Most of us have one place in the world we love above all others. It might even be a place to which you’ve never been – an imaginary flat in Paris, or that villa in Under the Tuscan Sun. For me, that place has always been a little coastal village on the Southern tip of Africa called Sedgefield.
Sedgefield

Sedgefield

The place of my childhood holidays, it seemed that if I lived in Sedgefield, all problems would seem small and easily manageable compared to the joy I’d feel waking up to the sound of the sea and the view of the mountains. Eight years ago our family of four took the chance to leave it all behind and live the life we dreamed about when stuck in Joburg traffic.

We said what everyone opting out says. That cliché about quality of lifestyle making up for loss of city income. And, like all clichés it has an element of truth – but, you still need money and earning in a place this size is very difficult. There’s a saying the locals trot out to new incomers, ‘If you want to end up with a million in Sedgefield, bring two million when you move down.’ Since we’ve been here we’ve seen a big turnover of faces at the local school – all eager and happy in the first few months, less happy by month 6, and back where they came from by the time a year has passed.

beans

We’ve had very rocky periods including a winter where our lights were cut off and we ate baked beans and rice every single night. The fact that we could flavour the beans with our garden chilies and drink cheap red wine in front of the fire did make it all more bearable, but the stress of imminent poverty and foreclosure on your house is immense no matter your surroundings.chilli2

Eight years on and we are on a pretty secure footing. Luck with a property market that started booming just as we were desperate, and a complete change in the way we viewed earning money – aggressive when presented with opportunities and an entrepreneurial mind shift – has meant we can live the dream, albeit with compromises we hadn’t foreseen.
It’s meant time apart for the family as one of us has had to work abroad on contracts. It’s meant sometimes having holiday makers or tenants living in our dream house instead of us. The people who have survived and are still here are those with good, exportable skills not dependent on location. Software designers, freelance writers, internet savvy. Or those with skills necessary for life in any place – doctors, lawyers, plumbers. Many entrepreneurs who provide services – grocery stores, video rental, hardware are still here.
The highest rate of attrition comes from those who move here to start restaurants, coffee shops or B & Bs. Some survive but many fail due to lack of experience and the vagaries of living in a seasonal location. It’s very hard to pay a years expenses on two months’ earnings.
Has it been worth it? Overwhelmingly so. My life is wonderful, rewarding, and every day I am surrounded by the kind of beauty that sells calendars.  fishing1

20 Responses to “About Jeannine”


  1. 1 tallstar7 February 18, 2009 at 8:24 am

    What a beautiful blog… so glad I came across it!

  2. 2 Carla Bauer February 19, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Love your blog, Jeannine! I grew up in Knysna and always loved driving past the horse fence. Sedgefield is so beautiful. I now live in the States but a big chunk of my heart was left on the Garden Route. It’s a piece of paradise.

  3. 3 Amitabh March 4, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Jeannie, I don’t see an RSS feed or a “follow me”. How do you expect your readers to keep in touch?

  4. 4 rocketone March 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    What I really don’t understand about people living in all these ideal locations is the weird and invisible lack of the ‘buzz’ factor which makes all humans so gregarious and flock to cities.I really appreciate and love locations like yours, but have always wondered how I could spend all my time in one.

    I am endlessly self sufficient, and would always have plenty to do; but it is the feeling of being left out of the mainstream of human life that bothers me in some way I cannot work out.I can’t work it out because I hate living in big cities all the time and always yearn for places like Sedgefield or similar. The whole thing is a mystery to me.

  5. 5 shoreacres March 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    So many parallels here to my own decision to leave the mainstream of American “professional” life and begin varnishing boats for my living. I said the same things about quality of life making up for income. I’ve seen the faces come and go. Very early on, I once dug in sofa cushions for change to buy gas for the car. I’ve learned about living on a seasonal income.

    And now, I say the same thing. It’s been worth it. Concerns like those of Rocketone bother me not at all. I feel myself being carried along in the great, main stream of life.
    What many people consider the mainstream I now see as nothing more than a swirling, frothy backwash. It’s more noticeable, and prettier in a way, but it isn’t going anywhere.

  6. 6 wonk May 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Great pictures and you talk about food – what’s not to like?!

    I really enjoyed your blog, I’ll certainly be back in future 🙂

    Thanks for popping in wonk, and I look forward to your return!

  7. 7 Linda van der Merwe November 10, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Hi Jeannine, loved your blog, came across it by accident, I was looking for a great melktert recipe, I will certainly be back to read more of your writings,really good stuff. I live in Seattle WA but left my soul in Kommetjie, Cape Town where I spent many years.

