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Following Your Dreams: How a Family of Four Swapped the Big Smoke for the Seaside

“It wasn't until we realised how stuck we felt with the hectic pace of Sydney that we decided to move to Newcastle for an easier lifestyle... and then it was about following the clues on our own treasure map to reach the hidden gems!” Follow Katerina, Rully and their two kids on their journey from the big smoke to the seaside, and get inspired to follow your dream too!


Katerina Skoumbas was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Growing up in the vibrant 5-million metropolis offered a wonderfully dynamic lifestyle, and Katerina went on to build a career in media and community events before meeting her husband, Rully. Together they hosted a music show on local radio, enjoying the perks of a thriving live music and arts scene in Australia’s biggest city.

But then came parenthood and their two kids... And, as every parent knows, starting a family invariably means a dramatic change to your priorities and lifestyle, and so the young family started to consider other alternatives. Perhaps a slower pace, in a smaller place, would benefit them all? What if they were to move out of the big smoke to a smaller town by the sea?

- In Sydney, we had everything we needed - work, family support and a great crew of friends. But I was exhausted from the kids, chasing my tail through heavy city traffic, and trying to stay calm in a place that was growing fast and constantly pushing me to my limits, tells Katerina. I didn't like who I was becoming. I had no time for myself and although we had our family to help, we knew there was a better lifestyle waiting for us.

At that point, Katerina and Rully and their two small girls were living in a rental property, when the landlord suddenly kicked them out on short notice. The insecurity of renting and the additional stress this put on the family led them to start looking to buying a family home. But with Sydney property prices being some of the highest in the world, Katerina and Rully had to face they were well out of their budget at that stage in life.

- Then one weekend, we were visiting our good friends in Newcastle, when they suggested we consider buying there instead, Katerina says.

Moving the whole family to a new city, where they had no roots, connections and hardly knew anyone, wasn’t a small decision to make, but for Katerina and Rully, it seemed like a natural one.

- Looking back, we’re still so grateful, she continues. Newcastle is only 2 hours by car from Sydney and it’s affordable, slower and smaller... and it’s right by the sea! This city (or town compared to Sydney!) has so much happening here in the arts community, and for two creative (and very social!) people like ourselves, we couldn’t find anywhere else along the New South Wales coastline that was more suitable.

Once they’d decided to pursuit their dream of a slower lifestyle, Katerina and Rully started planning their move. They started with the most obvious: a place to live.

- We would block out every second weekend to come to house inspections - sometimes with the kids! A real commitment, considering the 2-hour drive to Newcastle. It took us over a year (and loads of petrol money!) to find the house, but it was worth it.

Making the move to Newcastle was the next step, but as the set date came closer, doubts started to creep in.

- We had real doubts about leaving our ageing parents, our friends, and our amazing music community, says Katerina. But then one night, both Rully and I wanted to visualise what our life would be like in Newcastle. So we made a vision board!

- We drew a timeline and drew pictures around first. Then we tried to set realistic goals for each month leading up to the move. The vision board made our dream more tangible, and breaking up the process into smaller steps helped us take concrete action towards reaching our end goal. You could say we drew our own treasure map, and then followed the clues to the hidden gems!

What do you want to achieve this month? Write down one concrete goal, a few short sentences about your priorities around it, and the first steps to take toward reaching your goal.

With all of the doubts and obstacles, work was probably the most significant.

- We had to think about negotiating our jobs so we could work remotely as well as thinking about making new contacts to open up local work possibilities. My husband’s situation was a little more flexible because it was a family business, but they still needed him there two days a week. So his commitment to living in Newcastle would mean weekly overnight visits to Sydney, something that we both had to be comfortable with, as it would mean me having the kids on my own. For my part, I ended up freelancing part-time which has been a true blessing as a mother.

It was good timing for the kids because they could start Kindergarten fresh at a new school. But the whole family made sacrifices to move away from a comfortable and familiar lifestyle.

- The biggest sacrifice was moving away from our closest family. We still miss seeing them every week. My father and Rully’s mother are our kids’ only grandparents, and spending time with them and our siblings is something we crave for now; from their extra parenting help to the passing down of culture... we’ve had to accept that.

In addition to some real sacrifices, packing up your whole life can be emotionally tiring too; that’s really the flip-side of the adventure. But it is exciting too!

- You’ve got a clean slate in a new place, and the whole time you try to remain positive and enthusiastic with the shift you’re making. It challenges your relationships, for sure, but if you don’t try you’ll never know what it could be like.

- It’s been two years and I can see how our life has evened out. We have more time to play and explore. We spend more time on foot or on bicycle than in the car. Life is still a crazy juggling act but I feel like we have a better perspective and more breathing space.

If you’re thinking about making a big change or dreaming of a different lifestyle, Katerina’s message to you is: Don’t give up before you’ve started!

- Just start talking about it and start planning out your own treasure map of the process. You do what you need to make it work and, I believe, everything will be ok!

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