Robertson is truly life-changing and here’s why
I’ve always been rather dynamic and adventurous. Sure, I can sit still for 3 seconds, but then it’s go-time and grow-time.
Hustle, hustle, hustle.
I completed three degrees in Media and multiple training certificates. Academic growth: Tick.
I completed numerous races, a half-marathon, CrossFit competitions and swam competitively. Sporting adventure: Tick.
I married a high-performing left-brainer, and starting at zero together, we’ve worked non-stop to purchase multiple properties, pay our student debt quickly, buy cars cash and go on nice holidays. Financial growth: Check.
I had two boys (and I’ll say no more, mums…IYKYK). Parenthood: Check.
My career advanced quite nicely – From a journalist, radio news announcer, magazine editor to Head of Content at a digital marketing agency. Professional growth: Check.
Wanting to give our kids and ourselves more freedom, safety and opportunities, we sold everything, said goodbye to our entire family and everyone we knew in South Africa, got on a plane and relocated across the world to Australia. Overall life improvement through guts, balls of steel and a can-do attitude: Check.
So why am I telling you all these wonderful things about my life?
Because it crashed.
Living in Sydney with no idea how to navigate life at home with two small kids who don’t understand English, no job, a stressed-out husband, strained marriage, an angry neighbour, no clue how Aussie systems work, and a support system who is asleep on the other side of the earth when I’m awake, brought me to my knees.
While Sydney is magical in its own right and thousands of people wouldn’t leave it for the world, I found it extremely harsh, noisy, overwhelming and stress-inducing.
I kept thinking:
Yes, we’re safe.
Yes, our kids will have a bright and free future.
Yes, I’ll pick up my career when things settle down again.
Yes, we’ll make friends and find our feet.
But that didn’t take away the heartache that crept in with the sudden realisation that everything that ‘defined’ me in life and made me feel on top of the world was now gone. The realisation crashed down on me like a 10-tonne bus with no-one who could lift it off.
I had to learn to breathe underneath the weight.
I had to dig into my core to discover what really matters, what made me ME, and how to find joy from not the external, but the internal.
It was hard – and I’m still not there yet. But what became a critical point in putting the pieces of my life together again and creating new boxes for me to check, was leaving Sydney and moving to Robertson – The Green Heart of the Southern Highlands.
I’ve always thought, ah… a town or a city doesn’t define me or make me happy or sad. Your home is where you laugh, love, cry and live.
But I was wrong.
A town or city is a living, breathing organism. It has the ability to bring immense joy.
I knew nothing about Robertson – but when driving through for the first time as an anxious mum seeking peace for her family, it instinctively felt like home.
It’s not easy to get into Robertson. The residents are weaved into the tapestry of the land. There aren’t many properties for sale, and there sure aren’t many for rent.
In April 2021, we secured the only rental available in Robertson, by some sort of miracle. It’s a beautiful family home with a big yard and my boys couldn’t believe their eyes when we arrived here.
My own heart skipped a beat when I plonked my tired feet through the front door on a cold and dark Thursday afternoon. My soul knew it had arrived home.
In a little pocket on the other side of the world and after a gruellingly stressful life transition – I have found home.
My tears of joy stained the boxes as I unpacked our things. I cried when I walked a few hundred meters to buy milk and bread. Behind the counter, Caryn had the most beautiful smile that immediately felt like warm pudding on a cold night.
I cried when I bought the most delicious pies at the Robertson Pie Shop, to still our hunger pangs while settling into our new home.
I cried when my boys kicked the ball across the neighbour’s fence and Kellyanne threw it back with a “Hi, boys! You should come over to see our baby chicks, they hatched yesterday!”
I cried when the school’s headmaster, Mr Parish, invited us for a school tour and enthusiastically high-fived my two nervous boys on their first day of school.
The tears streamed down my face when we explored Robertson’s own natural rainforest for the first time and immersed ourselves in the beauty of the birdsong and greenery… and realised it’s only 1km from our home.
Everything we’ve endured, lost, and worried about dissolved in Robertson’s late-afternoon mist and blew away with the cleansing Robbo winds.
Slowly, our hearts mended. My husband is home more because Sydney’s insane traffic is not eating away at precious bike-riding and soccer-watching time with the kids. His mood lifted, he felt energised and he now excels at his work.
