Transcript #55. From city life to tropical paradise: A positive redundancy story update with Alistair Freeman.

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Alistair: Hello!

Renata: Hi, how are you? 

Alistair: I'm well, how are you going? 

Renata: I'm good. Alistair. So nice to see you. Let's do this. Okay. I am very jealous of you. I wish I had thought of moving away from Melbourne and going to tropical paradise a year ago. Like you did. 

Alistair: Yeah. Well, it's funny how it all works out Renata it's, you know, it was a move we had planned for a fair while and, you know, it's just amazing the way things work out, you know, you sort of, your plan for things and yeah, we're just lucky that things fell the way they did. You know, it just goes to show us, suppose that when you plan, you end up with a good result and it's been no looking back, really. 

Renata: So this is the reason why I wanted to catch up with you again, because you, last year we had a chat around this time last year, you wrote a LinkedIn post. That was really it. You know, it was really a wonderful post. It was sent to me by a follower of this podcast, and I read it and said, I need to interview Alistair. It was about your redundancy from NAB and sharing your experience and how you felt and how you dealt with it and being very generous with your sharing of the stories, but very positive as well. And then I, when we were talking, for the interview, I found out that you were moving away from Melbourne. I didn't know that it wasn't on the post. And I was really intrigued by that. So now COVID happened, and a lot of people have had that idea. 

Renata: So you are, you know, the forefront, you're opening up discussion really in the podcast for many people that are following in your footsteps. And we recently interviewed Liz Richie, who is the CEO of the regional Australian Institute. And she's very busy. She's very busy. She's been interviewed everywhere. Everybody wants to talk to her because not only Australians haven't really had this opportunity to consider this very much, but also because we didn't have policies to support it. You know, we didn't have the infrastructure or jobs, much the opportunity to work remotely. Now we do. How was it to move to regional New South Wales before COVID, without all of that found far that we have now?

Alistair: So it’s pretty interesting Renata, so we were fortunate, we moved because I knew I was getting the redundancy. We actually, it was about two years ago now that we all, we came up and looked at houses up here. We decided a year prior that we wanted to move here because I knew the redundancy was coming. And, and, and so I was in a fortunate position compared to most people in that I knew what was coming for me just because I was in the program that was doing that piece of work. We came up here about two years ago, I found the property, and we moved here in January of; what would that have been 2019? I think the year 2019. And then, I left the bank in September of 2019. So I had nine months of working remotely while still with NAB. So I actually experienced the remote working phenomenon, you know, well over a year ago. 

Alistair: So I became quite familiar with what it looked like, head of operations that type of thing in a large organization, it, the actual move. So the move for me was sort of sequential or multi-step, if you like. That first initial move was, I still had the comfort of my network in Melbourne, my role in Melbourne, but I was just doing it remotely. So it enabled me to have that ease into the local community if you like, to find a network to sort of finding my way through as to what future opportunities would look like and building that, I suppose, that network base, which is a critical component for anyone, you know, wherever you are, whether you, whether you're moving regionally or not. But in particular, one comment I'd make is that moving regionally, certainly, you know, who you know, is a very large part of any regional sort of community. , and it's been a significant element of what I've done here since I've moved up here is building that network and getting to know people and understanding where things are to be able to then, you know, find myself that future opportunity, which I was fortunate enough to find. 

Renata: And, it's funny. I don't know if you had a chance to look at the email I sent you earlier this week, but the first question I asked you was, how has your internet?

Alistair: Which is kind of ironic because it just crashed. It just crashed as we started talking, that is a problem. 

Renata: That is a problem. So I was explaining to Liz, I don't know if it made it into the podcast. I said, Liz, I caught up with my friends in Melbourne, and we've been doing this for years. And we sit at the coffee in a coffee shop in Brighton or Elwood, and we sit down, and we discuss how we're going to move to the regions one day. Like, you know, the sort of hipsters, no burdens that will one day move to the regions, but we need to be careful about where we go because of the web. 

