About twelve months ago, I journeyed to Canberra, the capital of Australia, for a short three-month assignment. Despite the awkward nature of the assignment itself and the continued demands of a fly-in/fly-out working environment, I quickly developed a strong appreciation for just how great this city is. Canberra is well planned, accessible and easy to get around, full of things to do and secretly a foodies paradise. Even though there had been a few scorned looks from colleagues before I came here, I realised pretty quickly that Canberra was a place I felt very comfortable in.
At the conclusion of my first assignment here, I was lucky enough to find another with the likelihood of a lengthier engagement. Better yet, the company culture is outstanding and the great people I was working with certainly helped me open my mind to consider spending a bit more time here. Another key consideration was that my family was planning to migrate from the Philippines to Australia so ensuring they had a comfortable home was paramount. Our home is always our farm in Victoria but with it being a little remote and the positivity of the work I was doing in Canberra, I decided that a longer stint in Canberra was a must.
I made the decision to ditch the fly in/fly out and settle in Canberra for a little longer. It would be better for everyone involved.
So after months of living in AirBnB apartments, I finally started the search for a permanent house to rent. And this presented me with an interesting situation…
Would I rather look happy or actually be happy?
Canberra rentals are quite expensive regardless of where you go but you can get some amazing places. But you do have to pay for it.
I made a list of houses that fit the criteria I had which primarily consisted of easy access for my wife who would not be in a position to drive in a new country. Having given birth only a few months prior to her arrival here and having a couple of little rugrats to take care of, easy access to shops and medical care was also very important. That list contained some amazing homes.
I did a drive around Canberra over several weekends and identified two houses that not only fitted the criteria, they also had something unique about them.
House number 1 was brand new, two storey, five bedroom and what could be termed a “McMansion”. It was huge! It also had the fittings and amenities that you would expect in such a home. Jacuzzi in the main ensuite. Grand high ceilings. It certainly was an amazing place but was also 30 minutes from the Canberra CBD which meant more commuting time.
House number 2 was over 30 years old, three bedrooms and had a backyard that was almost 100% filled with the former backyard that had been ripped up. It was in a desirable neighbourhood only 12 minutes from the middle of Canberra. It was also the only house in that suburb that did not have at least 20 rental applications pending.
House number 1 was nearly double the rental cost of house number 2 (but still within budget).
House number 1 was a great first impression. House number 2 not so much.
I leaned towards taking house number 1. Imagine how much fun everyone will have when they visit Canberra while they live in this place?!
But then a moment of clarity came over me. Yes, house number 1 was affordable but at what cost? It would place just a little more strain on me and in the hectic nature of life, I felt I did not need this. The extra money I would be spending on this house could be better used making sure my soon to arrive family had a smooth transition with lots of fun.
I made a simple decision. I would avoid the stress and the lure of showmanship and make a conscious choice. My family would be happy. Not just look happy.
I chose the cheaper house and secured the rental after being the only person to put in an application.
I moved into house number 2 in January of 2016. The backyard was newly landscaped. My neighbours were friendly. It was small and cosy but it was really easy to furnish. The maintenance team fixed the range of small things that needed work inside the house. It was perfect for our needs.
My family joined me in June of 2016 and immediately fell in love with their new home. There was no need for the McMansion. This cosy little house became a home.
In July of 2016, the company I am consulting with opened a brand new office complex 7 minutes from home. I have never worked this close to home before which means lots more family time. I see this as validation on deciding to be happy rather than just looking happy.