I was raised in Canberra. A city with 300k people at the time, and now closer to 400k; two hours from the beach, two hours from the snow, and home to our federal parliament and most of our public service. I used to think I'd leave here at the earliest opportunity, that I'd get out and run away to the big city to make my living, though at that point, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I wanted to live in Paris, in Stockholm, in Helsinki, in New York. People would rag on Canberra to me, saying it was boring, cold, small, and shitty, and I used to agree with them, sulking about my parents' choice to live here and how boring it was.
Then I grew up.
Canberra is still quite small, population wise, and yeah, it's still pretty cold. Winters are full of truly icy days, with biting winds and morning frosts; but at least it's sunny most of the time. I did move away for a while, to a few different places - some more rural than Canberra, some far more populous and busy - and now I'm back home, discovering everything there is to love about it. The open streets, with the city rule of no front fences, are welcoming and the antithesis to the claustrophobic footpaths of major cities, where the slightest barrier means stepping onto the road. The older suburbs with their beautiful trees and distinctive ex-government brick houses, these days with modern renovated interiors. The big backyards, great for kids and dogs and BBQs alike. The green space, the fact that everyone has dogs, the excellent choice of schools, the generally loose laws, the active nature of the residents, the very planned layout, the employment and education options, the quiet, the mostly left-leaning population (we were the first to legalise gay marriage, before Abbott overturned it).
There is a reason we have done so well on livability leaderboards everywhere. Lonely Planet said people should come here, we made the top three! The OECD ranks us highly a lot. And now that we're getting a light rail system (finally), it will be much easier for people to get around too, since Canberra is so spread out. When you compare median salary to the cost of living, we do pretty damn well, and though I've never had to deal with it myself fortunately, I hear our system for assisting those who are less well off is pretty alright, compared to a lot of the country (crime and unemployment are low, too). We have a lot of cute little cafes and loads of great dog parks (my stupid dog loves these so so much), often close to each other so owners can sip their take away coffees while gossiping about their pups. The gentrification goes further - we have several craft breweries, lots of wineries, and a bunch of yuppie activities for people to do, like yoga on stand up paddle boards (can recommend; they also do a yoga class involving beer).
Then you have all the things that people think about when they think of Canberra: the National Museum, Art Gallery, Portrait Gallery, Library, Botanic Gardens, War Memorial, Museum of Democracy, Film and Sound Archives, Zoo and Aquarium, Dinosaur Museum,... (all of these are preceded by the word "National" and "the", hence the capitalisation). Questacon, our science museum, is a place I take any excuse (and anyone's kids) to go and see. We have a whole bunch of events and markets every weekend - this weekend, and last, was Enlighten Festival and the Night Noodle Markets, for example.
I'm quite sad that I'll be moving to (probably) Darwin come the end of the year, and my parents are leaving Canberra soon too, so I'll have not much reason to return except nostalgia and a few friends. Perhaps I'll come back to live here again one day, if just for the calm lifestyle and clean air it offers - I'll definitely be making a blog post with a list of cool things to do here, to encourage those who want to see me even more! Despite being the constant butt of jokes and derision, I'm kind of glad for the hate on Canberra - it means less congestion and less people. It's like an open secret.
Canberra is nowhere.
Canberra is beautiful.