Alistair: Well, it's funny though, because we were in a state here where a few properties got a few acres to it. But we were on NBN, and our Internet's been great. A lot. The little blip this morning was one of the first times I can remember they ever sort of crashing on me, but at the actual, and this is the interesting bit for me about a lot of, about selecting a regional location. You know, you need to have your list of, you know, what are the items you need. So we want an airport to be able to get back to Melbourne. We wanted the hospital naturally. We wanted the university for the kids, good schools. , good sort of infrastructure around things like the internet and the like. So there are all those things that you want to sort of take-off.

Alistair: And yeah, we're fortunate. We, you know, we only, 15-minute drive out of the coughs, say out of the main town, the main city. But we got state forests right behind us so, you know, it's a beautiful view and then five kilometers to the beach. So it really is a beautiful area with all the infrastructure, but you're able to get away from it a little bit by driving sort of 15 minutes away. And that's a really important aspect for anyone looking to make the move: what are the must-have big-ticket items. Like my wife misses, I mean, COVID obviously impacted this, but she misses theatre. So being able to go to see theatre shows and the like, you know.

Renata: We all do. Melbournians miss theatre as well. 

Alistair: That's the other reason that the COVID has exacerbated that. 

Renata: Yes. And in terms of where you are now, which is the Northern New South Wales region, this week, coincidentally earlier on Monday, there were four corners on ABC, which for people listening overseas is a 60-minute documentary. It's very, you know, well-researched about the region and showing people that have businesses in the region in real financial distress and really struggling to hold on to what has been a very prolonged crisis. You know, they thought it was a few months, and now it's going on and on and on. How is the community coping around you? 

Alistair: It's an interesting one. So there's certainly, you know, with such a heavy reliance on tourism in the area. There's, yeah, there's significant pressure on a lot of people. Yeah, there's a lot of, you know, job keepers being heavily relied upon up here through, through COVID just because of the impact on tourism. I know we're seeing in our work in the not-for-profit organization now. We see an increasing demand for our service, and that's, it's a positive that we are able to provide that, but it's a negative that the community has to rely on us as significantly as they do, you know, and that's everything from domestic violence through the, you know, through the other elements of support. So we are seeing pressure on people in the area. But also in saying that you also see a lot of, you know, a lot of positive attitudes that business owners I know are finding other ways, you know, to manage through the crosses and you know, pivoting if you want to use the modern contemporary vernacular. So they’re changing their business structures to other elements and things like that to find the way through. It may be different to urban settings, probably just, yeah, looking at alternative ways of continuing to keep themselves going. Some people are doing well through it, and yeah, the nature of the business, these things, thank goodness for job keepers. And, while we were in the bolster in the position we were in, 

Renata: Yeah. Another data piece of data that I wanted to cross-check with somebody on the ground is this idea from regional Australia and, not an idea, this information from the regional Australian Institute, that there are 40,000 professional jobs available in regional Australia. And I, and that's in addition to other jobs that are, for, let's say, tradies blue-collar work, and that, I think the total is over a hundred thousand. I can't remember exactly the exact number. Have you do you see those jobs advertised? Are you aware of them? 

Alistair: Yeah. That's an interesting one. So, and this is where you've got, you know, regional Australia is so diverse, right. As I say, the industry, you know, this area is a very high service and tourism area. If you talk about professional work up around these parts of the world, a lot of professional work in aged care in health care, in your top not-for-profit organizations. So a lot of that top of professional work, but certainly, the demand for those sorts of roles is significant up here. And then if you move inland to sort of the Newnew England area, you'll have a different sort of demographic of work available for professionals and the like. Still, certainly, there's plenty of roles being advertised. So they get things pop up from LinkedIn and seek all the time for roles up around here. 

Alistair: Yeah. So, as I say, regional Australia is very diverse, you know, it's yeah. I think for me, if anyone considering a move to regional, an element of it needs to be, where do I want to go first off and then build off that, you know, but it's actually that first step is actually, as I said earlier, you know, picking the rocks in your must-haves in terms of what the move looks like and why I moved to, you know, borrowing or coughs or, inland to Tamworth. Yeah. What would be the key elements that you want and then build from there? 

Renata: And Alistair, of the network that you're building around you, do you know of people that are working remotely? 

Alistair: Yes. So there’s quite a bit of, quite a bit of, of that.

