Is It Just Me … Or Is Everyone Moving Out of The City? - Amy Malpass Hahn

Is It Just Me … Or Is Everyone Moving Out of The City?

Ten years ago, I could think of nothing more exciting than living in New York City. A new restaurant every three steps, every possible convenience at my fingertips, a different activity to do and a new person to meet every minute of the day.

Now, however, I feel a little differently. In fact, it’s not even NYC that’s getting me down, it’s the seemingly idyllic inner west of Sydney. But with 2.5 children, a somewhat-painful mortgage, bulging storage spaces and trips that involve an hour in the car to cross two suburbs … It’s starting to feel a little tiring. And I know I’m far from alone. At barbeques, in the school playground, in the office … I seem to constantly hear stories of families throwing in the towel, packing up the kids and moving out of the city. Whether it’s to the country or the coast, parents are making the decision to leave the rat race behind, in favour of more space and simpler living. Even if this comes at the expense of their careers, earning potential or friendship networks. “It’s worth every sacrifice,” they claim. And as I follow their new Instagram stories of sprawling backyards and weekends meandering through farmer’s markets, it certainly seems it is. I spoke to three women who have either made the shift, or are about to embark on the great move out of the city. Let’s just say … Their responses leave me tempted to follow suit. Southern Highlands – can you hear me calling?

This article was originally published in May 2019. Since then, there have been devastating losses to Australia’s beautiful countryside due to the bushfire crisis. Click here to find out how to help.

Pip Reed - Co-Founder and Director, Cub + Scout

Pip and her family will soon be relocating from an apartment in Sydney’s Point Piper to a house in Bowral, in the NSW Southern Highlands.

How long have you been thinking of the move?

Leaving Sydney has always been a pipe dream for us, however, with a very active 2-year-old son it feels like our place gets smaller every day. Especially when he is so desperate to go outside. With no backyard and baby number 2 due only weeks away, we decided it was time.

Do you have family where you will be moving to?

We don’t have any family in Sydney so have missed having handy grandparents around, but we have managed – we don’t know any differently to be honest! Bowral is half way to my family in Yass, so it will be a lot easier to have family pop over to help with 2 kids. My best friend is also making the move to Bowral at the same time, so to me that’s as good as having family with me.

What is the impetus for you making the decision to move?

Baby number 2 was the final deciding factor. I don’t want Elliot being put in front of the TV when I need to feed or the baby needs to sleep, which is so easy to do when living in an apartment in Sydney. He’s an incredibly busy, active child and I want him to explore and have space like my husband and I did growing up (me in Yass, Matt near the Yarra Valley, Melbourne).

What role have your children played in your decision making?

They are 99% the reason for our move! We desperately want to be able to open a door and allow Elliot to play outside. At the moment, my days revolve around parks and excursions – anything to get out of the house and into fresh air – which is not only draining on a 35-week pregnant woman, but also becomes monotonous and expensive in Sydney.

Will your work situation change?

I am lucky enough to be able to work anywhere with my online nappy bag business, Cub + Scout, my online diamond push present business, Baby Loves Diamonds, as well as being a consulting nutritionist which I already do a lot via Skype worldwide. My husband runs his own creative agency so he will be commuting to Sydney 3-4 times a week, but again he is lucky to be able to work from home when he can too.

What change are you hoping to see in your children?

I can’t wait to be able to open the door and let Elliot play in the garden, no matter what time of day. I want to remove the restraints that come with city apartment living; having very little to do when it rains other than head to a shopping centre, simply to get out of the house.

What about a change in your self?

I am a Type A personality – I love to work and I love new ideas and pushing my limits, but sometimes this is detrimental to my stress levels. I would love to see myself relax into a slower pace of life and sit back and enjoy seeing my babies grow up. I’m starting to find Sydney constricting and look forward to having a backyard and not seeing any neighbours apart from perhaps a few chooks!

Do you think you will ever want to come back to Sydney?

Our next dream is to do a sabbatical in Italy… Bowral is our stepping stone. So at the moment, I don’t see Sydney back on the cards, but never say never! After 18 years in Sydney we have made wonderful friends here, so we definitely won’t be strangers. But we do hope to see them visit a lot, no matter where in the world we end up!

Mandy dos Santos - Little People Nutrition

Mandy moved with her husband and three children from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to the NSW Central Coast, after thinking seriously about the move for a year.

What was the impetus for you making the decision to move?

We had moved out of Sydney before but had come back due to work and career development. After spending 4 years in Sydney again and having our third child, we dreamt of acreage, land and space.

What role did your children play in your decision making?

They – and family – have been primarily the decision about settling on the Central Coast. Originally, we were thinking to move further north to the border of NSW and QLD as a few friends had moved up that way. By chance, another family from our school in Sydney were looking to move out of Sydney and on a scouting mission of theirs, my friend sent me a video of acreage around the Central Coast. My husband and I drove up to the area the following weekend and were amazed to find what we were looking for. One of my main concerns about moving out of Sydney was schooling for my two eldest children as well as being far away from my parents (I am the only sibling in Australia). I had heard of a school with an educational philosophy we had been interested in for a long time and when I could get both of the girls in, I took it as a sign and paid a deposited and started the process of finding somewhere to live!

How have you found it so far?

We moved at the beginning of 2018 and decided to rent out our place in Sydney and rent up here to start with. My husband initially had to commute 5 days to Sydney, so we were unable to be on acreage to start with and have rented closer to a train station. This year has been about building a community and settling the children into their schooling and preschool routine and also set up our work in a way that is sustainable. From a schooling perspective, the children are incredibly happy and thriving and we are thrilled. Work has been more challenging as we envisaged that with the move we did not want to rely on commuting to Sydney every day. This last year has been about working out what the best combination is of work between the two of us and how working for ourselves, freelance, contract, full time or part time works. It has been a work in progress for sure. Our decisions for both of our work means we have also changed our decision around acreage and are now looking to move closer to the beach.

