It’s something many of us have known for a long time. Every time we visit a major urban centre, we reach the same conclusion. Whether it be taking a deep breath behind the wheel and bracing for a never-ending traffic snarl, or competing with huge crowds – well, everywhere, or merely breathing in the “not so fresh air” of a city – it is easy to return home and be so very grateful for the multitude of things we don’t have to contend with here.
Don’t get me wrong: hailing from the city and having lived in other cities for most of my life, one thing is true – that you can’t remove the city from your soul. That gritty, grimy and high adrenalin imprint is quite impossible to remove. Sometimes the idea of full immersion and total anonymity in that place is still very appealing. Having to compete ever more fiercely to survive, let alone thrive can be an exhilarating challenge – (when it isn’t totally soul destroying, of course).
But for the most part, most of us know we’re on to a good thing here. The best of both worlds – a population big enough to inject a splash of diversity in the community – but not so big that it’s too easy to become isolated, a good mix of young and old – students and retirees alike happily call this place home.
Then there’s that elusive growth factor – the dynamism that shifts us forward into the future, the building and growth spurred by the sheer popularity of this place. Events and visitors lead to sea changers, and even more visitors eventually becoming locals. Almost a magnet that draws people here.
The enormous growth of the concept of food tourism lends itself so well to widening the appeal of a region, the need for travellers to achieve an “authentic” experience, the thirst for really discovering a sense of place, rather than merely skirting along the periphery as in the conventional “tourist”.
It comes at absolutely no surprise that this societal “trend”, has led to a distinct shift on the business end of the deal – out of the AFR top 500 restaurants this year – 23 of the 100 new listings are regional restaurants. No longer just quaint outposts offering sub-standard imitations of the real thing, regional businesses of all types are upping their game to meet with “sophisticated” city tastes. And not just purely for the visitors – the changing and expanding local demographic themselves is really driving the whole thing.
The gap between city and country is lessening in a way not seen before. Better transport links to major centres mean simple and relatively cheap journeys back and forth. “Cutting edge” urban coolness no longer is delayed by time and technology in being rolled out in the countryside.
The appeal of a shift away from the larger urban centres is easy to understand. A craving for space, stress free commutes, less crippling mortgages. A sense of community, large green fields for our kids to play in – the list goes on and on.
Creating dynamic, thriving communities outside of the main centres is the order of the day. And we’re fortunate enough to be experiencing this first hand.
Now, to try to contain the news that this is the place to be – keeping this little gem containable and the balance just right is paramount. Hmm … come to think of it, that’s another story!