Renata: I have an interesting anecdote to share with you. And I'm not going to say who told me this is somebody who is now working remotely, and it's a job that can be very well done remotely. And he just found out that one of the colleagues that he works with very regularly was never based in Melbourne, was based in Byron Bay, and has been there for over ten years. 

Alistair: It can be done, Renata, it's amazing. It really is. It's not. And I think, again, moving to regional Australia, you see, you start to see more of that and being in Melbourne or Sydney or any other capital. Yeah. You're used to your network, and you are used to all your colleagues being nearby. And you don't give it a second thought as to where someone maybe when you're speaking to them on the phone, et cetera, but you move to the regional. And all of a sudden, you're doing a count of people who has been doing for a decade doing remote work and doing it quite well. And even up here, when we had the wave one lockdown and talking to people subsequent to that, it actually gave them an opportunity to connect with. So rather than talking to colleagues, they would normally talk with them, in some international organizations. And they were connecting with people in Singapore about a problem rather than, you know, the guy in the chair next door. So in some ways, this whole pandemic and the need, the opportunity to alter our work actually gives us some positives in terms of how we see who we connect with and how we connect. It's not just reaching over and tapping the person next to you on the shoulder. It enables you to widen the network to an extent as well. 

Renata: So I have seen people on my Facebook and Twitter buying property without even seeing it, and getting in and getting all the permits to then go and see it after buying it because you can't get out of Melbourne. So it's amazing too, to be doing that. But what, you know, if you had to do it again, what would be your top - I mean, you've already given advice, right? But what would your first steps be if you had to do it all again? So like, if you've made some mistakes, I'd like to know, 

Alistair: Yeah. Well, it's again, my circumstances were unique. So we had time, you know, we knew it was coming, it wasn't thrust upon us, so that, and that circumstance will alter for everyone. And that then alters your process. But to me, what worked really well for us was certainly the planning aspect. So we planned out, as, you know, we, we had made the decision a year earlier. So we set about readying the place down there for sale. We'd been up, and we’d been holidaying here for years, so we knew it was somewhere. We always wanted to move, then going through the process of working out well, we’re up here? Because you know, it's a fairly expansive region, you know, and we, again, we noted down where exactly within the area we wanted to move to, you know, and, and you, within that pocket, that's what we wanted to find a property within that pocket. 

Alistair: As I say, we knew the area, number one. We knew the pocket that we wanted to buy-in, number two. Number three knew we had a timeline to set about planning towards that timeline. They made a move up here, and again, very fortunate that I had the support from my peers at NAB to make the move when I did and still work and be able to work remotely. Look, that's something I'll be forever grateful for, to then be able to make the move up here, have that time up here to build a network, to settle in, for the family to settle in, and to then go at finding work. So I've looked at it all as a process. You know, we had items to tick off, you know, get the house ready now, work at where to go, which was, we knew we would get where up here, we wanted to move, which we knew, get the house ready, sell, buy, move, find a new job down the track. 

Alistair: In terms of mistakes made, I’d say, I'll look back, and I can’t think of anything that I would do differently if I went through with it again. Again if circumstances were different, you'd have to, you know, if, if instead of having, over a year to prepare courtesy of knowing the redundancy was coming if I were told I was being made redundant and had three months, obviously that would alter the timelines significantly and then put a bit of different pressure on you in terms of how you have to have what your process has to look like. And each person's process will be different. I think of myself as having a plan and having a plan in a process marked out. And even if you build it quickly and have to alter it along the way, at the very least have that in some sort of shape gives you a guide, and you can then start to refine it and build on and expand on as you get into it. And then, you know, tweak it as you make mistakes or sort of need to alter whatever's going on. 

Renata: Were you at any point afraid you wouldn't get a job in the area you moved to? 

Alistair: Oh yes. So for a while, they were always talking to recruiters in Sydney and Brisbane about the potential, and this is pre-COVID. So it wasn't where working remotely would have been something on the, on the table at, at the outset. So talking to them about the potential of any flying fly at work, if it was if it came to that. Because all I really knew was the area, I built the network. But I also was wanting to do something, and I was really wanting to hone my project and change skills, and finding work in that sort of space. And that's not, what is, you know, the mainstay up here in terms of, yeah. 

