Where it all started
I’ve had a number of people say to me that I am so brave to move abroad but it didn’t feel like an act of courage. I always knew it was in my path. I remember when I was 9 years old talking to my little brother about living in Australia. We have been visiting the warmer continent our whole lives, as our mum is Australian and her entire family still live in and around Perth. Campbell’s plan was to have an ice cream van with a mattress in the back and he’d make money from selling beach goers a refreshing treat and then go for a surf and kip in the boot. For me there wasn’t such a specific vision, I just wanted to be closer to my Grandad.
There is something idyllic about the sound of Australia to most Brits. The sunshine, the lifestyle; we envisage barbies all year round, cracking open a cold beer on an epic white sands. While that stereotype might be a bit sweeping and, of course, real life continues even when its 30+ degrees outside, my lifestyle does feel pretty sweet living down under.
I had thought about moving to Sydney when I graduated from university but the timing wasn’t right. A couple of years later I found myself newly single, living with my mum and in an incredible but demanding career. I was at the perfect crossroads without any ties. I would either move into the heart of London, get a promotion and commit to that life. Or, I would pack a bag and book a one-way ticket.
The pernickety parts of packing up
Instinctively the decision was an easy one, until it wasn’t. I was planning in my head, and with my mum, how the move would look, what my route would be. Then I spoke with my director explaining to her in person that I was to hand in my notice so I could move abroad. She was understandably shocked. I was really invested in my job and it showed. I was offered a promotion immediately but before I accepted I asked for some time to think. I was given two weeks to make my mind up. I had a number of discussions with various different directors. Everyone’s advice was different but the majority told me (off the record) I’d regret it if I didn’t go.
My dad had previously been supportive of my decision but when my managing director said to me “name me your price” he thought I was insane to still want to leave. Truthfully, I was extremely torn. I had worked really hard there and, more than that, they had mentored me, nurtured me and given me the room to develop and progress. I felt indebted. This was bigger than money though. I finally let them know that I was certain I wanted to leave. I did more than my two-month notice period so as to work a final London Fashion Week, which was epic. I worked in the VIP department and got the responsibility of running the front row at one of our client’s shows, which was a great honour at my junior level. I’ll never forget a senior colleague telling me the client named me when giving the positive feedback. It was such a treat to hear and meant I left the job on a high.
Telling my family was incredibly emotional. My brothers were both pleased for me; my elder brother had already moved abroad himself to Botswana and my younger brother had also spent a year living in Australia previously. He declared that he thought I’d be back in a year. He thought I’d miss the cosmopolitan, culturally diverse city we lived in. My sister and my Nan cried. They were happy that I was happy but they were sad I wouldn’t be around all the time. I understand where both were coming from and to decide to move away from my family, from my sister and her children, from my aging grandmother, was an incredibly confronting move. I felt selfish. But I felt deeply that it was the right choice for me. Someone recently gave me the advice that you can’t help anyone else put his or her oxygen mask on unless you put yours on first. The move, for me, was metaphorically the same as putting on my own oxygen mask. I needed a change, I needed space to develop and I needed to put myself first in order to be the best daughter, sister or aunt I can be.
Packing and saying goodbye was hectic! I packed terribly, leaving my poor mum with a bedroom full of boxes but nothing finished. I left London with only a traveller’s backpack and this small amount of possessions is all I had for the next 5 months. I hosted a leaving party, which was truthfully one of the greatest moments of my life. On the cusp of a life-changing adventure, in one room with almost all of the people I love most in the world was profoundly special.
Space for spontaneity
A month prior to the leaving party I was out for one of my best friend’s birthday dinner when we were collectively discussing that a mutual friend of ours was moving to Dubai in a weeks time. As the conversation went on I was invited to stay with her in her new home on my way out to Oz. I hadn’t booked my flight yet (I’m a last minute person!) and so I said I’d look at the cost difference and let her know.
One week before departing I bought my one-way ticket to Australia. I did stop in Dubai for three nights, followed by three weeks in Perth with the final leg delivering me to Melbourne. When you are making big changes for yourself, you have the freedom to make spontaneous decisions like that. And these sorts of opportunities continued to present themself.
My plan was to have a few months off enjoying myself, exploring and meeting new people then to settle in Sydney and continue on in my career in Fashion PR. I lived in a hostel in Melbourne for a month and fell completely in love with the city. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in Sydney anymore – Melbourne felt more me. Then I interviewed for a position at an amazing PR agency in Sydney and got the job. The decision was made. On my last night in Melbourne I met a guy who I had an incredible connection with. After doing a trial for the position in Sydney I flew back to Melbourne in mid-December to spend the Christmas period staying with this man I’d only met once. We said goodbye on New Year’s Eve and that was the end of it but it was such an amazing, intoxicating, whirlwind experience, one that I’m grateful the universe gave me.
