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A lot has changed since we last saw Alex McCord on The Real Housewives of New York City. She recently earned her B.A. in Psychology with plans to earn her doctorate and become a practicing psychologist, her husband, Simon van Kempen, is currently pursuing a law degree, and their sons, Francois, 13, and Johan, 11, are all grown up.
But the biggest change in Alex's life in recent years has got to be her and her family's decision to move from Brooklyn to Australia at the end of 2014. "Life is really good," Alex told The Daily Dish while visiting New York with her family in April. "Moving to Australia is obviously very, very different from New York City, but it was a great move and a healthy move."
Alex said that they decided to move back to Simon's home country in order to be closer to his mother and his siblings. "We are now about three minutes away in a couple of different directions from all of Simon's family," she said. "That's something we never had in New York, because my family is all from Dallas, and Simon's family was obviously in Australia. We haven't had that before, and it's a learning experience. Our kids have cousins the same age, we have in-laws the same age, and you know how you can choose your friends, and you can't choose your family? This is a huge learning curve to spend time together and enjoy each other but also to learn how to navigate those relationships."
Alex and her family traded in a Brooklyn brownstone for a five-bedroom home on an acre of land right outside of Byron Bay that's right on a waterway that leads into the Pacific Ocean, which means lots of nautical activities for the fam. "We're on the beach almost every day because it is five minutes from the house. There is a marine park right at the closest beach to us," Alex described. "And our youngest son Johan, who's 11 now, loves to snorkel because at low tide there's about two feet of water, and you can just lay on top of the water and see stingrays and flatheads and all these cool things that you would not see if you jumped in the water here."
You might have already been able to guess that Australia is quite different from New York City living. "First of all, we live in a little village that has 775 people, of which we are four. That's a bit different than 8 1/2 million. It's a very natural place. We are outside a lot. We swim a lot," Alex explained. "It's actually a wonderful place to have our kids, who are now 11 and 13, go through adolescence and puberty because people don't watch TV really around where we live. And so, there's a level of anonymity that we haven't had in 10 years."
Still, Alex said RHONY fans recognize her Down Under every so often. "Where we live is sort of like the Hamptons of Australia. And so there are a lot of people there who are much more famous than we will ever be who live there. So if somebody's staring, I often check to see if there's a movie star behind me," she said. "But sure, it happens occasionally. Funnily enough, someone came up to me recently and said, 'Wow, you look like Alex McCord,' and I just giggled."
But being surrounded by nature isn't a completely different atmosphere from the urban jungle. "Certainly, you are always about one degree of separation away from just about everybody. But at the same time, people live and let live," Alex said. "There's also a sort of genuine coolness that everyone allows everyone else to kind of do their thing. And in a way, that's a lot like New York."
In fact, Alex said she has appreciated a much more laid-back life in Australia. "There's just that constant anxiety of don't screw up, always look perfect, always make sure that everything is exactly the way you want it to be. There's sort of that self-second guessing, self-curating feeling that's sort of just always there," Alex said of what she doesn't miss about living in New York, especially when as a public figure. "And we've really dropped that in Australia, which is great and healthy."
However, Alex said she misses some of the grittier aspects of New York, including "noise, crowds, the number of people." "I remember having a moment in Australia, I miss garbage pile-up on the streets, I miss zig-zagging down the sidewalk at Mach 2," she said. "I don't like driving, and there's a lot of driving in Australia."
This spring was the first time Alex had been back in New York since moving in 2014, and she and her family spent the week catching up with friends and revisiting their old neighborhood haunts. As far as reuniting with any of her RHONY castmates, Alex caught up with Ramona Singer when they appeared on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen together, and she has talked to Jill Zarin.
Alex told The Daily Dish that she foresees staying in Australia until at least her sons earn their bachelor degrees since she really likes the country's education system and how it structures college tuition and debt. But she definitely plans on returning to the Big Apple in some way, shape, or form in the future. "Although I wasn't born here, I moved to New York City when I was 23, way before Simon, way before Housewives. New York City is where I grew up as an adult. So for me, it's the longest place I've lived anywhere, and it's always gonna be home," Alex said. "So will we come back? Absolutely. Under what terms? No idea."
Find out more about how Alex's kids have adjusted to the move, below.
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