Last winter, a dear neighbour of ours moved to a sweet-sounding place called Orange, here in countryside New South Wales. She packed up her small apartment here in the big city, said her goodbyes and insisted we had to go visit here there soon. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard about this adorably named place, as one of my favourite Australian bloggers and authors, Sophie Hansen of Local is Lovely, lives there, and I can’t get enough of reading about all her countryside adventures and stories.
Funnily enough, just a few weeks after my neighbour moved there, she sent me a beautiful package that included said author’s gorgeous new cookbook, which I had been eagerly wanting to buy, along with a big bunch of brochures and visitors’ guides to the Orange region. My desire to visit grew immensely with each page I turned, each recipe I drooled over and each story I got lost in, and I promised that we would as soon as we can.
Whenever we talked, my neighbour would tell me the best time to visit Orange is in autumn, where the town would literally turn ORANGE. The sound of that just stuck to the insides of my mind, having never experienced any dramatic sort of fall season back in Egypt where our seemingly endless summers tend to stretch their scorching claws across autumn and even parts of winter. Last month, we finally made it happen.
For Anzac day’s long weekend, we booked a car, checked in Samara (our new kitty! click here for tons of photos of her) at the local vet and headed out to the Australian countryside.
So far, every single time we’ve tried renting a car and driving somewhere here in Sydney, it’s been a complete nightmare. I have NEVER seen a more stressful driving environment, and that’s coming from a person who spent her entire life driving in Cairo!! I don’t know if it’s the insanely confusing road system (especially on the highways) and the PAINFULLY complicated signs that are basically designed to ruin your life, or the whole driving on the opposite side of the road and in the opposite side of the car, or the constant looming fear of taking a wrong exit (which means you are doomed) or making a mistake and getting fined six billion dollars…but whenever my husband and I get into a car together here, we turn into a panicky mess of shouty nerves and ALWAYS get lost. It’s quite traumatic.
However, the further away we got from the manic city, the better we both felt. Our voices grew
human calm again and we started to actually enjoy the drive. The endless rolling hills dotted with cattle and sheep, the charming little houses and towns and the vast open spaces were all like pure therapy. We have always been big on road trips back home, and it was so good to remember how wonderful a long drive could be.
To tell you the truth, for the past several months I’ve been experiencing a pressing sense of unease and constant unshakeable anxiety. Since before our last move from our old apartment, and increasingly so after moving to the new one we currently reside in. I couldn’t place my finger on one single cause, but more like a bunch of little things that have been piling up and adding to the feeling of discomfort and restlessness. The stress of frantic city life has been getting under my skin more than I’d realised, and I have been growing increasingly suffocated and, well…unhappy.
I am just now beginning to realise that all these negative feelings are probably merely symptoms of the lifestyle we are thus far choosing to live. The chaotic and hectic pace of big city life, the never-ending construction, the constant noise and rush, the lack of space and sufficient privacy…the rarity of seeing the sky, breathing clean air, being out in nature and enjoying wide open spaces…the often impatient and sometimes even aggressive nature of city people (there are of course exceptions to this; I’ve met many many wonderful people here!), which leads to a general lack of a sense of community or real meaningful friendships. I’m just so tired of it all.
Up until this specific trip to Orange, we’ve often talked dreamily about moving to the country someday, but I don’t think either of us really ever took it seriously. It was always more of a romantic faraway notion that we toyed with whenever we’d see a show set in the countryside or go somewhere a little bit out of the city and enjoy it. For some reason, we seemed to accept ourselves as “city people” as if it were a fact of life; a given…and I honestly don’t know why that is. Or maybe I do, but it still feels rather dumb now. How do we know for sure?
During this trip, for the first time, both of us simultaneously started to actually consider moving away from the city as a very real option. It’s a scary thought, and one we are still not sure of 100%, but the more we think and talk about it, the more sense it makes to us. Ever since we moved to Australia, the “plan” was always to sell our house back home and buy something in Sydney, and settle down here. For many many reasons, this is no longer doable at all, and so maybe everything has happened in order to force us to explore other prospects. There’s so much I can say in pros and cons, but I won’t for now. It’s more of an opening of a whole new realm of possibilities; a start of a new dialogue with life. A promise to be more flexible and open to new options, no matter how scary they might seem at first. A reminder to not be so set-in-my-ways, and to not be so stubborn with my idea of who or what I am.
In the meantime, I will leave you with these pictures and a video (scroll down to the end of the post for it!) of our weekend in and around this magical place called Orange, that managed to change our minds so effortlessly about our notion of country life. We were blown away by the explosively autumnal hues of the trees and fields, and had the most wonderful experience picking the yummiest unsprayed, kinda-wonky-but-stunning apples from a beautiful local orchard called Borodell Vineyards (which I made into a delicious apple pie! recipe here!). It was such an incredible weekend, spent with the most generous and welcoming hosts who made us feel like we were truly visiting family, and to them I am ever so grateful.