Living in the hostel I was first put in a four-bed dorm with some really quiet people. I knew not one person in this city and had a flash of feeling overwhelmed when I didn’t immediately connect with anyone. If you’ve ever lived in a hostel you’ll know that you often have to move rooms regularly (don’t get me started on this). Three nights in I was moved to a six-bed dorm. Three of the other dorm-mates have turned into friends-for-life. They’ve since all visited me in Sydney, one stayed in my room with me for a month, one I have visited in Cairns, QLD and another came to London to see me on my most recent trip home.
Not only have I made incredible friendships I’ve also been blown away at how generous and welcoming people are to a lone ranger in new pastures. A family that I hadn’t seen for 13 years took me in. They let me stay in their home for a month to let me get a feel for Sydney before choosing where to live. Friends from work have helped me move house (I’ve had 3 homes in Sydney already!). My friends take me back to their parent’s homes so I get to enjoy some family vibes. One of the most phenomenal parts of moving abroad is the people.
Since living in Sydney my world has changed, evolved and expanded. I hope I explain the following in the way it was intended and it doesn’t offend anyone. Moving abroad, moving away from ‘home’, has taught me what it is that matters to me, what I’m interested in, what I like to do. Only socialising with friends you’ve grown up with can mean that you maintain a version of yourself that fits into the way that they perceive you. Also these people are from the exact same socio-economic pool as you, which means you’re collectively less likely to challenge each other or expose one another to new ideologies. There is nothing that compares to a friendship with history and depth and I value my oldest friends so deeply. However meeting people from different walks of life can teach you lessons you weren’t aware were there to be learned. The people I surround myself with now, for the most part, lead the same sort of lifestyle and care about the same issues, as I do which isn’t necessarily true for friends I’ve had since school. It’s not that one group is more valuable or more special than the other but they offer different and equally valuable contributions to my varied life, for which I am grateful.
A change in location leads to a change in lifestyle
I wouldn’t say I’ve reinvented myself, or ‘found myself’ from travelling, but there has been personal internal growth that I’m conscious of. A friend commented when I went home that I came across more calm and content within myself. I still love London and of course I’m still wild for all my beautiful friends back home but taking the space to explore and expand my horizons has done wonders for my soul and me.
I go to a different market most weekends. I buy 90% of my clothes from op shops or second-hand stalls. I make a great effort to support local businesses, avoiding chains as much as possible. I immerse myself in nature regularly, if not every day or at least every other day. I ride my bike to my friend’s houses; I don’t drive. I have sleepovers. I’ve started making art, drawing and painting. When I lived in the fast-paced city of London I was absorbed in commercialism and materialism and I was keeping up with the hype. While I could absolutely do all of these new things in London, they have only become important since moving abroad.
The friends I have here in Australia are from a plethora of different places around the globe. For example, I’ve a Columbian friend who grew up in East London, an Australian friend who grew up in New Orleans and Kiwi friends who are from a small city in the South Island of New Zealand. My three friends I met in the hostel are from Newcastle and Leicester, England and Boston, USA. I seem to be drawn to people that have the same desire for adventure which means I too have to say goodbye to people I’ve grown close to. That can be hard. But the truth is the world is a lot smaller than it appears; paths cross again, souls reconnect.
The hardest part of living overseas is not the fear of missing out, for I am happy where I am, but knowing you’ve missed a momentous occasion in the life of someone you love. You can’t be everywhere at once and plane tickets do cost money. I have been absentia for my Nan’s 80th birthday; I will miss my oldest friend in the world’s engagement party this September and my niece cried on her birthday because I wasn’t there. That being said next year I will be back in Europe for my friend’s wedding in Spain and another of my dearest friend’s wedding in Italy. When I was home last month I celebrated both of their engagements and I was there to support a friend through a really tough time. My nephews and my niece didn’t show any signs of caring that they hadn’t seen me for twelve months and my niece had taken all the postcards I’d sent her into school for show and tell. One day they will be old enough to visit me and see why I’ve fallen in love with this country and who knows, they might even catch their auntie’s travel bug!
I’ve also had my dad visit me twice, my mum once, friends from primary school, high school and even newer comrades stay with me. I don’t feel far away. I am just as close with everyone as I was before I left. I talk to people at home every day via Whatsapp and keep up to date with their lives through Instagram and Facebook. I may not be there for a coffee every Saturday but true friendships aren’t affected and the second you’re reunited it is as though no time has passed.
I am blessed to have made an ad hoc family out here. When I fell ill people supported me beyond expectation. My work colleagues became like siblings. Suddenly I have friendships for over a year that are so precious to me. I’ve got an eclectic, make shift family that I cherish.
My dad made a comment in jest when I was at his house in June that two of his four children love him so much that they’ve moved abroad. I responded, “No, Dad, you raised us so well that we are adventurous and independent and out in the world experiencing all that the universe has to offer, leading our own colourful lives.” He agreed.