Award-winning photojournalists, authors and indie publishers Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais have been living in the South African platteland for more than a decade, since their move from Johannesburg in 2007.
Freelancing for lifestyle and travel publications like SA Country Life, Sawubona (SAA), High Life (British Airways) and The Guardian (UK), combined with their regular production of Karoo-based books (Karoo Keepsakes I II and Road Tripper – Eastern Cape Karoo) has allowed them to build a vast network of former city slickers who made the brave and creative choice to move permanently to the countryside.
Julienne began her working life as an environmental reporter, mentored by the legendary James Clarke at The Star newspaper in Johannesburg. She then founded and edited a ground-breaking ‘green’ magazine called Keeping Track.
Chris had a rollicking start to his career with words, deadlines and, later, images. He worked for the iconic Rand Daily Mail newspaper before a long engagement as the Jo’burg editor of Scope Magazine.
By 1995 he was the editor of Living Africa magazine when Julienne and Keeping Track joined his parent company. They met, sparked and hived off on a freelance career together that has spanned more than two decades.
The reason for their latest book, Moving to the Platteland – Life in Mmall Town South Africa
The buzzword for the growing trend of down-sizing to the platteland is ‘semigration’. For many, the process of moving from a long-established life in the city to the countryside can be tricky without a guide.
There’s a lot to consider, like:
- Has country life become more appealing than being in the city?
- What are the pros and cons of country living?
- How do I start looking for a suitable dorp to live in?
- How will I fit in with the locals?
- How do I relocate my business to the platteland?
- How do I build a new network?
- Is it time for a complete creative change in my life?
- How do I break into the hospitality industry (guesthouse or restaurant)?
- How will I educate my young children?
- How do I cope with bad municipal services?
- How do I get fit and healthy?
- Can I make a difference in my new world?
“This book was always going to happen,” says lead author Julienne du Toit. “Everyone’s talking about global urbanisation, but we have noticed another population movement, another trend: the trickle-back of downsizers.
“Chris and I have had the privilege of sharing time with and listening to the stories of hundreds of new plattelanders who exchanged the city for a life in the country. From sculptors to restaurateurs, painters to padstal owners, writers to small-crop farmers, teachers to bakers – they’re all out here, happy as larks, usually living simpler and more creative lives.”
In their book, Julienne and Chris also recount the failures that some of their subjects experienced, which provide valuable cautionary lessons for those keen to make the country move.
“It’s not a rose-tinted account of rural life,” says Chris, “although we do make a strong case for choosing the platteland. The book has been designed to answer a need, to provide guidance to small town incomers and, to a large degree, inspire them and cheer them up for the long winter months.”
Their latest book appeals to both younger families wanting a rural relocation and the 50+ group looking for a new direction in their lives.
Local angle: South Coast Herald columnist, David Holt-Biddle and his wife, Sue.
(Extract from Moving to the Platteland)
When Johannesburg-based radio journalist David Holt-Biddle turned 60 in 2003, he and his wife Sue started to think about swopping their home in Westdene for something a little safer and quieter. They’d almost settled on a secure townhouse complex in Randburg when friends who had moved to southern KwaZulu-Natal a year before, invited them to visit.
The Holt-Biddles found their friends happy and fulfilled in their new home. It was inspiring.
“We went to see their estate agent and were shown sea-view stands still available at bargain basement prices. We loved the village and the area so we did some research, came back to the coast and bought a stand in Trafalgar, where we eventually had a log home built. We sold up in Jo’burg and moved down exactly a year after our first exposure to the idea. Gone were thoughts of living in a gated community in Randburg.”
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It was not a decision Sue and David took lightly though.
“Estate agents talk of three criteria when it comes to property: location, location, location. When it comes to moving towns, three other criteria are also essential: homework, homework, homework.”
Make plans for getting older and less mobile
David Holt-Biddle says: “When you plan for this stage of your lives, you should think in terms of location and convenience for visits by family and friends. Very importantly, research the medical facilities available, including frail care.
“Think about what type of accommodation you’ll need, anything from a flat to a free-standing cottage. Remember that whatever you choose, it is going to mean a serious downsizing exercise. Find out about other facilities, like entertainment, catering, clubs and activities, especially since you’ll probably have much more leisure time.
“What about transport to the shops, doctor and dentist since you may not have a car by then? Think security. Work out the finances. What does the levy include and what extras need to be paid for? Remember, this is probably where you are going to be staying for the rest of your life.
Moving to the Platteland – Publishing Details
Genre: Non-fiction Lifestyle
Authors: Julienne du Toit Chris Marais
Size: 316 Pages
Photographs: 138 Full-page monochrome images
Release Date: July 16, 2018
Sales Points: Various selected stores nationwide and order direct from www.karoospace.co.za (free postage within South Africa)
Publishers: MLM Publishers, Cradock
Printers: Cadar, Port Elizabeth
Suggested Retail Price: R260
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