Meet Armidale’s newest residents, Sara Abboud and Daniel Winton. They made the ultimate city change to Armidale after visiting the 2011 Country And Regional Living Expo, held at Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney.
Sara: How long did you live in Sydney?
I have lived in Sydney my whole life. I was born and lived up to the age of 13 in the western suburbs of Sydney, in the Bankstown area, and then we moved to Strathfield in the inner west. For my late high school and university days, I lived right in the city in an apartment with my mum until I met Daniel, and we moved in together in 2010.
Daniel: How long were you in the Navy?
I was a Maritime Warfare Officer in the Navy for about 4 years. I decided to leave for lifestyle reasons. Being in a relationship with Sara, I didn’t like having to travel and be at sea, often for extended periods of time.
I also found the job incredibly stressful, and it just didn’t suit me as a long term career. That being said, I’ve had some amazing experiences in the Navy, and I’ve made some lifelong friends.
Sara: How long have you and Daniel been together, and how did you meet?
Daniel and I have been together for about 3 and a half years; we got engaged last March, and our wedding is early next year. We met in Sydney while Daniel was posted at HMAS Watson at Watsons Bay.
The story of how we met is quite bizarre! I was out with my girlfriends at a bar in the city, Star Bar it was called, and it’s known for cheap drinks and a cheesy atmosphere! Daniel was out on the town after a Freedom of Entry march … yes, in his full on white dress uniform, officer’s cap, badges and all! A sailor approached me and insisted I dance with his friend, and I promptly refused, but he was so persistent I agreed – thinking I could sneak away.
Daniel then walked up to me, and I thought, “Hey, this guy’s all right!” So I stayed put. Daniel said that some sailor had told him I wanted to dance with him, so he came over. It turned out he had no idea who that sailor was and had never spoken to him before! We had a proper date the next weekend and have been together since! We like to think of that sailor as Cupid incarnate.
Daniel: While living in Sydney, is it true that you went to CARLE to check out Orange as a potential city change, but you ended up moving to Armidale instead?
Yes, we arrived at the Expo to check out Orange, as it was regional but still close to Sydney for Sara’s family. The people at the Orange stall basically ignored us, so we moved on, only to be drawn into the Armidale stall with wine tasting and a very enthusiastic bunch of people.
It seems we were won over with wine and the New England region has produced some rippers, so we think we made the right choice! Also on the day, Sara met her current boss, Chris Serow, and shortly after the Expo in October, we paid Armidale a visit, and we met up with Chris again. During our visit, he offered Sara a job at Legal Minds, so that sealed the deal – we were moving to Armidale in the new year!
Sara: How have you both settled in?
We’re really enjoying it here. Still getting used to the cold; it’s been a very ‘crisp’ winter! We seem to do more on the weekends here than we ever did in Sydney. In the city it was always too hard to fight the traffic, crowds, and it was so expensive! Here we can walk to most things or drive a very short distance with no traffic, and there’s always so much on. We love the markets and are very much regulars for breakfast on a Sunday.
We’ve found the cost of living much cheaper than in Sydney, and our finances are looking much healthier. I keep very busy with work as a solicitor at Legal Minds, but it’s been a great opportunity to meet new people all the time.
We are still definitely far more relaxed here than in the rush of the city. It did take a while to get used to sleeping in the quiet without the lullaby of sirens and parties we were used to.
We also have a constant flow of visitors from Sydney, who use our place as their country getaway, and it’s become a tradition to take our visitors on a wine tour of the region. Our friends are always surprised at how good the wine here is!
Daniel: You’re a horticulturist. What sort of work are you doing here?
One of my qualifications is in horticulture, so in a roundabout way I am using this at the Guyra Tomato Exchange, working full-time. I also mark assignments for UNE on a casual basis. My main qualification is a degree in environmental management and I also have a graduate diploma of education, so I may try to move back into these fields when an opportunity presents.
Sara: Have you and Daniel joined any clubs or organisations?
We volunteer for the RSPCA and help out at their stalls and events – which is so much fun, because we get to play with adorable animals. Daniel is also on the board of directors of the Armidale Club.
Moving to a regional centre was definitely a great move for us. The stress of the city and expense is no longer weighing on us, and we have more time to relax and enjoy our time together. At the moment we are renting a small place near town, but we are planning to buy our own home later this year.
We’ve already made some great friends, and our favourite thing to do on a weekend is drive to Thunder Ridge Winery and have a few glasses of wine with the Moores, then spend the night in their lovely cabin with a toasty wood fire!
Thanks Daniel and Sara.
This story was published in issue 63 of New England Focus