Image: View from author's apartment.

I moved for the job, but stayed for the Canberra lifestyle

I tell people the same thing over and over about Canberra: I moved for the job, but really stayed for the lifestyle. Seriously - bear with me.

I tell people the same thing over and over about Canberra: I moved for the job, but really stayed for the lifestyle. Seriously - bear with me.

Coming out of the first gruelling set of Sydney lockdowns in 2020, I had found myself feeling stagnant in my current role at work, burned out by the fast city pace and its constant noise. I just really wanted to try something new and challenge myself professionally.

As a big fan of the West Wing (honestly, who isn’t) and a policy wonk, I had always been curious about roles in Canberra - given that it’s truly the epicentre of decision-making in the country. 

Somehow, reservations had always held me back from making the final call - maybe shaped by the classic primary school trips to Canberra to visit Parliament House and Questacon (side note - Questacon occasionally now hosts Adults-Only Science Nights which are a must). 

Was there much to do there? Were the winters too cold? Would I move there and hate it? Would I be really lonely?

Fast forward two months and I had landed a role with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and it was then I decided to just take the leap and move. I was at a point in my career where I really wanted a challenge - and this role was going to give me that - and where else in Australia could I work at the forefront of public policy?

It’s like working in an energising bubble, with friends all doing such interesting work - archivists, journalists in the press gallery, curators - you name it. To say it was fulfilling is an understatement - and I really did feel like I was making a difference and engaging in the most for-purpose work I had ever done - in a community with interesting, and like-minded people. I still remember the first moment I walked into the Department and past the corridor of portraits of Australia’s Prime Ministers - and I realised I was in a role where I could make a real difference. 

Over the months that followed, I fell in love with the city. There was something so special about waking up in the city-where-it-happens (had to include a Hamilton reference, sorry), walking around the stunning Lake Burley Griffin (affectionately known as LBG by locals), and heading up towards the National Triangle to work - a strip containing some of Australia’s most significant buildings. Passing Parliament House each morning was a daily reminder of the importance of the work I was doing in Canberra. 

I had an inkling that I would enjoy the job, but I really didn’t expect to make lifelong friends and really lean into the lifestyle. To be honest, when I first moved, I did battle with some homesickness - despite Sydney and my family being only a few hours away). So I knew I needed to really throw myself into the community and take baby steps.

Despite being perhaps one of the most unfit people in Australia, I joined the Australian National University Boat Club for their Introduction to Rowing Program - which runs twice a year and requires (literally) no previous experience. 

We’d take to the water on LBG at sunset two nights a week, and learn the basics of rowing. This  was such a fun way to try something new and make friends in a new place. I now recommend this program to all friends moving to Canberra, and many have gone onto graduate into more professional rowing programmes. 

It wasn't until the move that I was able to slow down and  reflect on how out of balance my life was in Sydney: wake up, go to work, go home, sleep, repeat.

Honestly, if you’re into fitness there is just SO much on offer, and it’s something I don’t emphasise to friends moving down enough - whether it’s joining one of the many run clubs  along LBG, hitting up a popular scenic hiking trail (I mean, it’s known as the Bush Capital for a reason), or doing a day trip to Thredbo or Perisher for a ski in the winter - does it get better than that?

But the thing that  really surprised me is the dining scene - it is such a well-kept secret amongst locals. I probably spent the bulk of my dinners in Braddon - my personal favourite was Lazy Su (their wagyu cheese steak spring rolls and the donburi nori tacos are a simple must-order, believe me). 

On the weekends Fyshwick Markets are always buzzing - and grab some fresh new flowers for your place while you’re at it. Having lived in New York early in my career, I really didn't expect to find these kinds of dining experiences in Canberra - and it was such a great surprise.

What I came to learn in Canberra is that work is only one part of life. For me, the most memorable moments were those in between work - long lunches on the weekend, walks along the lake, the laughs at rowing. After experiencing burnout in Sydney, I really learned the value in finding balance in Canberra and benefited from strong community groups and connecting with like minded people.

You really don’t understand until you’re there - so trust me, take the leap and go. With a booming job market seeking skilled workers, there is something for everyone in Canberra. For more on how Canberra might be right for you, click here.

In partnership with ACT Government.