East versus West. Jen Browning’s Dubbo sea change

Could there be a better place to live than Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs? ABC reporter Jen Browning gives Dubbo a go

Moving from busy Sydney to the tranquillity of the countryside was something I never thought would be on my to-do list. My friends would say I’m the ultimate city girl who loves nothing more than some serious retail therapy on the streets of Sydney — or Paris or New York, for that matter. I enjoy a piccolo from any Eastern Suburbs cafe, love doing the Bronte to Coogee walk, am happy lifesaving on North Bondi Beach or doing yoga by the sea. 

For the past 10 years I was a national sports reporter for ABC TV news in Sydney, covering everything from rugby-league scandals and grand finals to the Olympics and red-carpet launches. The glitzy, glamorous life has been fun, and I’ve loved every minute. But this year I decided to throw it all in and return to the country. 

For me, the call to head west started ringing louder in my head as each season went by. I grew up in Bathurst, about three hours west of Sydney, and have always felt at home in the country. The minute I cross over the Blue Mountains I immediately feel at peace. I love the pace of life out here, the silence and the breathtaking sunsets. Plus the courtesy wave is well and truly alive in the bush.

I used to think I’d never go back. But then the universe sent me a gorgeous, down-to-earth Aussie bloke. We met on a weekend away in Mudgee, and suddenly the tree change I thought would never happen dawned on me as a reality, then actually became real. And so I packed up my Sydney life, my flat in Waverley, my day job, and moved to Dubbo.

I swapped the bright lights of the TV studio for a 4am alarm and a brekky radio shift. I’m filling in as the breakfast presenter at ABC Dubbo. It’s wonderful to be able to connect with a local audience on a daily basis.

The week I moved to town the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they would be visiting Dubbo. Must have been an omen. I echo Prince Harry’s sentiments from the couple’s rain-soaked October visit, when he described this community in his speech as “the salt of the earth, honest, hardworking and as tough as they come”. So very true.

I live in Dubbo during the week and the farm on weekends. My zippy hatchback isn’t fit to take on the kangaroos at dusk and dawn. My weekends these days involve less lattes and yoga and are now spent hanging out on my boyfriend’s farm, playing with our kelpie and helping feed stock. 

I’ve made some amazing friends in a very short time. I was surprised by how many young people are trading in city desk jobs to come back to the land. But no wonder, really. My commute to work is now three minutes and one traffic light, which you can avoid if you go the back way.

And believe it when I say Dubbo has fantastic restaurants and cafes, plus the zoo is incredible, the Warrumbungles are just up the road and Orange and Mudgee aren’t far away either.

Since I started work for the ABC in Dubbo, there’s been a push to “get out for the drought” and to attract people from the city out west instead of overseas. Dubbo is the gateway to the western plains of NSW and is a short flight, or five-hour drive, from Sydney. And while not everyone will pack up and move here like I did, you should consider coming and checking out the region next time you’re looking for travel inspiration. You might just be surprised what you find.