Why You Should Leave Sydney

Over the past year, we have seen many buyers leaving Sydney and renting in Wollongong with the goal of purchasing a home in the Illawarra and settling here for good.

Invest Wollongong recently posted an article on the benefits that high profile executives have found from moving to Thirroul from Sydney CBD to settle and launch their agency. Read on to hear how Laura’s life has changed moving to the Illawarra.

A day in the life of a corporate sea changer

Ever dreamt of swapping city congestion for a more relaxed lifestyle? The following executives share how they did it – and why Wollongong is the best move they’ve ever made.

We needed space and connection with nature

Laura Hamod Barnes, founder and director of digital marketing agency Connected Digital

Working in marketing and advertising for companies like Yahoo! and Southern Cross Austereo for 15 years, Laura Hamod Barnes thought Sydney would be her forever home. Then she started her own digital advertising agency with husband Joshua Barnes and quickly realised that something needed to change.

“The media industry is a very fast-paced environment – most people leave because of burnout, and we just decided that if we’re going to stay in this industry, which we love, we needed to make some big decisions around balance, because the Sydney lifestyle just wasn’t for us,” she explains. “We needed space, connection with nature… I realised with our industry, I had the flexibility to work where I wanted as long as I was within a short distance to Sydney so I could still attend client meetings.”

Connected Digital - Laura and Josh

The idea prompted them to look south to Wollongong – specifically, the cool coastal town of Thirroul – where they could enjoy the laidback lifestyle they craved while still being close enough to Sydney to duck in and out for client meetings.

That was six years ago – now, the couple’s agency employs more than 20 people and works with big-brand clients around Australia. Low overheads, high staff retention, and a great work-life balance have helped Connected Digital flourish.

“For us, it’s been the best move that we’ve ever done to be able to create this lifestyle for ourselves down here,” Laura says.

Take a look at what Laura’s typical day looks like now.

Morning chill


“I usually train five mornings a week. It might be running along beach tracks or going to a pilates studio around the corner from our house. Then I’ll get the kids ready for school, do the school drop-off and come back to work, all within a 10-minute drive.

“There’s no traffic – after I’ve done the school drop-off at 8.30am, I’m generally at work by 8.40am. In Sydney, traffic was a nightmare. We were spending $10 a day on tolls alone and car parking was $40 to $50 a day. So here, to have free all-day parking, and not have to be constantly thinking about moving your car, is unheard of.”

Office time

“I’m generally at work right through to 5pm most days. We spend a lot of time meeting each other, as a team, when we’re all working on projects together, so we just pop to a local cafe in Thirroul, within five-minute walking distance.

“We’ve been able to create a strong work-life balance culture at Connected, and our team knows we work really hard but also have the benefit of being a 10-minute drive from home each day. There is definitely a lot more balance here.

“It’s not as fast-paced as it was in the city environment, so we have a lot more headspace to get more quality work done.”

Sydney convenience

“I still go back to Sydney once a fortnight for meetings. The biggest difference I find now is that when I do go into the city, I usually will back-to-back my meetings, and I get a lot more efficiency out of my day than I did previously. Sometimes I take the train, but usually I drive in, and then I just do calls on the way in and calls on the way back.”

Clocking off

“We’re in the service industry, and the expectation is that we will serve our clients as a Sydney agency would, but I’d say 80% of the time, most of our people are home before 5.30pm. For Josh and I, from a work-life balance perspective, we get to spend more time with the kids. I’ll work half a day on Fridays, so I can pick them up and spend the afternoon with them and have a really good start to the weekend.

“I like taking the kids on bike rides or going down to the beach, visiting friends – we’ve made a really good network down here. On other days, I’ll pick up the kids from after-school care, be home by 5.15pm, get dinner on, and be ready to relax by 7pm once they’re in bed!”

Out and about

“We do go into Wollongong’s CBD a bit for dinner – we like to try out different restaurants, just to feel like we’ve still got that foodie culture. The last place we went to was Debutant, which is a really cool restaurant, and there is a gin bar right next to it called Juniper Bar. And Cucina in Thirroul has beautiful food.”

Isolation life

“We feel so blessed that we were here in Thirroul during the COVID-19 situation. I would not want to be in the middle of Sydney! Our beaches are completely empty, so when we do go for walks, you feel like you have space, and because we’re all in big houses down here, you don’t feel like you have to get out of the house to entertain children. We’re very lucky.”

Related Links

  1. Article originally posted by Invest Wollongong
  2. Connected Digital
  3. Interested in moving to Wollongong? View our properties for rent and properties for sale
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