After advancing her architectural career in Paris, a stint in Hong Kong and then five years in New York, 33-year-old Stefanie Richards never imagined that when she finally returned to Victoria, it would be the Macedon Ranges where she would settle her life. .

She decided to bypass the familiarity of suburban Melbourne and build her dream family home with her partner Andrew and their one-year-old son in the quiet town of Woodend.

Stefanie Richards and Andrew Woodhead with their son at Woodend. Photo: Ali Bant

Nearly half a million Australian citizens and residents returned from their stay abroad between March and December last year, many of them choosing not to try to replicate a ‘big smoke’ city life. in Melbourne, but rather to explore further afield the countryside towns that offer everything that would be unimaginable when living in big cities abroad.

With so much expat emigration from the never-sleeping cities to the sleepy countryside villages, many people are wondering… well, why?

Is the decision of the international traveler to return home to a regional city only the extension of an innate curiosity? The same curiosity that sparked the decision to move overseas in the first place?

Or, perhaps, exhausted by life in the big cities and the harsh realities that come with raising a family abroad, they are trying to settle down somewhere quieter. , safer, greener?

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It’s not hard to see the allure of the Macedon Ranges with landscapes like these. Photo: Mark Chew/Visit Victoria

“We were under no illusions,” says Richards. “We knew that life at Woodend would be a world away from Paris or Madrid [where Andrew had worked for many years]but the opportunity to afford a bigger property and build our dream home was as exciting an adventure as the life we ​​had abroad.

At the end of 2020, a survey by Advance.org reported that, among expats who had returned from abroad, more than a third were “starting their own business” or “working remotely for their employer” based abroad. .

These shifting work-life circumstances meant that a country life (with access to reliable Wi-Fi) was attractive to expats.

Net migration to Australian regions is at its highest since records began in 2001, according to an ABS report published in May 2021. The desire for a change of tree is understandable, especially for expats living in the desert in the Middle East or those returning from an apartment. life in the concrete jungle of New York.

For Georgie Trigg, 36, and her husband Michael, it was a yearning for the country that saw them return – with three children in tow – to living among the high-rise towers and unforgiving heat of Dubai.

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Georgie and Michael Trigg at their new home in Pipers Creek. Photo: Ali Bant

“Being in the desert for six years, we really craved the connection to the land, the earth under our feet and the cool, balmy air of Australia,” she says. As expats, you are also used to the “challenge and pleasure of meeting new people”, she explains, recounting their decision to buy land, including a rose farm, in the Macedon Ranges.

Although growing roses was not something Georgie had dabbled in before, her inquisitive nature and positive attitude – the same traits that prompted her move abroad – drove her to embark on this new project.

Exploring a project in the Victoria area is not too complicated for those who have spent years living in all corners of the globe. “Once you realize you can pick up and go anywhere, you’re open to all kinds of opportunities and adventures,” says Trigg.

Not opposed to traveling overseas again, she considers it important to settle down and maintain a home in Australia. “We would like to hope that it’s a place that we can always hang on to, have as a base and not have to sell it…have our roots somewhere, no matter where we go. Well, that’s the dream anyway.

Buyer’s attorney Lynda McNeill has a large expatriate clientele from cities such as Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore. She says returning expats generally want to be able to “make choices” — the privilege of having choices in some ways, but also the elimination of choices.

For many expats, life abroad meant flexibility. This could involve renting a fully furnished property, flying a few weekend hours to exotic destinations, and often living in transient communities where families come and go from international schools.

To come back to Australia, especially during COVID-19, and buy regional property is to make a choice to commit to a certain type of life; to put down roots, to immerse yourself in a community or, for some, to really get involved and take responsibility for running a major working property.

However, McNeill is cautious and feels responsible for managing expectations of what her clients sign up for.

“Expats love coming home and having the land,” she says. “The number of buyers who didn’t even understand what a septic tank or a water tank was was pretty scary.”

It is still too early to find solid evidence of the persistence of the great regional migration. Whatever happens, it will be fascinating to watch these two communities grow together.

“Expats love coming home and having the land,” she says. “The number of buyers who haven’t even understood what a septic tank or septic tank is When global meets local, incredible opportunities are going to emerge for these communities. Perhaps corporate suits will find that a good session of wood chopping for an open fire can be just as relaxing as a martini at the bar.