    • 8 Jeannine November 10, 2009 at 12:59 pm

      Hi there Linda! Great to hear from you. Kommetjie is beautiful, and from what I’ve seen in movies so is Seattle – lovely and lush with all that rainfall.
      Great coffee too – just the thing to enjoy with that melktert!

  8. 9 Nikita June 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

    You live in a beautiful part of our country! Lucky you!

    • 10 Jeannine June 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

      Hi Nikita! It is a spectacular part of the country, I appreciate living here every day.
      Cold in winter though, you could play a lot of fire-side chess!

  9. 11 Angela Nolan June 25, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Hi Jeannine – just spent my afternoon reading your blog while football is going on downstairs. Wow, what a wonderful life. Transported me to another world.

    Angela

  10. 13 Ben July 27, 2010 at 11:11 am

    HI Jeanine,

    Ben here (from up the street). Just spent some time reading and you reminded me that we really are living in Paradise!

    KIEF!

    • 14 Jeannine July 27, 2010 at 11:49 am

      Hiya Ben!
      We do don’t we? Where else on earth would you rather live.
      Hope you checked out the pics of yourself at the Beach Bar on World Cup opening night. Life sure is less fun without football!

  11. 15 Sylvia November 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hi Jeannine,

    I’ve only recently found your blog and think its great – very witty! I’m probably a bit late to be making a post here.

    We’re also just down the road from you and I know exactly what you mean about Sedgefield. We retired early before we only can dodder along these wonderful beaches. Its worth counting the cents and living carefully to be able to wake up every morning in a place that makes your heart sing!

  12. 16 Jeannine November 16, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Never too late Sylvia! Thanks for leaving such a great comment, and I had a good browse around your blog. Very well done and great pics!

  13. 17 Marijana Wright February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Hi Jeannine
    Sedgefield is my dream village! I was there in December (I live in Sydney, Australia) and had the best pizzas my family and I have EVER tasted at trattoria Da Vinci which is just next to the pharmacy I think at woodcutters lane? Excellent restaurant in the smallest town – I would drive miles to eat there!!!!!

    • 18 Jeannine February 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Hi Marijana
      Trat is my favourite restaurant! My friend and I dump our families once a month and go there for dinner. The pizza is divine and the Pirate (Alain) is a wonderful waiter. I wonder if he was working when you ate there? You will know exactly who I mean if he was!
      I hope we see you here again soon – the weather was fantastic this December, and with the mouth open the lagoon swimming has never been better.

  14. 19 Donovan February 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Jeannine,

    A few days ago my partner and I drove through Sedgefield on our way back to Cape Town from Nature’s Valley. NV is our favourite place in the world. Whenever we go there we think of what it would be like to stay. My mind is especially busy with this question on the drive back home. NV and Sedgefield are pretty different though: NV is very small and isolated and the scope for making some money to live on there seems limited. I wonder how usual your (mostly) happy story is. It seems to me there are probably more people who try to do what you’ve done but end up going back to the City for reasons they never anticipated – like lonliness or boredom. I not yet 40 and also wonder whether that is not too young to try this. I feel it’s important not to confuse a wonderful holiday (and desire not to work as hard) with the desire to live by the sea. I enjoy your blog: if you want to, this is just to say that I’d love to hear a little more about your comments on those sort of anxieties.

  15. 20 Jeannine February 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Donovan
    Thanks for your comment, it’s a really good one! Those are definitely valid anxieties, and many people are seduced by a wonderful holiday into thinking they can extend a month of freedom into year-round seaside living.
    I’ve been here ten years now and seen many people move down full of joy, only to leave two or three years later, bankrupt, broken and despondent.
    Living here costs just as much as living in the city and the opportunities for earning are severely limited. Loneliness and boredom are a major factor, living in a busy city provides lots of distraction to spending time in your own company. A lot of people here develop serious drinking problems, boredom and frustration sees them hitting the booze earlier and earlier every day.
    Those are the downsides! If you enjoy nature and the outdoors, can spend hours lost in a book, like gardening and cooking, or just sitting in the sun drinking wine (not too often!) and thinking, you can be blissfully happy.
    You need a way of earning a living which can be done remotely, you need high-speed internet, and you need interests that can keep you passionately occupied.
    Don’t underestimate the earning a living part! Sitting here broke is hideously unpleasant, you need money to enjoy the coastal life.
    Cape Town is close enough that you could take a sabbatical for a few months and see how you like it. The fact that you think about the downsides bodes well for whatever decision you make – most people jump in with both feet expecting paradise and are horrified when real life intrudes. Keep in touch, Donovan, I am very interested to find out what happen if you do decide to take the coastal plunge!


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