How a sea-change turned a young couple's life around
At 10 weeks pregnant with her first child, Sydney native Laura and her British-born husband Chris realised they no longer felt happy with life in the big city.
"We were barely seeing each other and we were both spending too much time sitting in traffic," Laura says. "Our house was also very small but we knew we couldn't afford to buy anything bigger in the suburbs we liked. We decided it was time to make some big changes."
Laura had spent a couple of years living and working in the Hunter region during her 20s, so was familiar with the area.
"I had some friends who lived in Lake Macquarie and we continued to visit them even after I returned to Sydney. We were always impressed by the beautiful coastline, outdoorsy life and café scene near the lake. "Chris grew up in the UK and was adamant that if he was going to stay in Australia, he wanted to live as near to the coast as we could afford."
"When we finally decided to make a sea-change and move out of Sydney, it was a no-brainer that we chose Lake Macquarie."
With house prices at a much more affordable level than in Sydney, the couple packed up their lives and relocated to Kahibah. They rented for a few months before finding their dream home in Whitebridge, moving in shortly after James was born.
"One of the first things I noticed living here with a new baby was how pram friendly it was," Laura tells us. "When James came along I spent a lot of time grabbing a coffee before taking him for a long walk along the lakeside paths at Warners Bay and Speers Point.
"Charlestown is just a five-minute drive away for my medical appointments, library visits or for some retail therapy and grocery shopping at Charlestown Square."
Their second son Valentino was born in 2018 and the family are now well and truly settled into Lake Macquarie life.
"The beauty of our location is that it is close to both the lake and the ocean," Laura says. "We love taking the boys and their scooters for long walks, to one of the local parks or to make sandcastles and take a dip in the ocean at Redhead beach.
"It is such a family-friendly place to live and as the kids get bigger, we are discovering more and more things to do with them. We've started doing bush walks at Green Point and bike rides along the Fernleigh Track."
Apart from the array of activities to keep everyone happy at the weekend, the couple chose the area because of the excellent work opportunities.
"Chris is a medical sales rep and when we lived in Sydney, he was driving for hours each day across the city. In Lake Macquarie, he works between three hospitals in the local area and so his drive time is significantly less," Laura says.
"It's so much better for the whole family as even on one of his longer days, he is home by 6pm to see the boys and be hands-on for dinner, bath and bedtime."
Before the big move, Laura was teaching Pilates in Sydney, questioning if and how she would start her own studio. "I knew I wanted to start my own Pilates business, but our house was way too small and I could not afford to rent a studio space in Sydney," she says.
"When we were looking to buy a house in Lake Macquarie, we factored in a room for my dream business, Unwind Pilates, which I now run from home."
Working from home has become a reality for so many Australians in 2020, but to be able to do it with the benefits of a more affordable, stress-free lifestyle has made all the difference for Laura.
"I love that I have my own business and income that I can fit in around parenting while my boys are little," she adds. "It has been a game changer and something I could not have made possible in Sydney."
When Laura and Chris first moved into their new home, they thought they would give the big move up the coast just five years. Now that this milestone is fast approaching, they have changed their minds.
"There is no way we could go back to Sydney! Chris has more time at home but still has a great job he enjoys and I have been able to fulfil a career goal by starting my own business," Laura says.
"We have met some great new friends, we have a more relaxed and balanced lifestyle and the kids love outdoor living by the coast and the lake. We have all truly found our happy place."