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Heading for the Hills

At a certain age courage is required – to carry on, to remain optimistic . . . and in our case, to head for the hills. I have this on good authority from my wife, who knows about these things.

So that’s it - we’re leaving Byron Bay. At some point ‘our’ town changed from a laid back coastal town to a high-end tourist destination. Byron Bay is now closer to becoming a ‘party town’ than ever before – even if the struggle against that outcome goes on. That means more holiday letting and more community decline than ever before. The crowds of young people, holiday-makers, traffic, over-development, thriving hotels, and light aircraft noise have finally forced us out.

‘The Bay’ is still a place of great natural beauty, healing, and creative energy. Understandably, everybody elsewhere wants to come to town to enjoy the amenities. And we too have had a great time . . . and we did try to look at this latest wave of change through younger eyes: to embrace the vibrancy and creativity, to celebrate being alive, and so on. Yet despite all that, change came upon us with a sense of utter finality. Suddenly we felt more at home in the relative peace and quiet of the hills around Nimbin; we saw the trees and fields and streams and critters again . . . we rediscovered our ‘inner hippies’. So we’re relocating to 50 acres of rural charm to chill out with the local flora and fauna.

Nimbin is our nearest town. It is definitely less hormonal, ‘prammy’ and ‘entitled’. All these years after the hippy invasion of the Aquarius Festival, Nimbin is still recognisably countercultural – in today’s terms somewhat post conservative, post hippy and possibly even post modern. Today there is a fairly relaxed mix of old farming stock, aging hippies, Aboriginal Australians, escapees from suburban and city life, and other human types yet to be discovered. According to one Herald journalist an era of ‘hippy chic’ has begun in Nimbin. Perhaps this is code for ‘more development’ - but the pace of change feels definitely glacial in comparison with Byron Bay. Whatever, as natural fringe dwellers we feel very much at home in this kind of environment – chic or not. Even farm machinery, slashing, mowing, sheds, home renovation, insects, or age cannot deter us.

We are sad to leave all the great friends and acquaintances we have made over nearly 20 years living in Byron Bay. But change is good, life’s a journey, and nothing lasts forever – the culture of the bubble has prepared us well for the next chapter. And of course we will cheer from the next shire as the political struggle against the over-development of Byron Bay goes on; and we will join the fray as necessary.

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