Renata: You have to be keen to adapt to the region that you have chosen. So you have different priorities when you're moving, right. There is no big bank for you to work.

Alistair: Exactly right, Renata. But I wanted to, and I was deliberate that I wanted to get into, you know, projects that change type work and the not for profit was something that I had also wanted to get into. And it was just quite fortuitous that this role came up, and this role was originally going to be based in Armadale, which is sort of 300 K inland, but they were open to me. And this is again the interesting bit about regional Australia, regional and especially regional New South Wales at our organization. The footprint would be maybe half the size of Victoria in terms of Ed geography, maybe a bit less, you know, we from the Dan Tiree up here, the coughs inland to Inverell Glen Innes, Maury. So we've got quite a large footprint. So the head office was in Armadale. So they were quite open to having the base out of coughs because we have such a wide footprint. So I was very fortunate that the role came up when it did; the timing was right. And, you know, it was a sort of role I really wanted to get into. So, and it's been a terrific learning opportunity for me, a completely new industry and quite exciting.

Renata: Alistair, for those who may be keen to move to regional areas, to live with a smaller budget. Is it possible, or is it just a dream, and you end up spending more because in a regional area anyway?

Alistair: Well, it's an interesting one, you know, if you think about working in Melbourne, you don't have Marquis, you know, you don't have E-tag, you don't have to pay for parking. I go and park all day, in the CBD here for free, you know, there's sort of three floors of the car park area. That's free if you're there for all-day parking. So, you know, you go to those little savings there, obviously, wear and tear on the car. You're not traveling as far, using less petrol, less wear and tear on the car. But then on the other side, you don’t have a DFO to go shopping with, you know, so you're not getting the sales on that type of thing. I would say it's a simpler way of being in a lot of ways.

Alistair: You know, it's just a simpler way of living. And also the way, you know, environmentally, like we, you know, being here on the mid-North coast or North coast, you know, you've got, it's just naturally outdoor weather. So you're out and about doing stuff. You're not, so you're not in inside maybe, you know, getting takeaway or daylight and BDRs or whatever it is cause you're actually out and about because it's just such a, such a lovely part of the world to be, you know, with the surf one side of you and the rainforest, the other.

Renata: Oh, rub it in, Alastair, that's all I need. 

Alistair: I’m sorry I should be careful of what I’m explaining, but it is, it really is. I mean, I'm, I'm not a spokesperson for the Coffs Coast, but it really is such a beautiful, beautiful part of the world, Renata, and it just lends itself to you being out and about and doing stuff and, and, yeah, naturally. So I’d say budget-wise, it's all with all, with all that, do the finances my wife does, but I would say we’re spending less over this year.

Renata: And in terms of, you know, the professional social network, do you miss that? 

Alistair: I miss, so the bits I do miss, and this is I think something for anyone who's working remotely or in a smaller organization to what they're used to, you do miss that, you know, that sort of like the collegiate connection you get, when you're in a large organization. You know, I was just reflecting on it before these conversations, you know, look, you'd be walking through, docklands and you'd see someone you hadn't seen for a couple of years and the quick bumpy and the quick chat, and they'd be catching up for coffee. And that sort of stuff is, you know, it's going to be hard when we get to whatever the new normal looks like, irrespective of regional Australia. That's something that we all have to grapple with as to how that's going to continue in the future, particularly if offices aren't going back to 100% occupancy in the, you know, for the foreseeable future. 

Renata: I think even if you are in Melbourne, you're going to miss that. I think it's not going to.

Alistair: That’s right, Renata. And I think that's the big part. You’ve got it. We are in a changing way of living. And what it does mean is you're very purposeful, purposeful, but now you are, you're purposeful with your intent to connect. So maintaining connections with people having moved here, maintaining connections with people has been very important for my wife and me, but also for our kids. You know, they, as they've developed new social networks up here with, you know, social media and internet and that type of thing, they've been able to maintain their connections with their friends from Melbourne. So it's been real. You need to be purposeful about it and ensure you keep it because it could so easily drop away, and it is really important to keep. So it's something that I've missed. Yes. But it's also something that all I've been deliberate about, maintaining a connection with people where I can. 

