Three years ago, Lipei moved from Sydney to Wollongong. Although she’s added more time to her commute, she’s never spent so much time in nature.

Somebody once told me that if I lived on the coast I’d take the ocean for granted. Well, it’s been almost three years and coming home still feels like a holiday.

I still pinch myself each time I feel the waves crawl over my toes. I watch my dog bask on an almost empty 3km stretch of beach in Wollongong, just 15 minutes stroll from my doorstep.

Read more: Here’s Your Wollongong Weekend Getaway Guide



This is my life now; long walks along unspoilt beaches, sunset dips in bare ocean pools hidden under towering cliffs, wilderness hikes through ancient forests that conceal enchanting waterfalls and swimming holes, seaside adventures with my furry friend on the abundant dog-friendly beaches, and coastal bicycle rides with sneaky brewery stops along the shores of the Illawarra.

Inspired by Nature

In the spring of 2020, I made the move from Sydney to the township of Wollongong, on the South Coast of NSW, where the Illawarra Escarpment meets the sea.

I chose Wollongong for its proximity to the ocean and wilderness. The Illawarra is a unique place where almost everyone lives within 20 minutes drive or walk of a beach.

I fell completely in love with the region when I hiked the Illawarra Escarpment Walking Track in 2016. Commencing with a dramatic climb up to Sublime Point for the magnificent views of the coast, I wandered through luscious ferns, rainforests, and pristine local flora.

Read more: 10 Best Walks Around Wollongong and the Illawarra


This was followed by another visit by train on the South Coast Line to walk the magnificent Kiama Coast Walk from Minnamurra to Gerringong.

Along the way, I met a local man from Kiama and his dog who accompanied me on the rest of the trail. Proudly sharing this paradise that they call home, the pair showed me the ‘secret’ swimming holes that were tucked under scenic headlands and we marvelled at otherworldly rock formations that stood against the hazy seas.

I thought that this must be what the true spirit of community means in a small town. That same year, I told myself, ‘One day, I will live here’.

I thought that this must be what the true spirit of community means in a small town. That same year, I told myself, ‘One day, I will live here’.

The Location vs. Work Struggle

When I told my friends and family I was moving to the South Coast, the question I was asked the most was, ‘What will you do for work and money?’.



Moving to Wollongong comes with a catch – despite being self-employed, I still have to join the community of Illawarra locals who seem to have ‘figured it out’ on their lengthy train ride to Sydney for work.

There’s just more work in the city and I have a lifestyle to fund. So with that, the commute to Sydney became my new ritual. In the beginning, time was my biggest enemy.

The express train journey from Wollongong to Sydney takes about one hour and 20 minutes each way. In theory this didn’t give me much time for myself on a working day.

It took some time to adapt, but I’ve managed to cement my dream life and adopted the commute to work as part of the package. In choosing a slower and simpler life, my world has expanded.


Making the Most of My Natural Surrounds

I’ve learnt to take full advantage of daylight savings in the warmer months. This is the time of year when I can truly revel in the privileges of the South Coast.

The sun doesn’t set until 8pm which gives me plenty of time after work to walk by the sea. On balmy evenings, I soak in one of the many ocean pools that dot the pristine beaches.

Read more: 10 Illawarra Ocean Pools to Swim In

And when I feel like batting my hair against the salty air, I ride my bike along the coast cycleway that snakes along the shores. At dusk, I like to lurk around the grassy headlands at Wollongong Head Lighthouse to watch the surfers ride their final waves of the day under the festive colours of the sunset.



Picnics have become my favourite form of luxury dining. From coastal views on the cliffs to rainforest surroundings and flat boulders next to swimming holes, the diverse terrain in the Illawarra provides a plethora of enchanting picnic spots in nature.

I take great pleasure in sipping on my favourite vino to wash down some cheese while taking in the views of the lapping ocean on an almost vacant beach. It’s blissful, it’s free, and I have an abundance of picnic spots to choose from.

Commuting has become ‘me time’. Instead of finding activities to just pass the time, I’ve learnt to use these precious hours to indulge in my own interests such as reading, journalling, binging Netflix, and listening to music.

Even a power nap feels gratifying. I curate playlists on Spotify to establish the mood for specific train journeys.

The South Coast train line comes with a perk – the views of lush forests open up onto ocean between Helensburgh and Kiama. I never tire of the views. Every time the glass windows reveal the sea, I know I’m home.



It’s such a gift to be here on the weekends or public holidays. It feels like I’m on a vacation. I dedicate a portion of time during my ‘holidays’ to enjoy the spoils of my surroundings which I proudly call my home.

Summertime is filled with hours of ocean-bathing or cycling and I reserve the more challenging hikes for the chilly winter weekends.

Since living here, I’ve been on road trips further south and onto the Sapphire Coast, exploring unspoilt beaches, pitching my tent under eucalyptus trees, and improving my campfire recipes at night.

Occasionally, I ride my bicycle to smaller towns, allowing myself to stumble upon local beaches, rock pools, eateries, and craft breweries. The wider roads with minimal traffic also makes zipping around the region by car a breeze.



During the winter, after work ceases, so does daylight. The world is dark and cold from five in the evening. Under the incandescent glow of street lamps, my dog and I join the active community of rollerbladers, cyclists, joggers, and other dog walkers in our regular evening routine on the pavement along the shores.

My nighttime walks, which used to feel rather gloomy when I lived in Sydney, are revitalised by the soothing sound of waves drenching the sand and the whiffs of fresh Wollongong air.

My House is Now a Home

My home is no longer just a dwelling, it’s also a spiritual place where I thrive. Despite all the riches of the outdoors, I’ve come to enjoy staying indoors.

Just by being here, where time moves a little slower, makes me feel better, more grounded and so much more alive. The heaviness in my chest derived from the city’s buzz no longer weighs down on me.



Activities that used to be mundane chores, such as watering plants and hanging laundry on the line, have all turned into home rituals that I mindfully and joyfully participate in.

Restaurants and eateries close earlier here, forcing me to cook at home more often and experiment with recipes from my travels.

Is it worth it?

So, is spending the weekend here worth the long commute on the weekdays? For those who are lucky enough to work from home, they have even more time to enjoy the wealth of their new surroundings.

However, making a life changing move shouldn’t be determined by how much time you have, as time is only relative to our perspectives.



Relocating to your dream destination affects your livelihood holistically from your mental and physical wellbeing to the way you express your interests.

My values have changed. Material possessions are no longer as important and I’ve replaced them with spending more time outdoors and with myself.

I’m making decisions with more clarity and I feel motivated to cultivate my own interests, not just for the sake of being productive, but because I genuinely enjoy doing them.

Even my dog has a better quality of life here. It’s been one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made and the reward is a life that’s more authentic to myself.