Travel Magazine

Striving for Balance

By Russellvjward @russellvjward
Who wouldn't enjoy life in Sydney, living within sight of the Pacific Ocean, not 12km from this world-renowned harbor city, under a sun that shines for most of the year?

Life by the beach.  Photo: onestickyrice.

We lived in the west coast Canadian city of Vancouver, consistently voted world's number one city to live in. We lived in the Canadian national capital of Ottawa, arguably one of the safest and easiest capital cities to live in, even after taking into account the frigid winters. We therefore came to expect much of the same from Sydney and more. We wanted relaxed beachside living, diverse culinary delights, and the rewards of living in a beautiful city situated in its prime location on the hills surrounding Port Jackson harbor.
But there was a side to Sydney that has surprised us. A side to Sydney that has a constant hustle and bustle about it that we should have expected from such a big city with hindsight. Sydney living hasn't just been about the harbour, the beach, and the ocean, it has also been about a seriously 'work hard' mentality, a 'go go go' way of life, and a focus on 'keeping up with the Jones' (having the smartest car, the most impressive house, the latest gadgets).

Sydney in the 1960s.  Photo: State Records NSW.

Sydney living also has the usual problems associated with big cities of more than four million people - the spiraling traffic issues, deteriorating transport links in the face of a growing population, and an increasing sprawl beyond the inner city limits. When compared to Vancouver and Ottawa, we found that Sydney had become a 'noisy' town in our eyes. We were living in London in the sun and by the water.
Don't get me wrong, it's not all been bad. In fact, it's been very good here. I've posted on how much I enjoy my Sydney Northern Beaches life. Why, we even took part in a television show about this new life - Filming our search for a life less ordinary - following our house hunting experiences in our Sydney neighbourhood.
For me, the struggle is bigger than Sydney. The struggle has been about trying to create a different kind of life ever since we left the UK in 2003. It has been about what we want that life to look like - and how hard it has been to turn that into a practical reality. The 'noise' of a big city like Sydney has simply started to drown out those things we went looking for and our life feels less, not more, as a result.

Yearning for a simpler way of life.  Photo: Flickr Creative Commons hendy.

I stumbled across a guy called Tom Shadyac the other day through the Internet and also through an episode of Oprah (I'm no secret fan but this episode caught my attention). Tom is a big Hollywood director with a host of well-known films to his credit, such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, and the Nutty Professor. Tom recently went through something of a transformative process immediately following his rise to fame and riches, and shortly after he had a serious accident. He had never felt entirely comfortable with the vast wealth and opulence that came his way as he reached the dizzy heights of US movie stardom and this led him to re-evaluate his outlook on life and those things that made him happy (or unhappy).

Tom Shadyac.  Photo: I Am The Doc Virginia Film Festival.

To cut a long story short, he realised the things he'd acquired over time in his rapidly expanding world of material wealth - the many extravagant houses, expensive cars, private jet, and so on - were actually creating 'noise' in his life. His LA lifestyle was hectic, full of commitments, and surrounded by people who judged success by how much he had and how good it looked. Tom realised he needed to remove some of these things in an attempt to get back to basics to lead a much simpler, more satisfying life. So he gave most of it back and he now lives in a simple home with just the bare necessities around him - and he's happier and more content than ever before.
I'm not saying we should sell off all our worldly goods and become free spirits, but there is something to be said for leading a simpler life and removing some of that noise, be it the maintenance of costly houses and extravagant cars or the noise associated with endless traffic, long commutes, and exorbitant costs of living. How about getting back to spending more time with your family and doing the simple and honest things in life that make your downtime more enjoyable and relaxing - like reading a book, going for a walk at the weekend, or simply hanging out with your 'other half'.
Sounds a bit twee perhaps? I still like the idea of going back to basics and no longer having to 'keep up with Joneses'. Something to think about anyway. 

A need to focus on the simpler things?  Photo: Nina Matthews Photography.

Here's the link to the documentary that Tom made about his journey of rediscovery if you're curious:
As for our journey... We've realised a happy life can be about more than just sun, sea and sand. Whilst no place is perfect, we still want to create a quieter, simpler, more meaningful life for ourselves. So, for now, we'll just keep on searching...
Have you found peace and quiet in your (new) life or do you prefer a busier, more hectic city scene? Is there anything in your life you wish you could reduce to get back to a simpler way of living? Love to hear your thoughts.

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