For young couple Ange Liston McCaughley and Leif McCaughley, 2009 was their annus horribilus. It began when the parents to five-year old Lila and one year old Leo inexplicably lost twins prematurely. Later that year, whilst still grieving the loss of their two babies, Leif’s mother died very suddenly from a brain aneurism. Against the backdrop of this turmoil, the value of the two bedroom property they were renting in Melbourne’s Murrumbeena skyrocketed from around $300,000 to $700,000 in five years. Their hunt for more space began extending out to the fringes of Melbourne.
Leif grew up in Daylesford but finished his schooling in Melbourne. Ange’s family home was in Glen Iris, but often spent time holidaying in Anglesea. On these trips Ange was always passing through Geelong. Suddenly, they began exploring the idea of living in Geelong, where they barely knew a soul. “We figured that it was such a terrible year, if we could withstand all of that then we were tough enough to try moving somewhere totally new. We came in the hope it would work. But we were going to make it work if it offered us the choice of life that we wanted, says Ange.
For Leif and especially Ange that life choice was to have lots of kids. Since moving to Geelong, Leif and Angie have added to their crew and now have four children and are totally outnumbered! Their eldest, Lila, started school at St Patrick’s primary school in 2010 shortly after they rented a place in Hamlyn Heights. Following stints there and in Manifold Heights, the couple eventually bought their first home in Belmont which they began renovating straight away. According to local agents, they’ve added considerable value to their home in a very short time.
Leif initially commuted to Melbourne to his financial services role but eventually took a local building apprenticeship and is now pursuing his dream of becoming a builder. Today he mixes local builds with some Melbourne based projects. “These are the opportunities we can pursue that wouldn’t have been an option in Melbourne” reflects Ange. “We have choices in Geelong that we just wouldn’t have had if we’d stayed in Melbourne.”
Today local friends are now extended family, and Ange credits getting involved as being the only way to feel truly connected in her adopted home. The school became the lynchpin for this with Ange throwing herself into the Parents and Friends social committee, turning up to every single coffee date, play-date, drinks event or fundraiser that was on offer as a way of meeting people.
More recently she has the joined the new kinder committee that her son attends to meet people in Belmont. “I had to create a village around me because there’s no mum or sisters nearby she says. Leif also is part of the schools dad’s group too.”
For Ange, “Geelong is a nurturing place, people are interested in you. No one ever asks me where I went to school. People just hear about things you’re doing and they ring you up and want to help.” This was beautifully demonstrated when Ange decided to run a marathon to raise funds for type 1 diabetes awareness after Lila’s diagnosis a couple of years ago. Local newspaper and TV programs contact her unprompted and continue to run extensive media coverage.
Since then, Ange has thrown herself into establishing the Type 1 Foundation to support awareness and families struggling with Type 1, a chronic life long illness. Her school fundraising prowess is definitely getting a work out, and she provides tips and insights through her Facebook group thetype1foundation. With no prior running background to speak of, Ange is now notching up ten marathon runs in a year to help spread the Type 1 word. The press coverage is as impressive as her tenacity at completing the gruelling runs and the training in preparation for each event. Note: regular Type1Foundation running groups and fun runs are a great vehicle for newcomers to the region connect with other locals!
“We are living the life we want to live here,” says Ange. She gets the giggles recounting grumpiness at two-minute traffic delays. “Everything is close in Geelong- we can do all the extra curricular stuff that friends in Melbourne really need to think through because of the time it takes to get around in traffic. “There’s no way we’d ever go back to Melbourne now” says Ange.
The couple are now considering the pro’s and con’s of living on the land or near the coast, versus the additional driving this might mean with growing children participating in more activities.“It’s the best lifestyle for kids here and we probably take it for granted now” reflects Ange. Whatever direction they choose for the future, there’s no doubting Leif and Ange are the kind of people who can deflect life’s curve balls and doggedly chase the life they really want.
Take a sneak peak at Belmont to see if it’s relocation material for you.