still expect every other convenience.

They talk about making a sacrifice and downshifting. But they are lucky enough to be sitting on a gold-plated bit of real estate that enables them  to make the leap. Or even luckier, they work in a job that enables them to telecommute from the Bellingen pub.

But have they really left? They still live in a house. with views of the Pacific Ocean from every room or a vineyard out the back. They still have running water, electricity and flat-screen TV. And you can bet their new town is filled with other seachangers, so they still have their favourite brand of organic Brazillian coffee.

I think that these downshifters should start to pay homage to the people left in the city. Here we are propping up society, working our bottoms off  battling traffic, Cityrail, and general chaos while  listening to smug seachangers talking endlessly of making a sacrifice and finding true meaning in their life.

I think a little more respect is due.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It isn’t the fact that they don’t work have to work structured hours, it’s not the fresh salt spray in the morning, or the fact that the first thing they see when they get up in the morning is mountains. It’s not even the fact that they don’t have to queue or pay $3.80 for their latte or park approximately 4.8 kilometres from a restaurant on a Saturday night.

It’s not the community vibe or afternoons sunbaking on the beach I’m cranky about. It’s that holier-than-thou look the smug escapee gives as they are explaining all the benefits about downshifting, and in the next breath they talk about how brave they are.

But then again, with any luck if they all move to the country in time the city should be a better place without those pesky wannabe downshifters clogging up the roads and restaurants. Perhaps real estate values will come down and queuing for coffee will be a thing of the past. But then again – those country pigs might fly.


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