What are the biggest benefits?

The space; emotionally, physically and geographically. As well as pushing ourselves in directions we were fearful of and the realisation that everything will be ok and we are very lucky for what we have. We also adore the school our children go to.

What about the disadvantages?

I would say that there are only a few things I truly miss. Being able to pop in and see my parents and missing some lovely friends I would see day to day. And then culture, namely food and people. Everything else is compensated in different ways.

What were you doing beforehand for work?

I was working in my own business with Little People Nutrition and working on contracts for other companies.

What do you do now for work?

I did a stint of working full time in a food manufacturing business which was only 30 minutes from where we live. It was incredibly interesting and challenging work but re-entering this work environment made me realise my desire to be with my family and children as well as how important Little People Nutrition is to me.

Do you feel there has been an impact to your career?

Yes, the move has made me realise that to live out of Sydney and not be reliant on Sydney for work, I really need to put my efforts into my own business for it to thrive and be successful. This is daunting but more importantly, very exciting.

What change have you seen in your children?

We have moved a few times and I see it builds their resilience in managing new situations and in making new friends. The two eldest children wrote the most beautiful Christmas cards to us telling my husband and I how happy they were that we moved and how they love our school, teachers and friends. We cried, as there always is that fear you are stuffing up your kids’ lives! They are incredibly happy and perhaps calmer as we as parents are calmer.

What change have you seen in your family?

We are a closer unit for sure. My husband and I have always made a great team but the challenges and stresses of moving always push us to communicate more clearly what we desire and want for the future as a family and as individuals. A pressure cooker of decisions which can be difficult but also forces you to express your dreams.

What change have you seen in your self!?

I was incredibly anxious when we moved as the uncertainty of work and long commute hours were unsettling. The year has seen that all change and in reflection I am so much more aware of myself and triggers. I have also realised my passion for my work and my love for my family. I also adore meeting new people and am so in awe of every one of their journeys and how they got to being here on the Central Coast.

Would you ever go back?

No. The only place we will go is in a caravan to travel, or overseas for extended periods, but keeping here as a base.

Michelle Bayley

Michelle, her husband and two sons made the move from Sydney’s Freshwater to Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Image by Piccolo Pictures.

How long had you been thinking of the move? 

After we got married 9 years ago, it was always in the back of our mind as a possibility to relocate once we had a family. There’s never a ‘perfect time’ for anything like that, you just have to give it your best shot and see how it goes. We didn’t start seriously thinking about it until our eldest son Noah, was about 2 years old. Our newest addition, Luca, arrived 5 months ago.

What was the impetus for you making the decision to move? 

It’s daunting making a big life change like that – especially when you aren’t motivated by unhappiness. We were really happy in Sydney, it’s an amazing city!  However, we were looking to buy our next home around the Northern Beaches and we couldn’t find anything that was right for us. We also found the previous 18 months of having a toddler and both working in full-time roles really challenging, so we were open to making some changes. Ryan runs his own company and can work from anywhere (as long as there’s an airport close by) so that gave us some extra flexibility in terms of location. After a few ‘research’ trips, we found our perfect home – after a nerve-wracking auction and bidding remotely on the sidelines of Noah’s “Little Kickers” game, it was ours!

What role did your children play in your decision making? 

It was all for them. We just asked ourselves the question one day “What do we need to do to give our children the best possible life that we can?” So once we answered that, it was very clear to us what we needed to do.

How have you found it so far? 

Honestly, it’s been amazing. It took us a good six months to really settle in and find our groove here, but I had some beautiful friends already living here which helped and Ryan’s made some new ones through sport and business connections. We are so happy here now and ultimately use that happiness as a motivation to succeed professionally, so we can stay forever!

What are the biggest benefits?

Waking up in one of the most beautiful places in Australia every day! The Noosa area has everything we could ever need and is surrounded by protected national parks so it will never be overly developed. We commute less and have more time for each other and more space to enjoy spending time with our family and friends – especially our interstate visitors! All the beaches surrounding us are dog-friendly too, so our Labrador, Betty, is living her best life for sure! And of course, no more Sydney traffic, that’s a MASSIVE win!

What about the disadvantages?

We miss our Sydney based family and friends, especially special occasions like birthdays or when our baby boy Luca arrived. Thank goodness for Whatsapp and Facetime! My husband also has to travel for work more often now that we are based here, but we were prepared for that when we moved so it wasn’t a shock.

Do you feel there has been an impact to your career? 

Yes, as I had to resign before we moved. That was a little scary as I’d worked in media for 14 years and loved what I did. However, I saw it as a positive and an opportunity to really try something different. Industries like Tourism, Health, Real Estate and Hospitality are booming here and there is a vibrant Small Business community too. As the ‘newborn fog’ is lifting, I’m starting to think more seriously about what my next step will be and the thought of doing something new is pretty exciting! I probably wouldn’t have made a career change like that if we’d stayed in Sydney.

What change have you seen in your family? 

Even though our life is busier, especially now with 2 little boys, there is an overall calmness and feeling of ease that comes with being really happy. Ultimately, that comes from genuinely having more time for doing the things that matter with the people who matter most.

What change have you seen in your self? 

I’m definitely less stressed and I have time to enjoy more of the fun parts of motherhood. The health benefits of being outdoors so much more and regular ocean swims are noticeable too.

Would you ever go back? 

Potentially, but it would have to be for the same reasons as leaving, for the benefit of our little boys.