Remember when it felt like all your friends were leaving Brisbane? They’re all coming back.

Not so long ago, Brisbane seemed like the kind of city you saw from the rear-view mirror of a car, or the window of a Boeing 737, as you sped away towards a new life, somewhere more exciting. New adventures awaited in Sydney, Melbourne, London: new jobs, new loves, and new experiences. Louise Alston’s 2010 film All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane perfectly captured this need to escape, in search of something more.

Lately, though, a funny thing is happening. Many of those who left Brisbane over the last five to ten years have started coming back, and are discovering a very different place from the sleepy city that they left behind. We spoke to four such people, all of them Brisbane born-and-raised, about why they left and why, like so many, they’re returning home after many years way.

Sarah (Civil celebrant)

“When my husband was offered a job in Melbourne, I needed a career shakeup, and I was happy for a fresh start. It’s great to be young and carefree there. The bars and restaurants are amazing, and public transport is sensational – we didn’t own a car for the first year we lived there.

“I did miss my family and friends, though, and house prices there are expensive, with places smaller than you’d find up here. It wasn’t justifiable for us to buy property down there, and in the end, we were able to afford our ‘inner city shed’, a workers’ cottage in Paddington, so we moved back.

“Coming home to Brisbane was the right decision for us – the people hadn’t changed, but the city had started to feel less like a country town, with more restaurants, bars and luxury shops. We have the perfect family home, and I wouldn’t want to raise our kids anywhere else.”

Stephen (Artist)

“I moved to Sydney out of boredom – it’s a huge decision to make on a whim, but was working a temp job in Brisbane, and just wanted to try something new. I knew the city would be bigger and more exciting, with more opportunities, and I loved the fast pace, and the fact that everything was open later.

“Over time, I started to miss my friends and family, and I started to feel like I was working harder to barely live. I moved back to Brisbane and I’m really happy – I’ve come back with a big-city mindset. Sydney made me lift my game, and now everything here seems more conquerable. I’m more up for things now – I feel more focused and centered and less distracted.”

Phil (Pilot)

“I’ve moved around a lot in my career – in the beginning stages, I was based in Darwin, and I later moved to Melbourne. The lifestyle there is very appealing – the food and the culture are great – but being away from family and friends is hard.

“When I left, Brisbane was a big country town, but after moving back here with my wife, I think it’s matured. The prime example I can think of is coffee – you used to travel to Sydney and Melbourne and get fantastic coffee, and miss it when you came back, but now you don’t have to leave.”

Jordan (Cinema projectionist)

“I had just dropped out of uni, and had no idea about what I wanted to do with my life, so I picked up an extra job, bought a plane ticket and four months later I was sitting in a hotel in London.

“I had visions of living out of a backpack and floating from town to town, but I was bored by my second day, and landed a job managing a cinema in a small village outside of London! It was great, but I started to feel I lost the sense of freedom I’d come over for.

“The veggies were sad, and the food was gross, snow is pretty when it falls but horrible to live with, and I went 84 days without seeing the sun! I was just sad, missing my friends, and when I got offered a job programming a cinema back in Brisbane and decided to come home.

“When I came back, Brisbane had become a much more interesting city. I love living here – that’s not to say I’m going to live here forever, but with the weather and the laid-back attitude, you can’t complain!”

Amy (Aspiring bar owner)

“I’ve moved to London and Sweden, on two different overseas trips – Sweden, because it was something different, and London, because so many of my close friends were there, and it’s an awesome hub to travel to Europe. London’s hard, because you’re always broke – you can never quite settle there, and you’re always living in a transient state of mind. Then there’s the cold, too – being a Queenslander, I could never get used to it!

“I later moved to Sydney, which I hated – I found it hard to get around, it’s just so expensive. The hustle and bustle weighs people down. I’m currently living in Gladstone with my boyfriend, but the plan is to move back to Brisbane soon. I do believe the city has upped its game – a few years ago, the city was hungry for great bars and restaurants, but there’s a real foodie scene now, and there are lots of great places to drink, not just in the inner city, but in the suburbs.”

“I love the way the city has grown, and it’s moving in a very cool direction. I think I’ll always be a traveler, but Brisbane will always be my home.”