Loving country living

January 24, 2018

Country living: Leigh Hansen with husband David at their Barooga property.

After first visiting the Murray River region in the 1970s, David and Leigh Hansen were instantly drawn to its charm.

Originally from Melbourne, the couple had no shortage of ideas for their place of residence post-retirement since travelling Australia in a motor home after David retired from working.

Despite seeing everything our diverse country has to offer, they mutually agreed the Murray was the place they wanted to be and moved to Barooga in 2006.

If they needed any more reassurances on whether or not Cobram-Barooga was the right location for them, a three-month stay in their caravan in Cobram rammed home the decision.

‘‘We used to come up for weekends and day trips and really fell in love with the area. The Murray is pretty special,’’ Mrs Hansen said.

New analysis commissioned by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia from Bernard Salt used the latest Census data to identify tree-change and sea-change hotspots for Australian retirees. The research said many city folk were Murray River bound after ditching the urban sprawl.

Mr Hansen said there were clear differences between city living and country living that made a place like Barooga a very attractive option for people wanting to relocate after retiring.

‘‘The things we like about the area particularly are that the air is clean, and it’s always two or three degrees warmer than Melbourne,’’ he said.

‘‘Country people are certainly different from city people. For all those reasons we found a house we liked — being this one — and bought it 12 year ago.’’

When making most major life decisions there are often certain condition that must be met. In the Hansens’ case, there were a few items on their checklist that had to be ticked before packing up and leaving Melbourne.

‘‘We needed to have a hospital, doctors, and sporting facilities because at the time David was playing a lot of golf and I was heavily involved in swimming,’’ Mrs Hansen said.

Before moving to Barooga, the couple had virtually no previous connections to people in the area apart from real estate agent Andrew Kerr — with whom they struck up a friendship after all the years spent looking at properties in Cobram-Barooga.

Despite initially having no established friendship groups in their new town, the Hansens said it did not take long to quickly build strong relationships within the community.

‘‘I think the key in a local town is to immerse yourself in things you enjoy but at the same time, things that give you an opportunity to meet different people. You spread your tentacles and suddenly there is a myriad of people you can call friends,’’ Mr Hansen said.

Mrs Hansen said shortly after the move Mr Hansen was approached to umpire for Murray Valley Cricket Association after having umpired in the Premier League in Melbourne. He then served as president of the MVCA for five years.

He now serves on the board of Tocumwal Golf and Bowls Club.

Mrs Hansen initially began forming friendships through her involvement with Cobram-Barooga Swimming Club where she taught swimming lessons.

For many reasons, Melbourne no longer has the pull it once did for the Hansens.

Mrs Hansen’s father now resides in Cobram, while Mr Hansen travels back semi-regularly to catch up with old friends — meaning he does not feel completely removed from the city environment. The constant battle against traffic is certainly something the pair does not miss.

The one thing the Hansens do miss is the eclectic mix of restaurants that Melbourne offers, which they consider to match any country in the world they have visited.

For Mrs Hansen, the most obvious benefit of swapping the hustle and bustle of city life for a town like Barooga is undoubtedly the ‘‘more relaxed lifestyle’’ they now lead here.

Mr Hansen explains it in a humorous fashion.

‘‘A good way to say it is, if you drive down the street here and wave at somebody and they wave back, they generally look happy. Whereas in Melbourne if you wave at somebody they think you’re strange,’’ he said.

Although their house is now on the market because they might want to downsize in the future, the Hansens certainly have no intentions of leaving the area they now call home.

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