Sonya - Life in Wagga Wagga, NSW

21 May 2015

This week I’m excited to launch a new series, Life In that will give you a glimpse into what it’s like to live in different parts of Australia. Soon, you’ll be hearing about life in Hobart, Perth and Sydney but first I wanted to show you around my adopted hometown of Wagga Wagga. Moving to regional New South Wales has definitely opened my eyes to life outside a city. Here are a few observations about the place I now call home:

I've lived in Wagga Wagga for just over four years.

I moved here at the end of 2010 for work and lucky for me Tony decided to come too and could study at the university. He's since finished his Honours and PhD in Fine Art. When I lived in Sydney, I worked at a television station and while it was an eye-opening first job, I spent a lot of time on the computer and on the phone. I was desperate to record stories face-to-face, which I knew I’d be able to do here. 

In my job interview I had to talk a little about the town and not having time to visit, I did some research online. I was telling Tony that it was known as the ‘land of many cows’ and he laughed and corrected me, apparently it was the land of many crows.  It didn’t come up in the interview, so I still got the job. 

It was our first experience of living outside a city.

Tony and I both grew up in Sydney and while my family had moved to Melbourne and Adelaide when I was a toddler, Sydney was my home. I still remember driving down the main street of Wagga Wagga when we first arrived to look for a place to rent. For some reason I thought it would be much smaller than it is and I’m embarrassed to say that I was reassured when I spotted a Sportsgirl and then Myer.

Settling in, there were a few things that surprised me.

At first they were superficial things, like the shops closing early on a weekend but the most confronting thing for me was arriving home five minutes after I left work. In the first few weeks of my new job that was 5.05pm. It used to take me an hour to an hour and a half to commute to work each day, and that was just one way, so I was used to getting home at around 7 or 8pm. Suddenly I had to work out what I liked doing at night, and for awhile I couldn’t think of anything!

Living here has made me a much better cook.

I liked cooking when we lived in Sydney but had only recently moved out of home and was still getting used to preparing my own dinner of a night (!). We also didn’t have a car, so I used to do my grocery shopping at the train station on the way home. In Wagga Wagga I felt like I had hours to make my dinner and so I started making some really elaborate things. My cookbook collection is now four or five times the size it was when we left Sydney, possibly more. We've made so many things  from scratch while we've lived here, from bread, mayonnaise and custard to our own hot chips, tortillas, waffles and hot cross buns.

It took a little while to make friends.

In our first year here we went back to Sydney a lot - for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, long weekends - whereas now, we tend to travel for specific events and special occasions only. We both made friends through work but it took time to find people we really clicked with and get to know them. Early on I found myself looking wistfully at groups of girlfriends catching up for coffee. Facebook started to bug me too because I kept seeing what my friends were up to and wanted to join them.

We've since made really great friends and I don't think I've received so many home delivered gifts in my life, from cookbook loans to freshly picked flowers, eggs and homemade bread and cheese. I remember meeting Sophie and being really excited because she'd also recently moved from Sydney and had a blog too. I think I read the entire archive in a few days.

The seasons here are really distinct.

In summer, there are times when it's over 40 degrees celsius for days on end. One year I ended up getting a heatwave haircut out of desperation. But the heat is different here, it's dry rather than humid so in a way it's a bit more bearable. Also, we end up driving most places so you're not outdoors or battling the trains in that heat. I love the dramatic fog in winter and have finally invested in a goosedown jacket, because some mornings it's hard to leave the house.

I spend a lot of time on the road and working in different country towns.

On our first trip to Wagga Wagga, I was still on my green P-plates and Tony had to teach me about driving on the highway. I had to build up my confidence quickly because while I work in Wagga Wagga, I have to travel right around the region for work. I’ve learnt how to approach cows in a car (you have to keep moving really slowly because their peripheral vision isn’t great) and found freckles on my face for the first time and now wear a lot of sunscreen.

Driving around the region is so different to driving in the city, it’s quite meditative, and I’ve become a big podcast listener. Directions are pretty funny too, often I drive to one town and turn left and drive for another 45 minutes, reach the next town and turn right and that’s it. I’ve also found cute cafes in different towns, I love Nest in Tumbarumba, The Red Door in Narrandera, Ajanta in Coolamon and The Ginger Baker in Bright.

Visiting friends often ask where everyone is at night.

Most people drive or ride a bike around town, so there are times where the streets seem really empty. I used to get really annoyed when people asked me where everyone was but now I can see that the lifestyle here is different. You tend to go to people’s houses more for dinner rather than going out, maybe because there are fewer places to go out, it's not that cheap and everyone has a bit more space at home.

Our house is huge in comparison to our Sydney apartment, we even have a guest room :)

I dreamt of living in a cottage but given the two days we had to find a house, we ended up renting a really functional two bedroom townhouse in a central part of town. While it makes me sound old, I love all the storage we have here. We rented a one bedroom apartment in Sydney and had so much stuff and nowhere to put it so we just lived amongst it. I joke that you could probably do a cartwheel in our current bathroom only because our last bathroom was so small that it didn’t even have a proper door, it had these two mini doors, like the kind of you’d find on a wardrobe. 

One of my favourite things to do is go for a bike ride on a Sunday afternoon.

I bought a fixie shortly after we moved because it’s quite flat here and the roads are very wide. This year I invested in a cute pink helmet and an extra basket for groceries. On a Sunday I like to ride around the streets when they’re quiet, especially in the late afternoon when you can start to smell what people are cooking for dinner. Lately, you can smell the smoke from fireplaces too, which I love. It’s super relaxing and I love discovering unusual houses on new streets and riding along the river. 

My friend Mayan taught me a trick for entertaining guests.

Mayan moved from Sydney to Canberra right about the time we moved here and found that her city friends constantly wanted to know what they were doing next when they visited her. She plans one thing for each day and then lets her friends decide what they’ll do around that, whether it’s hanging around the house, going out for a drink or a bushwalk. It takes the pressure off trying to show people everything the town has to offer or worrying if there isn't much on that weekend.

I like taking people for a walk along the Murrumbidgee river or for a picnic in my favourite park with some pastries from our nice patisserie. Food is a big thing and we almost always take visitors to Mates Gully, Trail St and Tony loves showing friends the local brewery too.

Sometimes I get restless but that happened in the city too.

If we have time and funds, we’ll take a trip to Sydney, Canberra or Melbourne to get our gallery, movie and food fix. Often we'll go because there's a particular exhibition we want to see and each year there's always one doco that I'm busting to see at the movies. 

Embarrassingly, at the end of our first year here we drove to Melbourne for a holiday and I managed to put on 3 kilos in a week because I went nuts eating at all of the cool cafes and restaurants. Since we’ve been here the food scene has changed a fair bit, with new places opening up and now an amazing chef has moved to town, so crazy city eating trips might be a thing of the past.

Thanks for reading! This weekend we have a lot of visitors coming from Sydney to celebrate the end of Tony’s exhibition. My parents will be here, and I’m looking forward to showing them all of the new things I’ve discovered since they last visited in 2011. We’ll be having a fancy dinner, checking out the farmer’s market and going for walks.

P.S You might also like two earlier and ongoing series - Real Girl Wardrobes and Sentimental Cakes.


  1. I really love this post and your blog! My friend has just moved to Wagga and can't wait to visit. :)

    1. Thanks so much! It's surprisingly nerve-wracking writing about your adopted hometown :) Get in touch when you do visit! Would love to say hi.