I’ve been in Canberra only around 9 months, yet in that time it has become a place very special to my heart and one that I will miss. My friend Eko is a big fan of Top 5s and I find they’re a nice way to reflect on an experience and distill your thoughts. So now, on this, my last day in this city, here are the Top 5 things I have loved about Canberra.
1. Its beauty. I had visited Canberra three times before I moved here, and I have to confess after those three visits I probably wouldn’t have described it as particularly beautiful, but once I moved here its beauty was something that really struck me. Its beauty comes from nature and I think in order to fully appreciate it you need to spend enough time here to see the change in the seasons. I watched the oak trees lining the streets around our home turn bright green in the spring, burst full of sweet little acorns in the summer and turn shades of brown, orange and red in the autumn. In spring Canberra is a mass of fruit trees loaded with soft blossoms and in autumn the whole city turns shades of yellow, red, orange and brown. Canberra is a lovely city to experience on foot (or by bike, I’d imagine, but I didn’t have a bike here!). There are parks and gardens everywhere you look, the beautiful lake, and hills and mountains. For a nature lover like me it was heaven.
2. It welcomed me with open arms. It’s hard to gain a sense of belonging in a new place, and sometimes a new city can be hostile and unfriendly, but I felt embraced from the moment I arrived in Canberra. I was struck by the friendliness of people everywhere I went, and whenever I explained that I had recently moved here, I was welcomed with excitement and enthusiasm. Perth people have a bit of a chip on their shoulder – there’s always a sense of apology when a Perthite talks about their city – and I find Canberrans are a bit the same, so I felt I could relate! Meanwhile, to Canberrans (and east coasters in general, it seems), Perth is not so much ‘dullsville’ as just some faraway hot, dry place most people have never visited. Both places have the kind of attributes that can only really be appreciated after spending a bit of time and getting to know the ins and outs of the place, I think.
3. Its proximity to so many amazing places. When we moved here, several people made the joke that the best thing about living in Canberra is that you’re only a few hours from Sydney or Melbourne. But coming from as isolated a place as Perth, the opportunity to frequently visit not only those cities but dozens of other beautiful spots has truly been amazing. In many ways Canberra is a bit like a big country town, and within ten minutes of driving you’re suddenly in the country. In the nine months I’ve been here, James and I have spent many weekends exploring this extraordinary part of the world, visiting some of the many tiny little towns dotted throughout the Southern Tablelands, Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains and the NSW south coast. I was amazed by just how lovely many of these places were and the stunning landscapes in this part of Australia. The striking coast at Depot Beach, the extraordinary undulating terrain (and the wombats!) of Kangaroo Valley, the alpine beauty of the Snowy Mountains, and the stunning autumnal show put on by Mount Wilson stand out as highlights.
4. The things it taught me about myself. Ok, this sounds a bit corny, I know, but my time in Canberra has really been a big learning curve for me. When I left Perth I was leaving behind my family, my closest friends and my business, which I loved. I’m also a person who puts down roots so moving is never easy for me. But sometimes when you’re confronted with something hard you find out you’re stronger than you thought you were. Moving here taught me that I can handle change, that I can cope without all my “stuff” and in fact enjoy the challenges thrown up by living without it. It also opened my eyes to the freedom that comes from living in a “foreign” place – a place other than the one where you grew up, where you are surrounded by your family and friends. Which is not to say that I have ever felt in any way restricted by my family and friends (in fact, I have felt nothing but support and encouragement from them), but there is a certain freedom that comes with being somewhere where nobody knows you, nobody knows what you have done before and what you are capable of. It helped me to challenge myself to achieve more, to put myself out there in a way that I never had before, and to believe in myself in a way that I previously hadn’t. There’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself that comes with a new city, and that’s something that I’m looking forward to again with New York.
5. The amazing people I met. I’ve already mentioned the friendliness of Canberrans in general, but this is more specifically about the friends I’ve been lucky enough to make here. We were fortunate enough to be adopted by some friends of friends when we moved here, and they have now become great friends in their own right. I was also so, so lucky to end up working with a bunch of amazing people who I will really miss. They shared my love of beautiful objects and of course a passion for all things green, and they let me spend my days making terrariums and kokedama, so you can see how amazing they are! They really are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch and seeing what they’re up to at The Garden.
So it’s goodbye, Canberra, and thank for the good times! I’ve loved getting to know you and I hope to visit again some day…