real life

Jeff and Tim made the treechange with their daughter. Here's a taste of their life now.

Thanks to our brand partner, Ford

For my fiancé Tim and I, space seemed like the key to our happiness: giving our daughter the space to run around, and live a fulfilling childhood surrounded by our pet dogs, horses, chickens and turkeys. At one point we even had a pig named Millie (and no, she didn’t get eaten, just re-homed for a better quality of life).

Pre-daughter, our Sydney weekends were spent working our second job at the gym. Yes, coincidentally we both worked as teachers, but also as group fitness gym instructors (we met when switching over our instructor microphones).

Now, we spend our time together with our daughter in the garden – growing vegetables, sighting magical fairies and singing songs that we just make up based on a word one of us said a second ago (sometimes I really do feel like we are in a musical – the next von Trapps, maybe?). We have picnics and fly kites in our paddock while our kelpie pup runs around, bolting back and forth like he used to when we first rescued him in North Sydney.

Tim is an assistant principal, and I’m a high school music teacher. Working with children has brought us such joy. We find that being a part of their education, and lifelong journey as learners, is such a unique privilege.

For us, it’s even more rewarding to see our daughter Maddison learn new things every day. She brings us such happiness, and has given both of us a realisation as to what the true value of family means.

Bushwalking with Maddison at the Walkabout Wildlife Park. Image: Jeff Chung.

We used to have to travel an hour and a half to see my folks up in Gosford, and three hours to see Tim’s folks up in the Hunter Valley. Now, Maddison can see my parents after school or within a quick half hour drive from our home, or an hour’s drive up to the Hunter Valley to see Tim’s parents. With such convenience of babysitters, it’s a wonder why Tim and I still look back sometimes at our Carrie Bradshaw-esque apartment complex in North Sydney.

Since moving out of our Sydney home, we've been able to afford a bigger home, more land (almost 20 times the land size of our Sydney home) and a more spacious car, like our Ford Escape SUV. That's pretty helpful for the never-ending list of equipment needed for extracurricular activities: swimming, dancing and everything else that goes with looking after a three year old and all our rescue animals. Between the car and our shed, we have storage areas galore.

One of our favourite places a short drive away: Myuna Bay, a playground overlooking Lake Macquarie. Image: Jeff Chung

It's not just about having more physical space, though. Both of us being teachers means we can juggle having both quality "us" time, as well as having quality family time over the two-week breaks - and the six-week breaks too.

Since moving up here, one of our favourite activities has been going to our annual mandarin picking trip - now that takes us back to our childhoods! Seeing our little girl run around in her gum boots, picking mandarins from the trees, falling over just because she is naturally clumsy, covered in mess...and what did we do but join her? It was like Peppa Pig in real life.


We make the most of our family time, little road trips are great for that. We love driving up to Coffs Harbour or Byron Bay, or taking more local adventures to wildlife parks or nearby bush walks. For us, it's just about being in nature - places like the Somersby Waterfalls and the Hunter Valley Gardens.

During summer, we drive between the countless beaches along the central coast, our days filled with shell collecting and rock pool discoveries. Our favourite beach has to be Shelly Beach, just one of the many serene and picturesque places we love to explore together.

Having close access to the beach, lake and bush allows us more time away from our screens, too. We easily forget about television, mobile phones and laptops and find more time to slow down, explore nature and have the most valuable family time.


A collage of photos from beaches in Newcastle to our backyard. Image: Jeff Chung

In the meantime, the occasional visits to Sydney are but an hour and a half away. Knowing that we come back to our calm property is still quite surreal.

Sure, we miss the convenience of having luxuries close by. You know, cute little boutique stores and all types of cuisines within easy walking distance.

But we have discovered the luxury of not having to wait in traffic for 40 minutes only to have moved 50 metres; the luxury of not having neighbours that overlook our fence line; and exploring the beaches that the eastern coast of Australia has to offer without the discomforts brought by the tremendously populated beaches of North Shore and the Eastern suburbs.

It's been one year since we moved up near Lake Macquarie, and I think we can safely say we’ve become accustomed to a more relaxed lifestyle. Yes, space can buy you some happiness - but it's how you explore it with the ones you love that really counts.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Ford.