My kids are insanely happy at Robertson Public School and my youngest found his voice at the Robertson Preschool, preceded by a silent 1.5 years at an overly-crowded Sydney daycare.
And me? Well, I was so inspired by the wonderful community and incredible small businesses in town (they feel more like family than businesses now) that I quit my agency job and started The Story Shed to work on my own terms, service the wonderful people that played a part in changing my life and partner with people whose values aligned with mine.
I’d love to share some (and only SOME) of the life-changers in Robertson:
The Friendly Grocer. Oh, don’t be fooled. It’s definitely not just a grocer. It’s a feeling of coming home, with “Hi! Nice to see you!” and “Are you ok, have you made any friends yet?”. It’s my happy-place-around-the-corner.
The Cheese Factory. It’s magic under one roof. A trip back into history. A sensory wonderland and quiet oasis. A treat-yourself-you-deserve-it outing.
Moonacres Kitchen reminds me of my gran’s kitchen. There’s laughter, a fireplace, and the smell of good coffee and sourdough bread. Chickens, horses, dogs and other strange pets, along with their owners, chatting and giggling outside – coffee in hand.
Box and Castle is a luxury experience that makes you say “Aaaaaah” when you step inside. Creams, scarves, candles and soaps that you NEED asap.
Sage Hair & Beauty. What will my life be without the incredible Dianne! Again – don’t be fooled. This is no ordinary salon. It’s a tea-drinking, heart-warming and soul-connecting experience that just feels…. right. They truly care about ME, not just making money from my hair.
Robertson Village Butchery. The number of times I’ve been able to grab a particularly-sized pork shoulder, brisket or random soup bones is endless. What a privilege to have a butcher you can call any time of day and know that he’ll get you exactly what you need for the hearty stew you want to cook for your family on a chilly night.
The Robertson Fruit Shop. I’m crying writing this. Yasmin and Chris are shining lights and undoubtedly the heart of Robertson. They’re business connectors, recipe sharers, storytellers, people-supporters and unconditional-love-givers. I’ve found myself popping in and just paying for an apple to have the feeling of being loved, cheered and cherished.
Nadine’s Coffee Beans. You haven’t experienced true coffee heaven until your home has been filled with the aroma of her freshly roasted coffee. The taste and smell of her coffee has been synonymous with our journey into Robertson and finding true happiness.
Soy Mason at Memory Lane. When I feel low, stressed or overwhelmed, their Marshmellow bath salt and hand-crafted soy candles feel like a warm hug. I’ve sent their bath salts to dear family members in South Africa, so that they, too, can experience what Robertson feels like.
Elwrays. What a friendly, unique and dynamic bunch of people! Bike-riding with my kids to school in the mornings wouldn’t look the same without the enthusiastic waves from their eccentric coffee truck. Oh, and their chai lattes are the best in the world.
Katie Feder Psychotherapy. This woman changes lives. I’ve experienced first-hand how her deeply explorative therapy methods and courses transform women to live more joyful lives. AND SHE LIVES ACROSS THE STREET FROM ME. I’m proud to say she’s become a dear friend, and Robertson has the depth that it has because of her.
The Highland Hattery. Michelle is an absolute gem in this world! Bringing the most exquisite hats to the Southern Highlands, she’s always willing to help me try on new hats, even if I can’t afford them. She cares about delivering a culturally rich experience – not just selling hats.
Lucinda’s Pantry. Oh, you’re in for a treat if you have time to ask Lucinda about her life’s story. Having worked as a sought-after chef all around the world for decades, she now treats Robbo with her incredible culinary creations. It’s like travelling to faraway destinations with one bite.
The Village Woodworks. With Robertson’s wonderfully cool, windy and wet weather, Neil hand-delivers filled gas bottles to our home to keep the heater and stove running. I always run outside as soon as I spot him because his brilliant smile and chatty personality give me the late-afternoon pickup that I usually need.
Thank you for changing my life and our family’s lives.
We’re home – and thank you for making us FEEL at home.
PS – if you’re a small business owner or sole trader in Robertson or the surrounding areas, I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than helping you with a soul-aligned brand and dreamy website. Give me a call or reach out online, I’m buying coffee!