Dani's island seachange

Dani Rourke with new daughter Pixie.
Dani Rourke with new daughter Pixie. 

The story reads like something from a Hollywood movie script.

Following the death of her mother, Sydney lawyer leaves her busy city life to return to the idyllic island of her childhood to take over a business which has been in the family for six generations. Soon after arriving, she finds out she is pregnant.

But the real story of Dani Rourke’s  return to Lord Howe island to take over management of the Pinetrees Lodge is more fascinating than any film. The mother of two has started a blog to share her experiences.

In it she details her accounts of relocating to the remote island off the NSW coast, which has no mobile phone reception, and is a slice of life at a simpler time.

“Living at Lord Howe makes it easier for kids to have an old-fashioned childhood”, one entry reads. 

“There's no such thing as "going shopping" when you can only buy the essentials at the shops.  No one has the latest car (or phone, for obvious reasons).  It just isn't that important to keep up with the Joneses.  The birds wake us up in the morning and you can see the stars at night.  We talk about the weather and the waves a lot.  It's so safe that no one locks their doors and they leave the keys in the car.  The kids ride their bikes to school and bare feet are official school uniform.”

If you think living without phone reception is doing it tough, imagine what life was like for Dani’s great, great grandmother, who gave birth to 10 children on the island at a time when residents were reliant on ships for all supplies and contact with the mainland.

The land where the Pinetrees lodge now was traded for two tonnes of potatoes in 1845. A homestead was established and the commencement steamer service between Sydney, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island in 1893 was the start of modern tourism at Pinetrees. It is now one of the oldest family businesses in Australia, continuing to attract visitors to an area inscribed as a World Heritage site for it scenic beauty and biodiversity.

For those wondering if a sea change is right for their family, Dani has honest advice.

“Lord Howe is a paradise for kids and it’s been wonderful to see [two year old daughter] Elsie settling in and the way everyone makes a fuss of her wherever she goes.”

But Xanadu is not what it is cracked up to be – small town gossip can feel intrusive, and running a business is a remote location can have many challenges.

“Luke and I have had days where the many difficulties and irritations of running a small business in an isolated place threaten to overwhelm us.   Most days I’m happy and grateful to be here but there are certainly times when my old life as the employee of a large company living in a big city seems to have great benefits of security and predictability. “

What is certain is that Dani’s experiences running Pinetrees will add another intriguing chapter on to one of Australia's most extraordinary family stories.

Follow Dani’s journey at http://ultimateseachange.blogspot.com/.