Happy anniversary to us!
This week marked the 15th anniversary of when we first arrived in Australia and I have to pinch myself when I look back and see how far we’ve come.
The 10th of August 2005; we arrived in Sydney having taken a two-week journey travelling via New York, LA, and New Zealand. I was well and truly over the travelling by this time. Six weeks before we left the UK, we had watched as a shipping container disappeared around a bend in the road with all our worldly goods on board. It was the strangest of feelings being separated from my nest and all that I’d lined it with. For the next six weeks we’d be living out of suitcases and off the generosity of friends and family.
Part of the travel planning had been to factor in that we would be needing clothes for all weather conditions – leaving the UK and travelling through the States in summer and arriving ‘Down Under’ during winter. I think all up between the four of us we had nine pieces of luggage. So, by the time we arrived in Sydney on one of the coldest winter days for decades, I was over the lugging and the unzipping and just wanted to get to Adelaide and stop.
Two days later we finally made it to our destination and the start of our Australian adventures. We were met by Wiggy and Joy; a lovely generous and kind couple who were ‘friends of friends of family-friends’. They took us under their Aussie wings and set us on the right path and in no time at all, we had a roof over our heads, a set of wheels, jobs in the pipeline and two children who couldn’t wait to get started at their new school.
We had timed the departure of the container exactly right. It arrived in Adelaide and cleared customs just as we were ready to move into our rental home. We didn’t look back from that point onwards – the hardest part was, of course, the separation from our beloved family and close friends; one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My only regret has been that I didn’t bring them all with us!
I learned a lot about myself and others moving to the other side of the world, but none more so than realising my courage and strength for making such a move. I was terrified of how I was going to cope with the separation from those I love and the loss of my support network, but it wasn’t long before I was forging new friendships and finding different ways of connecting with loved ones.
Back in 2015 I wrote a post ‘Ten things about living in Australia you won’t find in the guidebooks’. It was a light-hearted look at some of the real situations Chief and I had encountered over the years. Now I’m sharing some thoughts if you are thinking of making that leap:
- Do your homework. Research, research, research! It costs a lot of money not only to get here (if you’re going to move with-the-lot) but also to live. The cost of living is higher; education, health care, groceries, booze, clothes, airfares, getting a haircut. I could go on. But once you have an income, your Aussie dollar will stretch much further than your GB pound.
- If your dream is to live by the sea in Australia, I hope you’ve got a lot of money saved. Just because there is a lot of coastline – 35,821 kms (over 22,000 miles), and that’s just the mainland – it still costs a small fortune to have that sea view.
- Don’t make it easy to go back. At the first whiff of trouble one or more of you will ‘want to go home’. We sold our house, moved our finances and our pensions. When you hit hard times (and you will) you work through them. You don’t want to leave yourself an excuse to head back to Blighty the minute something doesn’t go your way.
- Immerse yourself in your surroundings and new culture; read the local newspapers, listen to local radio, and visit your library and community centre. During our early days I used to listen to BBC Radio online and try to catch up with the UK newspapers. This made me homesick, so I decided to ‘get local’. It worked and helped enormously with the transition. Chief on the other hand still reads the UK papers online every day – probably for the sport!
- If you are going to join an online forum dedicated to expat POMS who moan about not being able to purchase their favourite chocolate, crisps or breakfast cereal, immigration is not for you. Stay where you are.
- “Nothing is going to land in your lap” says Chief. Just because you have been granted a visa doesn’t mean that Australia owes you a living. You work hard – and harder still. You only get out what you put in. Opportunities will come your way – take them, you never know where they are going to lead you.
- Don’t move just because of the decent weather; of course the increased days of gorgeous sunshine are going to help lift your spirits but it’s a by-product of living here, not the reason to move here.
- Be wise to Australia’s First Nations People. I didn’t know much at all about the treatment of Aboriginal Australians. Massacred by the British for their land and a Generation Stolen, just two examples of indigenous injustice. It wasn’t taught in school and it hadn’t occurred to me to educate myself on these matters. After all, Aboriginal Australians live in their communities and we live in ours, right?
- Being Australian is all about ‘mateship.’ With a multiculturally rich and diverse population, Australia is a country full of opportunities and experiences to be had and you would be crazy not to take advantage of that.
- ‘Don’t expect to realise your dreams in the first ten years’. Someone told us that during our first year and they were spot on. By the time you are established in your dream jobs, your family is settled and established on their own life-journey, you have planned for your long-term Australian future into retirement, you have history with your new friends and enough years behind you to reminisce with them, then you can say you’ve made it!
As a footnote I wrote this totally ignoring our new ‘Covid-19’ way of life. Of course no one is going to be migrating at the moment; in fact immigration is at its lowest point since the early 1970s but dreams can be formed and plans made for when hopefully we can carry on with our lives.
I’ll leave you with a note from one of our children posted under our bedroom door at the end of our first trip back to the UK in 2009. It kind of made it all worthwhile.
Dearest Rents, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for taking me to Australia. I can’t describe how grateful I am for you changing my life for better. I know it was hard on you guys, well; it was hard on all of us, but coming back now and seeing what I would’ve been has opened my eyes to what a great life I have, so thank you so much for letting me live such a great life.