Renata: And Alistair, have you received calls or inquiries from friends and family about how to move to regional areas? Are people interested to do what you've done, or is it just me? 

Alistair: Actually, it's been it's it hasn't been, no, there's been, there have been a few people who've like seen what we've been. Yeah. You see it on Facebook and that type of thing and think all that looks wonderful. It looks fantastic. But the couple of comments I've had recently have been how brave I think was one word used or courageous to make a move like that. So a lot of people kind of see the connection to family, friends, you know, acquaintances in their network, around them as being in particularly where they've got kids at the age, you know, my kids are, something very, well, people are very reluctant to shift or break and I get that. Certainly was and is risky moving with kids at the age, has mine our kids were at. But thankfully, they've settled in beautifully. It’s one of those things I've talked to other people where they've made the move such as this, and their kids haven't settled in well. 

Alistair: But yeah, so people who've talked to me about it have framed it as they don't think they could, because of the, yeah. The connections that would be broken in doing so, which I get, I absolutely get as well. And, you know, I'll know now that you know what we all do. We all miss family and especially family in Melbourne at the moment who were in lockdown, you know, we feel for them and friends as well. Still, it has been hard. Probably the hardest part of the move is the loss of connection, familiar connection with people. And it's great fun, meeting new people and building new networks. You know, that familiarity is when you lose that familiarity, it's a hole that needs to be filled. 

Renata: Oh, but it will. I'm saying this from experience. I moved all the way across the world to be in Australia. 

Alistair: And that's the bit Renata, people have been doing it for a long time, haven't they?

Renata: Yes, it’s tough, though. I'd say it takes about three years for you to feel completely at ease at your new house and city and everything. 

Alistair: And I’ve got to say, one great thing about any move where you've got children, people sort of look at it and say, Oh moving my kids, I don't want to break this. You know, their friend networks, et cetera. It's amazing how quickly kids make friends. 

Renata: Oh, that's an excuse. Kids. Get over it. Like so quickly.

Alistair: And then from there you meet the kids, the parents of the other of their friends and, and the way you go. And actually, the kids are an easier way. I've actually met people who've moved up here in retirement age. And they've found that harder because they don't have the kids as an in if you like, to network. So, 

Renata: I remember when we brought the kids to Australia, I came with my sister. My husband couldn't come with me. He still had work to do in Brazil. And we packed so much stuff for the kids, for the flight to Australia, because we were so worried. It's such a long flight, and we forgot that they are tiny. They were very comfortable in those economy chairs, and we were not comfortable at all. And we didn't pack anything to make us comfortable, but we packed a whole bunch of stuff that the kids did not use because they were fine with the little TVs they had like, okay, this is, this is, I'm just putting too much energy into making them happy when they are completely fine. 

Alistair: They’re on an adventure, you know, it's funny the way we do put some of our concerns onto our kids, you know, and, as I say, my two boys have settled in so well, it's been, it's been a real, and in some ways, you know, it's enabled them to do extra. It's opened up new things for them, which has been terrific. There’s positive in everything, you know, you just go, you know, you keep at it, and there's positive in everything. Anyone making a move regionally will find gaps in, and you’ve got to be ready for those gaps and know that they will exist. You know, whether it be, you know, the fact that Uber eats doesn't exist here, or we don't have the, you know, the breadth of the restaurant to select from that, you may be having Melbourne and that type of thing, you know, but that's, or as my wife with theatre, you know, you don't call, COVID obviously COVID aside. You don't have the variety, but that's just, it's a compromise. Right. And it's, it's finding a way through those sorts of elements. 

Renata: Of course, Alistair, I'm so happy that we got to catch up again. And I think next time, hopefully, I'll be able to get out of Melbourne, and we will have a coffee. 

Alistair: That would be great. Well, my next-door neighbor is a coffee roaster. And his coffee is absolutely fantastic. So if you get a chance, we'll get up here and have a coffee. That'd be fantastic. 

Renata: Will do. All right. Thanks so much again. 

Alistair: Thanks, Renata. Thanks for your time. Bye-bye.




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