This week I mark two years in Canberra. This is a milestone for me given I despise the cold and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it once I discovered what winter was like.
When I first moved here, I made a promise to myself that I would give it a minimum of two years in Canberra – and if I wasn’t happy at the end of those two years I would move on. I thought two years was a decent amount of time to get a good idea about the capital, make some friends and feel settled after moving away from everything I knew in Queensland.
It took a good 15 months before I felt somewhat settled in Canberra. The first 12 months I obsessed mostly about how cold it was and became a bit of a hermit, counting down the days until I would move back to Brisbane. I made small efforts to make friends but found it hard due to work commitments and decided it was too challenging a few times.
But I came to a point where I realised it was my mindset that was getting in the way of enjoying Canberra. I had focused for so long on doing my time and returning to Brisbane that I wasn’t open to enjoying what Canberra had to offer. Once I changed my mindset, my whole experience changed. I made some great friends, and enjoyed going out even on freezing nights.
I’ve said it before: In my opinion, Canberra isn’t that fun on your own (which is is probably why it gets such as bad wrap), so once you make friends the city does offer a more opportunities. I haven’t met a single person who moved here as an adult and found it easy to make friends and find things to do. It’s one city where you have to make an effort to meet people and find activities to interest you – it can be cliquey and is extremely transient.
But while the experience of moving to Canberra was a lot harder than I imagined, it was life changing. I learnt a lot about myself and what I enjoy doing and became more resilient. It takes a lot of will and effort to move to a new city knowing no one and make it work – it’s challenging, confronting, and often uncomfortable.
I’m not sure what my career holds or whether I’ll stay in the capital for the long term, but there are a number of things that I’ve enjoyed about Canberra life aside from the great career and networking opportunities and challenges.
For starters, the lack of traffic jams and peace and quiet even in the inner city suburbs are among my likes about living in Canberra. Life in the capital doesn’t run at the often intense pace of some other cities – it’s an easier life.
Another of the major pluses for me is that it’s possible to live within walking distance of the city centre and not have to catch public transport or find a park for work – and also go home for lunch. Most of what I need is within walking distance so I get exercise and save time not competing for a carpark. I know it’s not possible and affordable for everyone to live as close to work and city as I am but it’s good to have a choice. When I moved here, I weighed it up that driving or taking public transport to work would cost much the same as paying the extra amount to live in the inner city.
I also like that there’s plenty of natural attractions close to the city or within a 30-40 minute drive and you don’t have to compete with traffic to get there. There’s Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura, the Tidbinbilla and Namadgi Nature Reserves, as well as a number of other mountains such as Mt Stromlo, and places such as Cotter Creek.
While I hate winter, I do enjoy the obvious change in seasons – something you don’t really get in Brisbane. I like seeing the colours change to orange, red and yellow on trees around the capital and it’s a great view of the city from Mt Ainslie on an autumn day. Spring is also a beautiful time of year in Canberra offering mostly sunny days, albeit with crisp mornings, and the grey of winter transforms into a city of green.
Within the Canberra region, a road trip to visit the wineries (and the chocolate shop) out in the Murrumbateman area is a must do. The drive is easy and scenic, and great for a sunny weekend and you can make a full day out of it – or just take a couple of hours to sample a few wines. Take your pick of wineries from your one man operator to bigger operators with extensive displays and attached restaurants.
I don’t know how they all survive but Canberra seems to have an extensive variety of restaurants and cafes given it only has a population of around 380,000. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the restaurants and brunch places in Canberra but try and give a new one a try each time I go out for lunch or dinner and I’ve had some amazing snacks, meals and drinks – it’s appears to be lot better quality than in Brisbane. And Canberra has seen me discover a love for brunch on a weekend morning.